Much like teenage boys, some horses seem to be able to devour every bit of feed in sight, and still not gain weight. Unlike the teenage boys, however, and unfortunately for the owners of these hard keepers, this generally isn’t just a stage that the horse is going through. So, what is the best way to feed a horse to increase weight gain to the desired level, and then maintain it there?
First, start by taking a Body Condition Score and determining the current weight of the horse, and tracking those two elements over time, so you can know for sure if you are making progress or not. It’s easy to fall in to the trap of trying to remember what the horse was like a couple months ago, so a tracking program will help give a fact basis to your feeding program.
Second, weigh both the hay and any grain you are feeding your horse. A bathroom scale can do the trick, or especially handy is a fish or luggage scale that you can hang a bucket from. Every barn has a different scoop, from the old reliable coffee can to a plastic scoop purchased at the feed store. Weighing the scoop, then weighing it with the feed in it, allows you to mark your scoop so you can see where to fill it to for various feeds & weights of that feed. Note that not all feeds weigh the same, either, so measure each one independently.
Third, ensure that the horse is receiving enough forage in the diet. This is the base of any feeding program, and a good target is to be feeding 1.5% of body weight in forages. For a 1000 lb horse, that means at least 15 lbs of hay. Weigh a few flakes of hay and see just what a flake is from your supplier. Not all small square bales are created equally!
Fourth is the grain portion of the diet. A key thing to look at in evaluating feeds for hard keepers is the “Crude Fat” content of a feed. A basic corn/oats/mineral sweet feed mix will likely run around 2.5-3.0% fat, since that is what is naturally present in a lot of grains. These are fine for easier keepers, but many active horses need more – there are a variety of horse feeds on the market today that are in the 5-9% fat range, and some horse feeds are up in the 10-12% fat range. Remember to feed within the guidelines printed on the tag, so that you get the nutrition portion of the diet correct. Start your horse on a higher fat diet slowly to allow them to adjust to the increased fat, and work up to a level where the weight starts to come on. Once you’ve reached a desirable weight and body condition, you can begin to back off the amount fed until you determine the amount of feed that will help maintain your horse for the long haul.
66 Replies to “Feeding Horses that are Hard Keepers”
I have a 26 yr old Mare. She has been loosing alot of weight 🙁 I have her on 2 1/2 lbs. of Senior, Gain and Gleem and Grass hay at night along with sho-glo. In the morning she gets Large amount of Alphlfa. What can I do to get the wight back on her??? She has always been a easy keeper up to las year. She is on a Worming program, has all her vacines and is out everyday. I have the teeth floated yearly. I have a vet appt this coming week, to do teeth, look at her and to pull blood. Should I have her on a different feeding program??? Please let me know I am up for anything that can help her. She is my 1st show horse and is the love of my life. We do not go ridding together anymore, I just take her for walks now. Due to arthiritis on her right front leg. Please Help!! Thank you 🙂
Hi Donna, That’s a great question, and your mares situation is common among horses over 20. I think you have the start of a really good program going, you just need to tweak it a bit is all. First, 2.5 lbs of Senior a day isn’t enough – my guess is she should be up in the 5-6 lbs per day area. Senior is generally designed to be fed up in that range, and at only half the suggested amount, it’s not providing enough calories or all the vitamins and minerals she needs (which I see you were compensating for with the Sho Glo).
So, I would suggest doubling her feeding rate of Senior (slowly, of course, over a few days) and once she is up to full feed, you can actually drop the Sho Glo – we recommend not mixing a vit/min supplement with any of our complete feeds as there are a lot of nutrient interactions where changing the level of one nutrient can mess with the absorption of another nutrient. We take care of all that in our feeds so you don’t have to worry about it.
As for the Gain & Gleam, it’s certainly not hurting anything – although if you are only using the 2 oz dose, it’s not adding much in the way of calories – the SmartPak site says to use a 4 oz dose to help improve weight gain, but even at that it’s 41% fat so you are only adding a little less than 2 oz of fat to her diet.
So, try that for a few weeks and see if you see any improvement – it may take a little time, so make sure you use our Body Condition Scoring and Weighing Your Horse without a Scale tools to track her. Let us know if you have more questions! Thanks ~ Gina T
taking a look at the scorecard, what are hook bones, pin bones, and transverse process?
Hi Stacylynn, Great question! The hook bones are found in the hips – these are the ones that stick way out on an emaciated horse. The pin bones are on the rear, around the tailhead area. Transverse process are a part of the spine – hard to describe, so here’s a link to the wikipedia page that has pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transverse_processes.
Hope that helps! Thanks ~ Gina T.
Hi, I have a question about a horse I recently acquired and I could really use some help in figuring out what to do with his diet. I was recently given an 8 year old TB gelding. He is 17.3 hands tall and is currently 1350 lbs which I don’t feel is enough because he still seems very bony. His hooves are brittle and his coat is very dull. But the difficult part with him is he is allergic to a lot of foods! I have him currently on tri-hist to help with his allergies as he is allergic to bermuda grass and there is no way possible for me to turn him out and he not have bermuda. Most of the hay suppliers where I live also produce bermuda so it’s nearly impossible for me to get anything else of reasonable quality. Even alfalfa is scarce. He is allergic to oats, barley, milo, and rice bran according to his allergy tests. He is currently being fed a pelleted grain called high stepper which supposevely does not contain oats but I don’t feel that he likes his feed and I don’t think he gets enough nutritional values out of it as I cannot seem to put any weight on him. He’s not into grazing as much as the other horses so I want to make sure he gets what he needs out of his grain. I don’t normally purchase commercial feeds but I’m not sure what to put into (grains/quantity) a specially mixed grain that would fulfil his dietary needs that he is not allergic to. If anyone can help me get this sweet boy on the right track to better health I would be very greatful whether it be a suggestion for a commercial feed or special mix feed. Thanks!
Based on the information given, age, height and weight I can give you two sample diets. The big question here is his activity level. If the horses is being ridden as a pleasure horse a few times a week we are looking at needing 24.5 DE Mcal per day. If he is being ridden more on the performance side he needs about 30.0 DE Mcal per day. This will meet his daily caloric requirements and also allow for gradual weight gain over 6 to eight weeks. This can later be cut back accordingly.
We have a product called Life Design Compete that does not contain any of the products he is allergic to.
If you are riding a few times a week as a pleasure horse, I would recommend feeding 8 pounds of Compete per day, divided in to 2 feedings per day. He will also need a minimum of 1.25% of his body weight a day in hay or forage replacer.
However, if you are riding more intensely for performance, I would recommend 10 pounds of Compete daily, divided into 2 or preferably 3 feedings per day. Also feed 1.5 % body weight per day in forage (about 20 pounds).
Nutrena’s Life Design Compete will provide your horse with the proper balance of vitamins, minerals and amino acids to get him looking great. The product is high fat -7% – and 14% protein, which will help meet his amino acid requirements to rebuild muscle and body mass. The product is also enhanced with Vitamin E and Selenium to support immune response and provide antioxidant benefits, to minimize stress. The added biotin will aid in his hoof and hair coat.
With the controlled starch and low sugar levels, high fat and fortification I feel you will be pleased with the results from Compete. Let us know if you have further questions! Thanks ~ Gayle R.
We have 20 yr old lactating mare. All during her pregnancy she just glowed. Her weight was perfect. She had maintain this look for 2-1/2 months. Now her tailhead and backbone are begining to show up. She is not nearly as fleshey as she was a month ago. I realize that the foal will take a lot away from the mare when she is nursing. What can be done to keep weight up and fill in these voids. She is currently getting 3-4 lbs of Triple Crown Growth per feeding along with a 1/2 scoop of beet pulp. She gets 3 flakes morning and evening and is out in the pasture most of the day grazing. She was wormed just days before the birth and has been on a daily wormer since. Is the quality of hay an issue? Most of the hay she gets is grass hay. We do have some hay with a little bit of alfalfa in it…..Help!!
Congratulations on the new baby! You are on the right track with your feeding program, but let me explain where I think we are falling short.
You did not mention your horses weight, so I am going to assume she is about 1,000 to 1,100 pound range. (See one of our posts on how to weigh your horse.) The weight loss that you are noticing in your mare, is the result of the increased caloric requirements during the first three months of lactation. Again, without knowing the breed or weight of your mare, I feel she would need anywhere from 31,000 to 33,000 calories per day.
With that said I did the math on her current diet:
3-4 pounds of Triple Crown Growth twice 7 pounds daily. 10,900
6 flakes hay 3 pounds each = 18 pounds daily 14,400
Beet pulp 1/2 scoop ? pounds daily 1,060
Estimated Daily caloric intake 26,360
Estimated daily caloric deficit 4640 -6640 calories
Based on the numbers I would recommend the following diet:
3 lbs Triple Crown Growth x 3 Feedings Per Day
3 Flakes of Hay x 3 feedings per day
I would also recommend a creep feeder for the foal. You will need to determine the foals weight first. Again this information can be found in another post on the blog. Then feed 1% per 100 pounds of body weight up to 400 pounds.
Hopefully you will find this info helpful! Any more questions, please let us know! Thanks ~ Gayle R.
Thanks for the info..FYI, She is a Friesian weighing 1200-1250.
We did step up her feeding to 5# of grain with a 1# of beet pulp and a bale of grass/alfalfa a day. She still is fighting to gain weight. We will be taking the baby away at the end of the month. Hopefully things will change after that! Thanks again…
I have two hard keepers that I am having a hard time putting and keeping weight on. My 22 yr old arabian mare(14.3 hands) came to me skinny a year ago, and some days she looks better, some not! She and her paint ‘brother'(16 hands) have been on orchard alfalfa and 10/10 grain, and I had been supplying a fat supplement. We switched to adding soaked beet pupl along with the grain. Outside grazing is limited grass. Thinking about taking both of them to a pasture with thick lush grass, but supplying a free choice mineral/vitamin block??? Trying to get them up to speed before it gets cold, as they both lost(muscle mass too???) last winter. Had tried Safe Choice but wasn’t sure it was enuf fat????? I am puzzled as to the best diest for them! help!!!!!! Sharon
It is good that you are looking to solve your horses weight issues before winter. For every degree below critical temperature, 40 degrees, our horses use more calories just to stay warm. I am assuming that both horses have had fecal tests done and are free of parasites, and dental work is up to date.
The 22 year old Arabian mare is a great candidate for Life Design Senior. The feed is 14% protein, which will meet a senior horses amino acid requirement, and help restore some of the muscle mass depletion you are seeing. You will need to determine her weight to properly balance her diet. Since you did not mention her work schedule, I will assume she is on light exercise. I would recommend .75 to 1.00 pound of feed for every 100 pounds of body weight. I would also recommend a minimum of 1.5 pounds of hay for every 100 pounds of body weight. The ground flax seed and rice bran in the senior will provide calories as well as Omega3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Not to mention enhanced phosphorus levels to help maintain bone integrity in older horses. I feel confident that if you begin this diet, you will not need additional supplements, and should be able to adjust accordingly once your horse reaches the desired weight.
For the Paint, since you did not mention his age, I would recommend SafeChoice. Again, you will need to determine his weight, and follow the feeding recommendations I have made for your Arabian mare. I know you mentioned you tried Safe Choice before, but were unsure about it having enough fat. The Safe Choice will provide calories, with good sources of fat, fiber and amino acids. Safe choice is 14% protein and 7% fat. This will provide the amino acids necessary to replenish the topline and muscle mass, as well as provide plenty of calories.
In all, it is about providing a well balanced diet, that meets the horses daily caloric requirements. Hope this helps! Gayle R.
HI there I have a 7 yr old Paint gelding and a 6 yr old QH mare that I am having a difficult time keeping weight on. It used to be they looked at grass and gained 5lbs…. Not so much now. We just moved from MI to TN so I originally thought stress of the move and change in atmosphere but now I am thinking its more nutritional. I worm regularly and they are all healthy according to my vet. So what I am feeding now is approximately 3-4lbs 12% Sweet feed with 3-4 lbs of Beet pulp (2x a day) 24/7 access to hay / water and some free range grass (semi-dry lot). I have had suggestions to add Corn oil but I hear this doesn’t always work and is an inflammatory. Also suggested to feed Rice bran but I hear this everyday is harmful. I am going to start adding alfalfa either pellets or cubes which ever is better, but how much per feeding? I am not really a believer in the whole supplement department I have never had any work for me. These are horses that are used regularly but just can’t seem to get them to gain any weight. Do I need to look into a different sweet feed or add something else?? I am at a loss! My horses are usually on the fatter side. But now my gelding looks ganted and ribby. My mare has a hay belly but with ribs. I just am frustrated and fed up trying to fix this. Any suggestions??
Hi Lindsey, Great question, and it’s a common situation.
I’ll start by addressing the two ‘supplements’ you mentioned – corn oil and rice bran. Both can be very effective in adding weight, although you are right, they don’t work for every horse.
Corn oil can be a bit of a pain just due to mess, also! As for the concern about inflammatory properties, that’s sort of true. What really happens is that corn oil is not balanced in Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. It is high in Omega 6, and total diet should always be higher in Omega 3’s. Omega 6’s don’t ’cause’ inflammation, but they allow the immune system to react stronger during times when inflammation is needed. So, corn oil doesn’t actually ’cause’ inflammation, it just sets the body up to be more pre-disposed to it if an injury or something of that nature occurs.
For the rice bran, if you use just a plain rice bran that hasn’t been nutritionally balanced for calcium & phosphorus, then yes, it can be bad in the long term. The horse (and all animals, actually) all require more calcium than phosphorus in the diet, and rice bran provides just the opposite. Over time, an imbalance can cause weakening of the skeletal structure and other not-fun stuff. However, most commercially-available rice bran supplements from feed companies have ‘fixed’ that by adding other sources of calcium to the product – like our Empower Boost product.
That all said, I think you can make some improvements in their base diet first, before needing to add any kind of weight supplement. I’m guessing your 12% sweet feed is probably low in fat – most basic products are. Maybe around 3% fat – that’s just what naturally comes in the grains used to make the feed. I’d suggest switching to a product that has added fat – you can get a lot of products in the 6-7% range, and even some up in the 10 or 12% range, and removing your current product and the beet pulp from their diet. (Beet pulp, while it can help with weight, is not a balanced product either, and has some nutritional issues that can cause problems in a long-term situation as well.)
So, I can recommend a couple products from our line that might help you. If you prefer a sweet feed, we have our Vitality line of sweet feeds, which start at 6% fat, and run up to 10% fat in the Vitality Ultra product. If a pellet will work for you, try SafeChoice or Life Design Compete – both are 7% fat.
Hope that helps – please do let us know if you have more questions! Thanks ~ Gina T.
Hello, I was writing to ask for some help with my mare. She currently has no pasture, so she has a round bale shared with another horse, that they eat in one week. She also gets 4 lbs of alfafa pellets or cubes, four cups of sunflower seeds and 4.5 lbs of strategy healthy edge all split into two feedings. She is being rode about once a week in dressage and still not gaining any weight. Due you have any suggestions on how to tweet my feedings?
Hi Mindy, Great question. It sounds as though your mare simply needs more calories. There are a couple ways to achieve this. One would simply involve upping the current amount of feed – the Strategy product is likely the most calorie-dense product in your lineup, so adding more of that will help the most. You don’t mention her size, but for a typical 1000 lb horse, you can feed up to 6 or 7 lbs fairly easily in a day.
Another option is to add a high-fat supplement to her diet. We offer a product called Empower Boost, which is 22% fat, that you add 1 or 2 lbs per day of, on top of her current diet. You can actually go up to 3 lbs per day, if she is in serious need of help. Do make sure to work her up on this type of product slowly, as it takes a little for their digestive system to adjust to all the extra fat.
Finally, you could switch your base feeding program to an entirely different program that is a single, balanced product, that is higher in calories. Look for products with a minimum of 7 or 8% fat, or if you can find them in your area, products with 10 or 12% fat are best. In Nutrena’s line-up, XTN is our highest-calorie product, and a great one for adding weight.
Hope that helps, please do let us know if you have more questions! Thanks ~ Gina T.
I have a question. I have a 19 year old Arabrian gelding. He is 15 hands tall. He has lost weight from the winter and I cant seem to get it back on him. I feed him 1 1/2 scoop of oats and 1 1/2 scoop of sweet feed. He has all the grass and hay he can eat. I was feeding him oil but havent had any later to give him. Do you think not giving him oil made him lose weight? We feed 10% sweet. I was thinking maybe I should go up to 14% maybe for him. My mare is as fat as she can be. We worm then regularly. I know that breed is on the slim side but he is hippie and you can see his back bone and ribs. I feel aweful dont know what else to do. I did find out that my mare would get done with her food and the open his stall and run him out but i have fixed that problem. What else can I do to put his weight back on him. I dont know how much he weighs. He doesn’t get rode that often he is my 4 year olds horse and she doesnt ride much or long when she does ride him.
Hi Misty, Thanks so much for your question, and for your concern for your horse. I think there are a few things we can do to help you out. As he ages, and he is now in the age group where weight loss is a sign of needing a “senior” feed, he may have trouble keeping weight on, even if all other things in his life were held constant.
First, get an accurate Body Condition Score and weight on him – click on the linked/underlined words to go to pages that will tell you how to do both.
Second, let’s look at your current program. Free access pasture/hay is a great start. For what you are supplementing him from a grain perspective, it’s hard to know exactly what’s in the sweet feed you mention, but it’s likely not very high in fat or calories. The oil would have been helping him certainly, but it depends also on how much you were giving him. Changing your protein level on your feed won’t have an effect on his weight – what you want to look at is the fat level on the feed tag. Most basic sweet feeds fall in the 2.5-3.5% fat range – that’s the amount that is naturally present in the grains used to make the feed. I’d suggest changing his diet to a product that is more in the 5-8% range, and also dropping the oats from the program.
For products to try, I’d suggest a senior feed such as our Life Design Senior or possibly our Vitality Perform sweet feed. You could also try adding a supplement such as Empower Boost – you only feed about 1-2 lbs per day in addition to his current grain, and that will help up his condition without your having to deal with the mess of an oil supplement.
Hope that helps, and good luck! Please do let us know if you have more questions.
Thank you ~ Gina T.
I recently bought an 11 year old 15.3hh QH who may have a bit Arabian in him. The person I bought him from had him on free choice grass hay and 2 cups beet pulp soaked in 2 cups water with 1 cup pelleted feed and 1 cup granulated vitamin/mineral supplement twice a day. He looked a good weight (maybe slightly skinner than fatter) but he will be going to a boarding stable that feeds a grass/alfalfa mix hay. I really don’t want to have to go through this beet pulp mixture routine. Is there a grain that will do the trick for all of what she was feeding him? And is it possible to feed it only once per day?
Hi Stacy, Thank you for contacting us! We sure do have some options for you to investigate. It sounds like he is a fairly easy keeper, if he is maintaining well on that amount of feed. He will get a few more calories from the grass/alfalfa mix hay than from the plain grass, so that might help him fill in just a bit. Make sure you do a body condition score regularly, to help you keep track of his condition properly.
As for a grain to feed him, we offer two options that would probably work very well. Either our Empower Balance or our LiteBalance products would work very well (most dealers just stock one or the other, either should work for your horse). Both are designed to be fed at a low rate – if he’s 1000 lbs, he’d get around 2 lbs a day of either. And, that could be fed in one feeding. It would provide all the vitamins, minerals, and protein he needs to stay very healthy. If you should try those and find that he just needs more calories to stay in good body condition, then you could go up to our Life Design Prime or SafeChoice products – both would do well if he needs a few more calories (or if you start working him harder now that you’ve got him). They do have higher feeding rates, probably in the 4-6 lbs per day, to help get those calories in to him, but still provide all the vitamins/minerals/protein.
Hope that helps, please do let us know if you have more questions!
Hi Gina, I recently bought a 5 yr old TB, which I have never owned before and not use to the slender build of a TB. This winter with her and it has been hard to keep the weight on her. I have been feeding her orchard/timothy mix hay and beet pulp mixed with Ultium or Stratagey Healthy Edge. While she isn’t really losing any more weight, she hasn’t been gaining like I had hoped. Any ideas for me? It gets kinda pricey trying all these different things. I just wish I could find one thing that worked well…
Great question, and congratulations on your new horse! Pretty much every TB owner will tell you that they are notorious for needing more food than the average horse…so, prepare yourself for that, first of all. You may simply need to feed her more of what she’s already getting to get her to start gaining weight again.
As for a change in your feeding program, we would recommend removing the beet pulp portion and replacing it with either the Ultium or Healthy Edge (or, if you are interested in Nutrena, our XTN product would be a great option, of course!). Make any transition slowly, of course, over a period of about 7 days, to avoid digestive upset. The reason is this – beet pulp by itself is not a balanced ingredient, so your nutrient ratios that the complete feeds would provide are thrown out of balance when you add the beet pulp. Secondly, a product like Ultium or XTN adds about 200 more calories per pound than a pound of beet pulp would – so more calories in every bite. This means, in the long run, that you can get more calories in a smaller amount of feed, which is good for the horse and it’s digestive system.
Removing beet pulp also removes your need to mix her daily ration, and if you are messing with soaking the beet pulp, it also gets rid of that “fun” chore, saving YOU time and energy!
We hope that helps, and please do comment back with any further questions!
My 4 year is having a hard time putting on weight. She has a light/moderate work load to keep her in shape, but is not gaining much in weight. I have her on 2 lbs of beet pulp and 2 lbs of rolled oats per day. She’s getting 25 lbs of hay, 5 of those pounds are alfalfa. I had her on rice bran for a few months, but it didn’t seem to really help. I’ve made sure she is UTD on her shots, teeth, and deworming. I’m cautious about feeding her a sweet feed or something high in fat as she’ll become very hot. Any suggestions? I’m really at a loss right now.
Hi Naomi, Thanks for the great question. If you want to put more weight on her, then she needs to take in more calories than she is getting today. In her current diet, based on some average values for the products you mentioned, she is likely getting around 29,500 calories per day.
Adding rice bran to her diet would add approximately 1500 calories, per pound of rice bran you gave. If you only gave a pound or so, it might simply not have been enough to make up the difference for you to see visible weight gain.
A couple of options – she’s already eating her fair share of hay, you could add more of the alfalfa and reduce the grass hay, that would be a good base option. Additionally, you could try a pelleted, controlled starch product such as SafeChoice Perform. It contains more calories per pound than the oats or the beet pulp, is higher in fat, and keeps starch levels (which are more likely to cause her to become “hot” than fat is) under control. Also, it would provide a more nutritionally balanced feeding program, as oats and beet pulp do not provide a full nutritional profile that a performance horse should have.
Hope this helps, let us know if you have more questions! Gina T.
hi i have a 30 yr old arab mare and she is continuing to loose weight even after trying various feeds she struggles with eating some things though loss of teeth i am concerned if she doesnt put any weight on she might not make it though the winter therefore i was wondering if you could suggest som feed and tips
Hi Laura, Thank you for contacting us. Keeping an older horse in good condition can be a tricky thing. One of the best things to do when they’ve begun loosing teeth is to move them to a high quality senior horse feed that can be made in to a mash that they can “slurp up”. Most senior feeds are designed to include needed roughage so that the horse is not having to rely on eating long-stemmed hay or pasture that they can’t quite chew anymore.
This does require feeding a fairly large volume of feed, so one tip would be to split it across multiple feedings – instead of twice a day, try three or even four smaller meals spread throughout the day to help increase overall intake.
Good luck! Gina T.
I have a 6 year old standardbred gelding that I trail ride about twice a week. I cant seem to keep weight on him. He gets six pounds of beet pulp hydrated, eight pounds of Purina Equine Senior over 2 feedings, and free choice Alfalfa/Orchard grass hay. He is on a monthly wormer rotation plus he is on Stongid daily wormer. His teeth were floated two years ago, and feel fine to me right now. I just feel like I’m missing something ..
Any ideas ??
Hi Scott, thanks for the question. Sorry to hear you are having trouble keeping weight on the horse!
At your horse’s age, a Senior feed is really unnecessary, and while the beet pulp is a great source of fiber, it really is about the same in calories compared to hay so it won’t help to add weight any more than additional hay would. You could still add beet pulp for a fiber source but really wouldn’t be necessary.
We would recommend feeding a single higher calorie and higher fat feed, such as our SafeChoice Original or SafeChoice Perform, for your horse.
Also, you might consider adding additional prebiotics and probiotics to improve digestion and nutrient absorption. Hope this helps! Thanks ~ Gina T.
Are you SURE that beet pulp is ‘about the same in calories compared to hay’ ? If I remember correctly, in all my feed formulation classes in University, beet pulp had the fiber properties of hay and the caloric content comparable to a CONCENTRATE/grain, yet it was found to be safer for some horses than grain since it primarily breaks down to volatile fatty acids in the hindgut.
The above horse seems to be on a lot of dewormer, comparatively, perhaps?
I would love some input.
I have a 19yr. old 16 1 1/2 h.h. old Canadian bred TB. I have owned him since he was 3. I live in AZ and he is a pleasure horse only. Currently he is on light exercise. (2-3 times a week for only 20 -30 mins. due to injuries).
He has always been a difficult keeper. He is boarded, and depending on where he has been this issue is often magnified. Currently he is somewhere that understands he is not a 1 flake Quarter horse and will feed what I ask. His teeth are taken care of (they were done this Spring) and he is either wormed or has regular fecal tests.
In April he managed to get a broken splint bone from a kick. He was stall (cut down to 14 x 14) bound for 1 full month and since then has been in ‘recovery’ and slow exercise being steadily increased. He gets regular turnout in decent Bermuda pastures. Pre injury my general exercise routine these days since my riding buddy has moved, is that I get out about 2-3 times a week and ride for maybe an hour max. There is not great riding where I am now. I did just get a trailer right before he was injured (of course). Weekends I will sometimes get a 2-3 hour trail ride in.
At the onset of the injury he was put to straight Bermuda and NO grain. I cannot stress enough how crazy this horse gets with ‘too much’ grain of any kind. I have to be very careful what I feed him. Currently he is on two good flakes of Bermuda and one alfalfa in the a.m. and the same again at night. He gets 3 cups of senior and the following Smartpaks: Cool Calories, MSM, Smartdigest Ultra (JUST started) Smarthoof and Smartlytes (year round as we are in AZ and he was ordered to be brought in one time as a vet noticed he was not sweating). He also gets 2 scoops of Fibersyll twice a week. As the weather begins to cool I do increase his grain. In full winter (AZ winter so it’s not very cold) he gets the above plus, rice bran, barley and soaked beet pulp. He generally does pretty well during the winter. I think one of the biggest factors for my horse is the Summer heat. I think his weight loss has a lot to do with heat stress and the mosquitos (in August). This summer has been particularly difficult for him. It was hot, humid, and the mosquitos have been terrible. I am working on getting a fan in his stall for next year. At the very end of his 3 month leg injury rehab he was left out too late in the day and ran right through an electric fence only to be chased around by a nasty pony in the other pasture and got teeth marks all over his saddle area. (another 2 weeks off). Then overnight just when his back was healed up he got a swollen tendon….another 10 days off. We are finally almost back to being able to ‘ride’ more than 20 minutes in an arena at a walk and trot!!
In 3 months between vet visits he has lost 70lbs. The vet thought it could be ulcers. I don’t think so but that is why I put him on the Ultra digest (which includes $7500 toward colic surgery). He was on MSM and Rest Easy Gold during his stall rest. He was amazingly calm and NEVER appeared stressed. He always eats all of his food. Once he could get turn out he never ran around at all. Just calmly walked out and grazed.
I think he looks worse than he would if he hadn’t lost so much muscle condition post leg injury. His topline has disappeared and he is ribby, but the points of his shoulders and his hip bones are not protruding at all. That said, 70lbs is a lot of weight to lose in 3 months! His current weight is 1093lbs. Due to the heat and his injuries I was certainly more comfortable with him being under than over, but it’s time to put some weight back on this boy!
Anyway, I would love to know what you recommend for him that would help gain the weight back and also help keep it on during the winter without making him dangerous to ride! During the winter, he gets 1-2lbs soaked Beet, 1-2lbs senior,1- 2lb Barley, 1lb rice bran (amounts are from memory so I may be off and they are never set in stone), plus his supplements and his hay. In winter we will switch one or two Bermuda flakes per day for alfalfa.
He is much more of a handful in the Winter and so I am very hesitant to up his grain too much during the rest of the year.
I need some expert help.
Hi Lyn, Thanks for getting in touch! You’ve got quite the scenario on your hands there, that’s for sure! We do have some suggestions for you, check it out and let us know if you have any more questions, OK?
First, need to look at dry matter requirements and make sure the horse is getting enough. At the most basic level, you will simply need to get the calories in the horse to gain weight. I am going to use 1200 lbs because for his height that is probably what he should be. You can adjust if his actual weight is different.
Light work horses require 1.5% – 2.5% of their body weight in dry matter per day. Dry matter is hay/pasture + grain. So that would be 18 – 30 lbs of total feed a day for a 1,200 lb light work horse. Hard keepers will need more and easy keepers will need less. Horses needing to gain weight will need more. Good quality hay or pasture will also allow you to feed less. Poor quality hay or hay baled too mature will be much lower in calories and nutrients. Hay makes up the majority of the horse’s diet and hay quality changes often so it has the biggest impact on maintaining body condition. As a rule of thumb, you have to feed about 1 ½ to 2 lbs more of grain to make up for poor quality hay (hay baled too mature) or pasture.
For a light work horse, 65-70% of the diet should come from hay and 30-35% from a nutritionally prepared feed balanced in vitamins/minerals so horses reach daily calorie and nutrient requirements. So if you were feeding 24 lbs of total dry matter a day about 16-18 lbs should come from hay and 6 – 9 lbs should come from grain. Choosing a feed higher in fat and calories will allow you to feed less.
I recommend a controlled starch and sugar feed and high fiber feed to reduce risk of hyper – exciteabilty and reduce risk of colic. I also recommend consistent levels of feeding and feeding times. SafeChoice Original would be a good choice for this horse because of the controlled starch and sugar and higher fiber levels and higher fat. Empower Boost can be added to help put on weight. I recommend no mixing of grains or vitamin/mineral supplements. Nutrena premium feeds are balanced in vitamins/minerals at optimum levels to support optimum animal performance and health. Mixing any grains or vitamin/mineral supplements can create an imbalance in the ration. For example, barley, oats, and rice bran are all higher in phosphorus compared to calcium and can create an imbalance in the 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio horses need. Rice bran in its natural form also goes rancid very easily.
Beet pulp is a great source of fiber but lower in calories compared to grains so it will not help much with the weight gain. Beet pulp is also higher in sugar compared to SafeChoice Original so it won’t help much with hyper-exciteability but soaking it does help to remove the sugars. Feeding enough good quality hay with SafeChoice Original will provide enough fiber in the diet. Barley is also high in starch so it will not help with hyper-exciteability also. Feeding a controlled starch and sugar diet will be most helpful for hyper – exciteability, but it is very important to keep in mind that a certain amount of that is contributed to the horse’s personality. Horses getting good nutrition will also feel better, which is possible to mistake for excitable.
SafeChoice Original also contains prebiotics and probiotics to improve digestion and nutrient absorption and help to keep the hind gut healthy. Pelleted feeds are also more highly digestible compared to whole grains such as barley.
So in short, 18 – 30 lbs of total feed a day for a 1,200 lb light work horse…will probably need on higher side since he needs to gain weight. 18 lbs of hay or more and start at 6-7 lbs of SafeChoice and go from there. Add Empower Boost if necessary. No other vitamin/mineral supplements or grains mixed. Offer free choice salt and fresh water at all times.
Good luck, and let us know if you have more questions! Thanks ~ Gina T.
hi i have a 6 year old quater horse that is about 16.5 hh, 1350 pounds. Currently he is getting 8 flakes a day, 2 alfalfa 2 hay in the moring and 2 alfalfa 2 hay in the afternoon plus a pound of Renew Gold. He gets ridden 2-3 tomes a week with some turnouts and he does a local every month or two. He is currently in good health. I have done some research on average feeding daily and none say their horses are getting 8 flakes. when i bought him about a year ago he was about 200 pounds underweight and i think he was getting 4 flakes. I want to know if he really needs 8 flakes or can he get by on 6 or so with
some supplements. I was also thinking about switching to hay/bremuda cubes. -Alex
Hello Alex, Thanks for your question. We would encourage you to weigh the flakes you are providing your horse, and focus on the total weight of hay you are feeding him per day, rather than focusing on the number of flakes. Flakes can vary widely from bale to bale of hay, and what your horse actually needs is to receive about 1-1.5% of his body weight per day in roughage. So, if he’s the 1350 pounds you mention, he needs to get between 13.5 and 20 pounds of hay per day.
Here’s an article that goes through some detail on this topic for you: http://www.horsefeedblog.com/2012/08/all-flakes-of-hay-are-not-created-equal/
Hope that helps! ~ Gina T.
I have a 14 year old 17.3 Oldenburg gelding. He has always been a bit of a hard keeper, but he went on stall rest 14 weeks ago and has become awfully thin. I have considered the ideas of ulcers and worms, but he has been wormed recently and shows none of the symptoms of ulcers. During his stall rest, I found out that he was not getting any grain. He was on a bit of Farnam Weightbuilder before I owned him (but while I was riding him), but I am not sure of the amounts. Anyway, I dont think he was getting too much, and it didn’t seem to be doing much (I am thinking it could do with the amounts. Due to his size, he may need more than usual?). I have moved him to a new facility, where we will be beginning a strict jumping regimen as soon as he is healed and brought back. I would like him to gain at least 150 lbs before this time (around mid-August). He is currently getting Platinum CJ for his joints (he has some moderate arthritis, and has had 2 surgeries to remove chips from his knee [I was unaware of his first surgery, the second was with me], and was previously on about 5-6 lbs per day of stable mix, no supplements. He also eats about 20-25 lbs of our regular local hay (I am not sure of the type) per day, and is later full, so we can’t up his roughage intake. I was considering getting him on a more high performance, high fat, protein, etc grain, along with a weight building supplement, and some corn oil or the like. Do you have any suggestions in terms of brands, types, etc. for me? Also, we do not know his current weight, but we suspect he sits at about 1,500-1,600. To add more, I have used Purina Ultium Competition formula on my other horse (in very small amounts, just for maintenance), and have liked it. Do you know of this feed? If so, what it your opinion on it? It recommends to feed about 10 lbs per day to a horse of his size and activity level, does that seem awfully high to you? Thanks!
Hello Devina, Thanks for checking in – sounds like you have a challenging situation on our hands, but we can sure help out! First, we would recommend you do a Body Condition Score on him, and also get a good solid estimate of his weight. Follow the links to learn to do those.
Once you know his weight, then you can begin to build his feeding program. 20-25 pounds of hay is an excellent starting point. A horse should receive 1.5 – 2.0 % of their bodyweight per day in roughage – so if he is in fact 1,500 pounds, then his acceptable range would be 22-30 pounds per day. Again, once you get that weight estimate, you can adjust as needed. We do also recommend actually weighing the flakes of hay, as flake weight can vary greatly depending on the settings the hay farmer used on his baler at the time of harvest.
For weight gain, you are likely going to need something that packs a little more punch than a basic stable blend feed. But, check the tag for the fat level on what he is receiving – this is a simple indicator of caloric content. He will likely need something that is in the 6-9% fat level – and a basic traditional feed is often only 3% fat, as that is what is naturally present in cereal grains where no additional vegetable oil or other fat source has been added. The Ultium feed you mention is a quality product, but you do need to follow the directions. For a horse of his breed and size, 10 lbs per day is not at all out of the question, especially as he goes in to work. From the Nutrena product line, we would suggest you try something like XTN, SafeChoice Perform, or SafeChoice Original plus Empower Boost (depending on what you can find at your local Nutrena retailer). You should not need to add corn oil or another weight supplement to any of these, provided you feed according to the directions on the tag for his bodyweight and activity level.
Hopefully this information is helpful to you – if you have further questions, please let us know! Thanks ~ Gina T.
Ok I have a question. I have a 16 year old ottb that’s 17.2 hands. I rescued him a year ago and at that time he weighed in at a little under 1,000lbs. He was literally a skeleton and at deaths door. He is currently up to almost 1,200lbs. Everything was going good but we seem to have hit a plateau and a problem with the summer heat.
Current feeding program is (pitiful) free choice pasture, 3-4 flakes coastal 2x a day, 6# of 14% sweet feed with 8% fat 2x a day. I was feeding him rice bran and alfalfa (the rice bran I use isn’t calcium fortified) and free choice mineral and salt blocks.
He gets ridden twice a week by a 10 year old during her hour lesson.
The problem is the feed makes him hot and he is very susceptible to heat exhaustion even during light workouts. I quit giving the alfalfa and rice bran which helped some with the reduction of protein but now he is losing weight again. He is my first ottb and I’m used to feeding draft horses so I’m kind of at a loss.
I have tried putting him on triple crown senior and he got so hot that he was running off with my students and then almost falling over with heat exhaustion. Thanks!
Hello Jennifer, Thank you for contacting us. This is a tough one to evaluate from a short description, but given the details you’ve provided, we suspect that the “hotness” you are describing is actually more of a training issue. Given the breed, coming from a track, and also “who knows what” from his neglected state that you found him in, leads to a conclusion of training issues from his previous life that might be exacerbated by an increase in calories in his diet. The heat exhaustion may also be simply symptoms of lack of conditioning – not at all out of the question given his body condition when you rescued him.
Here is what we would suggest for him: start with as much of the coastal hay as he will eat – feed as much as he will clean up in a day. Then, add a controlled starch product, such as SafeChoice Original or http://www.nutrenaworld.com/products/horses/safe-choice/safechoice-perform-horse-feed/index.jsp (whichever you can get locally), which will provide the fat needed, with a much lower (we suspect) starch and sugar level than the current sweet feed you are using. Feeding across more, smaller meals per day is also recommended, if your schedule allows – so 3 feedings of 2 lbs each instead of 2 feedings of 3 lbs each. This can help moderate his blood glucose levels throughout the day, which may help with behavior a bit. You may also find that you will need to feed more than 6lbs a day to get him to increase his weight further. TB’s tend to need more groceries as a percent of bodyweight than a light horse, and even more than your draft horses.
Finally, get him on a regular, daily exercise schedule. It may seem counter-intuitive if you are trying to put on weight, but it will help with his attitude and energy level, and also help develop his muscle tone, which will also help with improving his appearance.
Thank you ~ Gina T.
I have a 16 y.o TB weighing 1125 and body score 3/4. I am very familiar with TB special needs but am at my wits end trying to find more to add to his plate to get the weight on. He is eventing and stadium and ridden 3 days a week. Currently on 9lbs total equine (4lbs/1000lbs is the amnt to meet all their nutritional needs), 3 lbs max e- glo, smart joint 3, smart hoof plus, and smart calm (added b vitamins he was deficient in). Roughage is free choice alfalfa/Timothy 40/60% blend. — when he’s on his last flake 3 more get thrown at him. We also placed a soybean round bales in his pasture.
He at least eats this grain mix willingly, he is very picky and will not eat certain foods and will touch nothing ground or powdered.
Hello Candice, Thanks for contacting us. Unfortunately, Total Equine is not the right solution for your horse. Aside from the fact that it is a moderate-calorie feed to start, feeding more than double the recommended rate is not advisable on any product – you begin to look at the risk of toxicities on certain nutrients. While it may be tough to find a product he will consume willingly, it will be worth the effort for his long term health. We would suggest continuing with his current hay feeding program, and then looking for a product such as SafeChoice Perform (pelleted product) or Vitality Perform (textured product), that is higher in fat and calories, and also has a feeding rate more in line with his calorie needs, and thus vitamin/mineral needs.
Thank you ~ Gina T.
I have a 15.4 hand 28 yr. Appendix Quarter horse gelding who is losing condition over his topline and muscle mass in general, body condition score of 4-5. Teeth are floated every 6-9 months. He is de-wormed with Zimectrin Gold every 4 months. All vaccinations are up to date. He receives 10 lbs. of Nutrena Senior in 2 divided feedings/day, 2 lbs. beet pulp and 2 lbs alfalpha pellets. He has access to good grass pasture 24/7 however due to insects/horse flies he is only going out to pasture after dusk. Mineral salt block free coice. His coat is soft and shiney and sheds out well in the spring but gets quite thick and long in the winter. Hoofs are in good condition despite Navicular in his R forefoot and he is attended by the farrier every 8 wks. He has 2 pasture mates and they are all good friends; he is never bullied off his bucket at feeding time. I will begin 1/2 cup corn oil on his feed when the weather gets cold. He lives in Southeast Missouri. Free choice grass/orchard/clover hay in the winter months. Any suggestions for this old boy? I fear this may be his last winter if I can’t keep wt. on him. Breaks my heart but I won’t let him waste away.
I have a 12 year old TB/Quarter Mare. She is really really low on weight and just won’t gain anything. She get hay all the time and lots of it, a 5 gallon bucket (half morning half night) of sweet mix, whole corn, and cracked corn, I also have 2 supplements, ones a fat pellet and the others a fat liquid kind of thing, we can’t afford the real expensive stuff, but we’ve tried everything possible to us. When we get hay cubes that are straight alfalfa she gets quite a bit of those, she just eats and eats and you don’t ever really see a change, she hasn’t been rode since September 2013, and has a blanket on during the winter. What would you recommend to put weight on her? She came from my sister that went through a divorce and her exhusband had the mare and didn’t really take anymore care of her and we have been dealing with the stupidity of his actions and just can’t get her to take to the weight.
Hello Lacey, Thank you for contacting us. For your mare, we’ve got a few suggestions. First, try a course of prebiotics & probiotics. Her gut may simply need a little help to get the bugs working properly and digesting more out of what she’s eating.
Second, keep the hay going – as much as she will eat.
Third, regarding her feed. That is a LOT of feed, and while it might seem “cheap”, because you are feeding so much, it’s likely costing you as much or more per day than it would cost to feed a higher quality feed. Corn and basic sweet mixes are typically pretty low in calories per pound when compared to a more fortified product, and also lack a lot of nutrients all around. We would suggest moving her up to a product such as Triumph, or even SafeChoice if you can, and you will find that you can either cut back, or if you feed the same amount for a while she will actually gain the weight you want her to gain, and then you can back off until you find the amount she maintains at. Make sure that whatever you switch to, you switch gradually over a course of 5-10 days so as to not cause any digestive upset.
Good luck, and let us know if you have more questions ~ Gina T.
I was recently put in charge of a 10 y.o. Appy/Arab rescue horse that came in pretty under weight. He’s currently eating Purina Sr. and slowly transitioning to Blue Seal Sentinel Sr. along with eating the extruded pellets version of Max-E-Glo. He’s gained some weight, but isn’t all the way there. I know part of it is lack of muscle, but there is something different that I can do for him? He doesn’t get ridden because he’s not fit enough to hold a rider, along with being reported “green broke”.
Hello Cami, Thanks for the question. It can take a long time to put weight on a horse (a lot longer than it takes for them to drop it!) so if you are in fact seeing improvements, which it sounds like you are, then stay the course and keep going. You could look at increasing the amount you are currently feeding, if you are at the lower end of the recommended amount for his size and activity level – you will want to weight out what you are currently feeding to see where you fall today. We often recommend feeding a horse for one activity level higher than they are actually at, so that they are taking in more calories than they are using, so you might try that if you aren’t already feeding that level.
If you want to really focus on increasing muscle tone, improving the quality of the protein intake – either through feeding a product with guaranteed lysine, methionine, and threonine, such as our SafeChoice Senior – or try adding a ration-balancer type product, such as our Empower Balance, which provides a concentrated dose of protein in a small feeding amount.
Hope these suggestions help – let us know if you have more questions!
I recently acquired two older quarter horses from a ranch with irrigated pasture and their diet was supplemented with alfalfa cubes. Both of them lost a significant amount of weight due to the move. One has bounced back a bit but the other (15yr old gelding) has not. He is very thin and I cannot seem to find anything that will put weight back on him. Why is his old diet not working? The habitat is not very different from where he came from. I have wormed him as well…. Any suggestions would help.
Hello Christy, Thanks for the question. Putting weight on horses can take a LOT more feed than “normal” horses would need – you may find that you need to feed for a couple of activity levels higher than they are actually doing, to put weight on. So, if your horses are in “light work”, you will need to feed according to the directions for a horse in “moderate work”, and possibly even according to the directions for a horse in “heavy work” in order to make a difference.
Best of luck~ Gina T.
Hi, I have a question on what I should feed my hard keeper. She is a 16 yrold quarter horse/paint mare and she weighs 1000 lbs. She currently is on full pasture year around, and gets grain from 2-3 times a week, and gets 26 oz. of grain each time she gets it. She is doing great on that, and I’ve had no problems with maintaining weight on her. My problem is, I will be moving her to a different facility. At her new facility, she will be on hay most of the year. With only about 3-4 months of grass at only about 10-12 hours a day. I will be working her about 5-7 hours a week, and I do trail riding, barrel racing, and pleasure riding. She will be getting hay, but I’m unsure of what I should feed her for grain, and how much. She also has had colic 8 years ago, and had to have surgery to resolve it. She also was pregnant when she had colic, and has not showed signs or had colic since than. If you could please give me suggestions that would be great! Thank you!
Hi, I’m unsure of what grain and the amount I should feed my horse. She is a 16 yrold quarter horse/paint mare, and weighs roughly 1000 lbs. She is a hard keeper and has a hard time keeping weight on when not on full pasture year around. She has had colic 8 years ago, and had it resolved with surgery. This happened when she was pregnant, and she has not be in foal since, and she hasn’t shown signs of colic since that incident. She is on full pasture now year around, and gets sweet feed 3-4 times a week and receives about 20 oz. each time. This diet is great for her, and I haven’t had any problems, but I will be moving her to a different facility in the spring, and I’m concerned about her maintaining her weight. The facility she will be going to she will only receive 12 hours a day in pasture only 3-4 months out of the year, and the rest she will be on hay. She also will be worked 5-7 hours a week, and I do mostly trail/pleasure riding, and barrel racing. I’m confused at what grain(s) I should feed her and the amount of each one(s) to give to her. I don’t want to harm her but not giving her the nutrients she needs, but I also am afraid at giving her large amounts of grains because of her past case of colic. She is not a picky eater at all, just has a hard time keeping weight on. Thank you in advance.
You pose some very good questions.
We are looking at some significant changes coming up for your horses diet this spring. I would recommend checking this link http://www.horsefeedblog.com/2013/01/horse-nutrition-101/ as it is like a Nutrition course, to help you calculate the proper feeds and caloric choices for your horse.
You are wise to start making considerations now, especially with your horses medical history. You might want to consider going to a Nutrena SafeChoice Senior feed when you make the move this Spring, as it is high fiber, fat and yet much lower in starch and sugar than sweet feed. http://www.nutrenaworld.com/products/horses/Senior-Horse-Feeds/index.jsp
It is also very easy to digest. Our Nutri Bloom technology also provides pre and pro biotics to aid in digestion of fiber and aid in immune response. The key is to offer your mare at least 2% of her body weight per day in forage, so at least 20 pounds of hay. I prefer to use the slow feed nibble nets, as they slow the consumption rate, to replicate grazing. The balance of her daily requirements can be met by a ration balancer or concentrate.
You mention at the present time your horse is on sweet feed at different intervals throughout the week. I encourage you to read the manufactures feed tag for recommended feed rate. My concern is that your horse is not getting the complete balance of vitamin and mineral fortification if not fed to tag recommendations. I would be more comfortable adding Empower balance for fortification, at the recommended feed rate. http://www.nutrenaworld.com/products/horses/empower-supplements/Empower-Balance/index.jsp
I hope this is helpful to you. Please feel free to contact me if you have additional questions. Thank you for contacting Nutrena World!!!!
I have a 10 year old pony who has recently foundered. I have taken her off her sweet feed and she is current,y eating free choice coastal hay only. I am not sure what type grain to feed her now. She weighs 350 lbs and is starting to lose weight now that she is not getting any grain. Any suggestions on what to feed that doesn’t have any sugar?
Hi Sandra, Great question. Glad to hear you are working to manage her diet. While you won’t find any feeds that don’t have any sugar (impossible to make a feed with no sugar), you can look at lower-than-normal NSC (NSC = starch + sugar) feeds. A great place to start, especially with ponies who tend to be very easy keepers, is a ration balancer. They are very low in starch & sugar, and also have a very low feeding rate, so the total intake of starch & sugar is very low. They are also very low calorie, so great for getting the nutrients your horse/pony needs such as protein, vitamins, and minerals, without the weight gain of a traditional feed.
From the Nutrena product family, we’d suggest Empower Balance as a solution for your pony. Check it out at: http://www.nutrenaworld.com/products/horses/empower-supplements/Empower-Balance/index.jsp
Best of luck! Gina T.
I have a 18year old Belgian draft mare that was given to me. She was in good shape when I got her and the previous owners told me what and how much she was being fed, which was a general grain and a few flakes of Timothy hay shared between her and two haflingers. I changed her over to Dumor Senior feed (1 1/2 cup morning and another at night) and about 5# of the hay in the morning and again at night. She was a bit hippie when I got her, but now she’s just becoming boney 🙁 I have a vet appointment set up for her in 2 weeks and she has been wormed recently. Any suggestions you can offer would be great!!! (She’s on light work/ excersize and I’m not sure how much she weighs )
Sorry, not 5# of hay. About 5 flakes, maybe 6. And my cup is about 36 ounces, so about 2 and a quarter pounds morning and again at night
Hello Laurie Beth, Thank you for contacting us. You mare sounds to be, quite simply, in need of a lot more calories. First, we would strongly suggest increasing her hay ration. If you can weigh her (find a convenient and very accurate tape-measure method here), then you need to be feeding her at 1.5-2.0% of her bodyweight just in hay per day. If she’s an 1800 lb draft horse, that equals 27 to 36 lbs of hay per day! Depending on the weight of your flakes, you may be underfeeding her, or you may be OK.
Then, looking at her grain ration, again assuming an 1800 lb horse, the feeding directions for her size and activity level for the product you are using is likely 9-12 lbs of grain per day.
So, first, figure out her weight – then calculate what she should be getting – then start slowly increasing the hay and grain over the course of 7-10 days to get her where she needs to be. Then you can evaluate after a month to see if she’s making the progress she should be, and make further adjustments from there!
Good luck, and let us know if you have further questions! Thanks ~ Gina T.
Hello, I was wondering if there was a grain or mineral that makes a horses blood less appealing to horseflies, I have one mare who gets eaten up bad. This is making it hard for her to gain weight even with the extra grain. Hoping someone has an idea.
I have a weanling that has lost a great deal of weight having been weaned 2 weeks ago. She is 4+ mos. old and is only 1/4 TB. Balance is WB.
Hello Diane, Thanks for the question. Sounds like you simply need to get more calories in to her – we’d suggest use of a product such as SafeChoice Mare & Foal, as it is specifically designed to support growing horses like her.
You’ll need to monitor her fairly closely and adjust feed intake to maintain desired growth rate and healthy body condition, feeding according to both weight and Body Condition Score (BCS). Weanlings at 6 months of age that will mature at 1200 lbs. may be gaining 1.5+ lbs. per head per day. The objective should be to maintain a smooth and steady rate of growth and a BCS of about 5.
Some weanlings become a bit pot-bellied, do not gain muscle mass and look a little rough following weaning. This is frequently due to inadequate concentrate feed intake and too much forage. The cecum is NOT fully developed in the weanling, so it cannot digest forage as efficiently as an older horse. If a young growing horse is not getting the essential amino acids from a well-balanced concentrate, muscle development is slowed down. If it is not getting the appropriate minerals, the risk of developmental orthopedic problems may increase.
A 6 month old weanling may be consuming 2.0-3.5% of bodyweight in feed and hay per day as fed and should be consuming about 70% concentrate and 30% forage. At 12 months of age, the growth rate will slow down to about 1-1.25 lb. per day and the yearling will be consuming about 2.0-3.0% of bodyweight in feed and hay per day as fed and the concentrate to forage ratio will drop to 60:40. As the young horse grows, the rate of growth slows down and the amount of forage it can digest efficiently increases. Digestible Energy intake drives growth, but requires the right balance of amino acids and minerals to achieve healthy growth. Too much DE without the right balance might lead to excessive BCS (fat!) with lack of muscle gain and may increase risk potential developmental orthopedic issues.
If you have further questions, please let us know! Thank you ~ Gina T.
I just rescued a Belgian pregnant mare about 8 to 9 years old the vet says. 1400 lbs trying to get her back healthy hips show back bone shows but not horrible just to the point you know shes underweight . Her teeth will be floated next week. He wormed her , coggins, microchipped, vaccinations.
Senior feed 8% fat She gets 7# in morning with probiotic and 9 alfalfa cubes broken up
1/2 bale hay
Evening: same thing but no probiotic bc its 1x day
14# feed per day, 1 bale hay, 18cubes alfalfa and probiotic. 1/2 scoop sweet feed . Shes looking better in the two weeks that Ive had her. Any suggestions? She will be palpatated this week to find out how far long she is too.
I have an 11 yo Arab gelding who seems to have lost a bit of weight in the 9 months that I’ve had him, and he is my first horse BTW. Because of our living conditions, I am only allowed to turn him out during the summer months when the cows are NOT being fed. During the paddock months, I have to feed hay and grain and whatever else. I would say that Caspian is a little high-strung as it is, at least a 6 on the temperament scale, so I don’t need anything to amp him up. TSC is over an hour away, but they have your products. I ride him about once a week, which really isn’t enough to keep his muscularity, and they may be what I’m actually seeing vs loss of weight. His hip bones and croup and back bone are a little more pronounced. He is 14.6 hands and I’m not sure of his weight. He is otherwise healthy. His teeth were done last September, but I do notice that he yawns a lot, or looks like he’s yawning, and it makes me think sometimes that he has something stuck in his throat, but no coughing or clearing or other signs of that. His paddock is big enough for him to get up a good run and stretch out, but I don’t feel it has enough grass to support him during the summer months, thus the turn-out to about 40 acres. What feed would you recommend and how much during the winter, and also, would you recommend any feed at all during the summer too? He loves his grains twice a day, but if I offer him grass from our yard, he will go to grazing all day long. Thank you for your help?
Hello Sandy, Thanks for the questions! First, regarding the yawning – as long as he doesn’t look like he is in pain or hurting somehow, we wouldn’t worry about it too much. If there is discomfort, contact your vet right away, otherwise just ask about it next time the vet is out for a regular visit.
Second, regarding his feeding program. Our first recommendation is more hay! Get as much in front of him as he will eat. Use a slow feed net or nibble net to make it last throughout the day to alleviate boredom and to keep him occupied, but keep it in front of him. Hay is a major source of calories, and to gain weight he needs more calories! Next, for grain – to get him to gain weight without making him excitable, we would recommend something like a SafeChoice Senior or SafeChoice Special Care. High fat, lower in starch and sugar. And yes, throughout the summer – at least until he gets back to the body condition you want him at. You can feed him in the 5 to 7 lbs per day range until he gets back to proper body condition, then you can start to reduce the Senior or Special Care and replace with 1# Empower Balance for each 3.5# SC Senior/Special Care removed. You may wind up where he maintains well on hay and 2 lbs per day of the Empower Balance, or you may find he needs to stay on a larger amount of Senior or Special Care. You’ll have to play with it over time to see what works best for him.
Best of luck, and let us know if you have more questions! Thank you ~ Gina T.
I’m getting a 15 hh Tb mare who seems to hold her weight well. I’m new to this horse thing as this is my first horse but I was wondering if you could set me off on the right track of what I should be feeding her.
She will be ridden some afternoons and on weekends. Mainly for trail rides but occasionally jumping.
Hello Summa, Thank you for the question! A great product for a mature horse with a low activity level like yours is a ration balancer. Our product is called Empower Balance, and there are a variety of others from other feed companies available on the market as well.
Ration balancers are a great option for “easy keepers” like yours, as they are designed to just feed a small amount per day – usually 1.5-2.0 lbs per day for a 1,000 lb horse, and deliver a full dose of vitamins, minerals, and protein – without the calories of a more traditional feed.
Also keep hay in front of her (or grazing in good pasture) to keep her gut in good health. And of course, free choice access to clean water!
Thank you ~ Gina T.
Hello, I have a 17.2 5 year old QH gelding who is lean he is on tree range hay as much as he wants right now being winter and pastures in the summer, he gets 6 quarts of atlantic mash feed and 6 quarts of nutrapak a day but he doesn’t seem to gain he is getting worked daily and is healthy other then being lean but I’d like to fatten him up a bit. Any suggestions.
Thank you for your interesting question about your 17.2 5 year old QH gelding. I am assuming that you have had his teeth checked and made sure that he has been de-wormed properly. This is a big frame horse and I would expect that he might weigh someplace 1250-1300 pounds to be in body condition score 5 (you can feel ribs but cannot see them). His lean but healthy condition indicates he needs more Calories and may need a bit higher protein intake to build muscle mass if needed. You might try some higher energy hay if available or gradually increasing feed intake until he starts to gain some weight. If you are concerned about starch intake, you could also use one of the high fat supplements. In the Nutrena line, this would be Empower Boost.
Best of luck!
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