How To Make a Horse Gain Weight

Horses are able to absorb nutrients and digest food efficiently, but not always. Some horses have difficulty maintaining a healthy body condition score. These people are called “hard keepers”.

Horses may require weight gain after an illness, or after being bred in an environment that doesn’t provide adequate nutrition. Learn how to identify a skinny horse and what causes it. Also, find out the best foods to help horses gain weight quickly.

How to Assess the Need for Weight Gain

The Body Condition Score (BCS), an objective scoring system, is used to determine if your horse has sufficient fat or muscling condition. Horses lose weight quickly and will use up their carbohydrate reserves (glycogen) first. Next, fat stores are mobilized. Then comes the breakdown of muscle into proteins. BCS scoring uses a nine-point scale. Although there are differences in breeds and disciplines regarding the ideal body condition, a score of at least 4-5 is considered ideal. These horses will have symmetrical muscling. A slight outline of the ribs can be seen, but it won’t be easily discernible. There will also be a small fat pad above the tail. The neck and withers blend seamlessly together.

It is very dangerous to attempt to rapidly increase the body weight of emaciated horses ( BCS). Rapid weight loss can also be dangerous for very obese horses (BCS 8-9). Both should not be attempted without close supervision by a veterinarian.

Causes of poor body condition in horses

Assessing skinny horses begins with recognizing any health problems that could make them less attractive. Healthy horses must be alert and interested in food. They should also have shiny, long coats that are appropriate for the season. You should not see any nasal discharge. The manure of horses should have a soft-formed fecal ball. Horses should be able, without difficulty, to draw food into their mouths with their lips. They should also be able, without dropping feed or coughing, to chew and swallow normal food.

If your horse is too thin, it’s best to have them assessed by your veterinarian. Horses who lose weight due to dental issues are at high risk. Horses’ teeth grow and change throughout their lives. They are ground down through the chewing of hay and grass. Sometimes, the teeth can be unevenly ground. This can cause pain in chewing and cut into cheeks or gums. Older horses may grind their teeth to a smooth surface, and could even lose their teeth. To rule out any dental disease in horses, even those of the appropriate weight, an oral exam should be done annually.

To check for internal parasite nutrient-stealing, a fecal sample must be taken. To check for any underlying conditions, kidney and liver enzymes, or other diseases, blood may be taken. The veterinarian will ask you what you are feeding your horse, and whether there is competition at the feed trough.

Increased energy expenditure is a common reason horses have lost weight in recent years. Because producing milk takes a lot of energy, mares will lose weight following foaling. Exercise often leads to an increase in calories. Rapidly falling temperatures are another reason horses may have an increased energy need. Horses can maintain a body condition on pasture or hay but they may need grain supplementation when winter temperatures fall below freezing. Your horse’s condition can change in as little as a week.

The Best Foods to Gain Weight

The largest part of a horse’s diet is hay, but the quality can vary greatly. If pasture is not available, horses should consume 1.5-2% of their body weight daily in high-quality hay. Horses need to be fed hay even when there is plenty of pasture and a warm climate. 12 Alfalfa is more caloric than grass hay which is less calorie-dense.

Horses can experience rapid weight gain, which is difficult because of the sensitive microbes in their gastrointestinal tract. Some fiber concentrates, and grains can help to increase safe weight. Beet pulp can be used to provide fiber and promote healthy weight gain. Before you feed it, make sure that it is thoroughly soaked.

High-fat and high-protein foods will promote weight loss more effectively than those rich in sugar. Sugary grains can cause rapid changes in the gut microbial population, which may cause colic. Oils (corn and canola, flax, and commercial equine-specific formulas) provide dense calories in the form of fats without starch. These oils are particularly useful for horses with starch sensitivities, such as horses suffering from gastrointestinal disease or laminitis. 2 Slowly add oil or grain over a time period of one to two weeks. This will allow the horse’s stomach to adjust.

It takes some detective work to fatten a skinny horse. First, rule out any health issues such as high parasite loads, systemic illnesses, or dental problems. Next, evaluate roughage quality, then add concentrates or oils slowly.

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