It’s not as if you can ask your horse to step on your bathroom scale every time you suspect she’s lost weight. That would make your job as a horse owner a lot easier, but unfortunately, most private horse owners have to care for their horses’ health without the advantage of a horse-sized scale. Scale or not, keeping track of your horse’s weight and knowing when she needs weight gain horse feed is something you should be doing regularly. For many horses, weight loss is slow and subtle. Their riders don’t realize what’s happening until their health is already in trouble. To avoid that situation, you should evaluate your horse’s weight on a monthly, and even weekly, basis. If you determine your horse is losing pounds, you’ll need to start her on a quality weight gain horse feed.
How to Tell if Your Horse is Underweight
It’s hard to spot physical changes in your horse when you spend time with her every day. Fat and muscle slips away slowly, and you can’t always trust yourself to notice. The best method for determining a horse’s ideal weight is to evaluate her Body Condition Score (BCS). Your horse’s BCS is based on a scale of one to nine, with one being emaciated and nine being extremely overweight. According to Henderson Equine Clinic, the horse you like to ride for fun or put in shows should have a BCS of a five or six. Racehorses usually fall around the four mark.
To determine your horse’s BCS, there are six areas you need to evaluate: the neck, withers, loin, tailhead, ribs, and behind the shoulder. To earn a BCS of five, a horse’s neck should blend smoothly into the body and the withers should be rounded. The horse’s back should be level, and there should be fat around the tailhead that feels slightly spongy. You shouldn’t be able to see your horse’s ribs, but they should be easily felt when you press on her sides.
An underweight horse will have an accentuated neck and withers that are more pointed than rounded. Their tailhead will stick out, and you might be able to see individual vertebrae. If you can see your horse’s ribs, that’s as good a sign as any that she’s losing weight. Study this BCS system chart to accurately evaluate your horse.
Determine Why Your Horse is Losing Weight
If your horse has a BCS of four or lower, you’ll need to invest in a high-quality weight gain horse feed. But before you do, it’s important to determine the cause of your horse’s weight loss. If it’s a medical issue, it needs to be addressed immediately before you consider horse weight gain feed.
Horses should see an equine dentist about once a year to make sure their chompers are healthy. If your horse is experiencing infection, inflammation, or ulceration, chewing on food will be extremely painful. Watch your horse to see if she drops food while chewing as if she’s trying to avoid a painful area in her mouth. Other signs of dental issues include foul-smelling breath and facial swelling. Schedule a dental checkup for her to solve the issue and help her gain the weight she lost.
Internal parasites can wreak havoc on your horse’s health as they steal your horse’s nourishment. Bloodworms, tapeworms, and botflies can cause weight loss as well as loss of appetite and itching. You’ll need to get rid of the parasites before your horse can gain weight again.
Life for a horse isn’t all frolicking through fields and hanging out with friends. They experience stress in the same way humans do. Loneliness, boredom, nervousness, and fear are all emotions that can lead to stress-related weight loss. Consider factors in your horse’s environment that could be causing her stress, and come up with a game plan to make her more comfortable.
How to Help Your Horse Gain Weight
Once you’ve identified the cause of your horse’s weight loss, it’s time to get busy rectifying the problem. Being underweight for too long can cause serious nutritional deficiencies and health concerns.
It’s important to note, however, that an extremely emaciated or starving horse needs immediate veterinary attention. Feeding too much food to a starving horse will cause more problems than it fixes, and it needs to be done the right way.
If your horse is only moderately thin, you can handle the weight gain process on your own.
Increase Your Horse’s Forage
Forage is the single most important part of a horse’s diet. To gain weight, try increasing your horse’s roughage to 2.5% – 3% of her desired body weight. For example, if your horse currently weighs 900 pounds but you want her to weigh 1,000 pounds, she should consume 25-30 pounds of hay a day. Make sure to offer quality hay and pasture to ensure she’s receiving calories and nutrients and not just fiber.
Choose the Right Weight Gain Horse Feed
To supplement your horse’s diet and help her gain weight, you’ll also want to look into bolstering her fat content. Fats are the safest and most efficient way to put on the pounds. When looking for a weight gain horse feed, look for a product that contains high amounts of fat as well as additional vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Your horse will need those nutrients to build and sustain muscle.
Stabilized rice bran is an excellent options for horses that need help maintaining a healthy weight. It’s an additional energy source you can feed that horses generally enjoy. It’s high in fat and increases calorie intake without greatly increasing the amount of food.
Renew Gold from Manna Pro is formulated for horses of all types that need extra energy without the risk of high-starch hyperactivity. The recipe combines high fat stabilized rice bran with coconut meal, flax, and fermented yeast to support muscle growth and maintenance. It allows your horse to gain weight without you having to spend money on extra feed.
Add a Fat Supplement
Another option to help your horse gain weight is a commercial concentrate formulated for balanced nutrition. Concentrates offer valuable calories to thin horses. It’s important, however, to always follow the instructions on the label. Feeding too much of a concentrate in a single meal can cause health issues.
The Equine Fat Supplement from Manna Pro is a concentrated energy source rich in vitamin E and linoleic acid. It’s flavored so even the pickiest eaters gobble up their food. Add it to a horse’s regular meal multiple times a day to help them gain weight.
Starting your horse on a diet of weight gain horse feed or a fat supplement will work to gradually increase their calorie intake and allow the body to put on much needed fat and muscle. Don’t expect to see noticeable results right away, however. It will take up to two months of consistent work to improve an underweight horse’s BCS. If your horse is considerably underweight, it could take up to six months to get her to a healthy number on the scale. Keep track of her progress by taking monthly pictures and regularly evaluating her body condition. If you don’t notice improvement in a few weeks or notice other health issues, don’t hesitate to contact a veterinary professional.