How To Feed An Underweight Horse

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How To Feed An Underweight Horse

This is a discussion on How To Feed An Underweight Horse within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category

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  • 1 Post By Spotted
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    10-31-2012, 08:44 PM
How To Feed An Underweight Horse

I've been around the block a time or two when it comes to bringing horses from underweight, to healthy weight. Not mine, but a quite a few horses from some of the farms I worked at that came from bad situations.
1.) Vet Check Up; call the vet out to get a full check up to make sure nothing internally could be causing the problem, such as ulcers.
2.) Teeth Rasping; an underweight horse, or any horse for that matter, needs teeth at least checked once a year-this could be a case of just not being able to chew food properly, or teeth hurting when trying to eat.
3.) Worming; worms are one of the number one causes for emaciation, horses should be wormed at least every 6-8 weeks.
4.) Ease into feeding: any change in diet should be made progressively
5.) Senior Feed: any underweight horse can benefit from senior feed
6.) Rice Bran Oil
7.) Beet Pulp
8.) Weight Building Supplements
9.) Hay-alfalfa and grass mix seems to do just fine
10.) Go by horses weight for amount of feed given
11.) Corn Oil: I would get a vet okay, some say its not good for horses and others would disagree
12.) Alfalfa Cubes

P.S. All opinions for someone looking to put weight on their horse can comment below, also this thread is not made to start an agrument(:
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    10-31-2012, 08:48 PM
Great Post! Love it and Love it some more! Seems this question is asked alot. This page should be printed in case the issue ever does come along :)
KeepCalmAndTrotOn likes this.
    10-31-2012, 08:58 PM
Thank you! I figured it was worth sharing, even more because winter is coming up!
    10-31-2012, 09:00 PM
Green Broke
Remember - slow and steady wins the race. The horse did not lose the weight overnight, do not seek to put it back on at that pace. So many times people see a starved animal and their first instinct is to stuff it full of food, not realizing that that is actually about the worst thing you can do....
KeepCalmAndTrotOn likes this.
    10-31-2012, 09:08 PM
I definitely agree with this!
My horse was from a rescue. She dropped at least 1/4 of her body weight within the time I first saw her to the day we got her (about four months time). The main reason she lost weight was because it was winter and she wasn't being fed (not even grass to graze on) and she had worms. BAAAD WORMS. Things got so much better once she came to our stable, but it was difficult to not let her have at the food right away. We started with a handful of grain, two flakes of hay, and turnout for a few hours in a small turnout lot in the first couple of days.

Another thing I think is important is quality over quantity. My mare gained her weight fast. She had amazing hay (vet tested quality too!) and the expensive grain (SafeChoice). It paid off! Now, she gets free choice hay and two cups of grain A DAY. The quality keeps the weight on them.

A horse in a similar state came to the barn a couple of months later and she is STILL just as thin looking. She gets almost a bale of hay a day and two coffee cans full of grain. This horse's food quality isn't very good... the hay is dusty and doesn't even look nutritious, and the grain is mostly added sugars and not much protein.

Don't skimp on the quality when it comes to feeding! You'll pay for it in the end. Now, my horse only goes through a bag of grain about every month and a half. The other horse goes through a bag every two weeks or so.
KeepCalmAndTrotOn likes this.
    10-31-2012, 09:29 PM
There are studies that show yo can feed extra so the horse can free feed w.o adverse affects. Search on line for them
    10-31-2012, 09:34 PM
Green Broke
Originally Posted by stevenson    
there are studies that show yo can feed extra so the horse can free feed w.o adverse affects. Search on line for them
"extra" what - hay, grain, supplements -- there are lot of feed categories currently being discussed so specifying what you are referring to would be helpful. I don't disagree about extra hay (I am a fan of free choice hay for horses who are needing weight to be put on), but that is once the horse has been brought back from the initial starvation/system shock point at which even extra hay can be a disaster.
    10-31-2012, 09:57 PM
Hay/forage loose hay/forage if you feed pellets or cubes get the teeth done first and then gradually add to free choice on cubes. Never heard of anyone free feeding supplements . And never free feed grains. Did not think that needed specified..
    10-31-2012, 10:05 PM
It also takes time. It is difficult to look at a skinny horse on a daily basis but we must be careful to not stuff the horse with rich feeds. Keep in mind a lot of it winds up on the ground because the horse's compromised system can't deal with it. Because I was feeding my horses grain and seniors 3 small meals daily, I was blinded to the positive changes in my arab as they were so gradual. At 6 weeks he was grazing the lawn and just the way he was standing I suddenly saw the change. His belly was gone, his coat shone, his ribs were covered and his eyes sparkled.
    11-01-2012, 05:21 AM
Green Broke
One thing I would add to the original post:
10) feed to the optimum weight of the horse. If you feed to the weight of the underweight horse, you won't feed enough. If the horse is 800 lbs, but should be 1100, you would feed at the 1100 weight amount. If you feed only at the 800 amount, the horse won't get enough to add weight.
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