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Advice for obese pony?

I had teeth floated on my horses just before I left on a trail ride.  I
knew my daughter's half-arabian pony had very bad points and was glad I
got her taken care of before I left.  Now I discover I did her no big
favor.  She shares a good pasture with 9 other horses all of which are
"over-conditioned" (read fat) this time of year but they are all holding
condition or losing as the grass is brown and dormant from the drought.
Peanut was actually about ideal working weight before I had her teeth
floated.  Now, after just 4 weeks, this pony is obese.  We are not just
talking about mildly overweight.  She has rolls of fat all over her
body, can't find any withers and rain water (ha-ha--haven't seen any
rain in about 2 months) would stand in a puddle on her back.  I was very
lucky she didn't founder when she found her mouth no longer hurt and ate
herself to this condition.

I pulled her off pasture immediately and put her in a stall where she
gets limited hay and unlimited water.  I lunged her twice today (5
minutes walk and then 5 minutes trot one way then reverse and do same
the other way.  Walked 10 minutes before I put her away) watching
closely for any sign of stress from the exercise.  She never even
sweated or even breathing hard as she waddled around me but I was really
afraid to push her at all.  (Note:  She raced around the pasture about
1/2 hour before I caught her yesterday--she likes it out there eating
herself to death and did not want to come in to work.  She didn't seem
overstressed by that self-inflicted exercise either).  It is hot and dry
here.  Highs are in the upper 80's but I worked her early morning and
late evening when it is much cooler.

This pony means a lot to us.  She has lots of trail miles and show wins
carrying my oldest daughter (now 16) and now is teaching the 4 year old
to ride.  Only 13.1 hands high but she can keep up with the big guys
while giving the smoothest ride I ever had.  Never before has she been
fat but I must admit she has only been on pasture with such mild forced
exercise (leadline is not enough work for this energetic pony) for about
2 years.

What respiration and heart rates should I be shooting for in the first
few days to bring her back into condition without hurting her?  How long
can I work her?  How fast can she SAFELY lose this weight?  I would
rather take longer than necessary to bring her back than to risk hurting
her but I see this weight as a major health risk to her.  I used to ride
her regularly years ago when we were first training her and, even though
I look rediculously big on her, she carried me easily.  How soon would
it be safe to start working her under saddle instead of the lunge line?

I have never worked a horse so extremely overweight and am afraid my
normal casual start to exercise might be too much here.  Sure could use
some advice from some of you with more experience starting a horse from
such an extreme.

Donna Dochterman
Dokada Arabians

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