The present study evaluated the effect of different levels of energy restriction on metabolic parameters in obese ponies. Relative weight changes, markers of lipid metabolism and oxidant/antioxidant balance were monitored. A total of eighteen obese (body condition score ≥ 7/9) Shetland ponies were studied over a 23·5-week trial, which was divided into three periods. The first period involved a 4-week adaptation period in which each animal was fed 100 % of their maintenance energy requirements needed to maintain a stable obese body weight (MERob). This was followed by a 16·5-week weight-loss period in which ponies were assigned to receive either 100 % (control group, CONTROL), 80 % (slow weight-loss (SLOW) group) or 60 % (rapid weight-loss (RAPID) group) of their MERob. During the 3-week end-phase period, all ponies were again fed 100 % of their MERob. Relative weight loss was higher in the RAPID group (P< 0·001) compared with the SLOW group. No linear relationship was found as a doubling of the percentage of energy restriction was accompanied by a tripling of the percentage of weight loss. Relative weight gain afterwards in the end-phase period was higher in the RAPID group (P< 0·001) compared with the SLOW and CONTROL groups. During the weight-loss period, TAG and NEFA concentrations were highest in the RAPID group, as were α-tocopherol and ferric-reducing ability of plasma concentrations. After 8 weeks of weight loss, the concentrations of advanced oxidation protein products were higher in the RAPID group compared with the SLOW and CONTROL groups (P< 0·001). In conclusion, the level of energy restriction influences the extent of changes in oxidant/antioxidant balance. Practically, more severe energy restriction regimens may be associated with a greater regain of weight after the restriction period.