Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New South Wales, Australia
It can be tricky choosing the correct feed for horses. Its not just a matter of keeping the weight on, there are many vitamins and minerals that are essential to a balanced diet. These include copper, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, iodine, vitamin E and vitamin A. Most pre-mix feeds such as "country max" and "senior feed" are composed of perhaps a bran/pollard/grain mix with additional minerals and vitamins added in, and then topped off with a bit of molasses.
While these feeds contain what you need, you have to usually feed a fair amount of to get the right amounts, although this is very dependent on your pasture. The quality of your pasture isn't just about how green or long your grass is, its about the minerals in your soil.
Generally to feed the right amount of minerals, in addition to an average pasture, you generally have to feed 2-4 kg of your pre-mix feed. This means that you could be going through 1-2 bags of the pre-mix per horse per week, which can get pretty expensive depending on what you feed.
In addition to these minerals you'll want to feed something to put weight on your horses. While the pre-mixes are often high in calories (energy content) often horses, especially older ones, will need a little more.
Hay is a natural food for the horse and you should make sure that they have access to it, or good grass, pretty much 24/7. Ensure that your horse is receiving the correct amount of forage before looking into grains for weight.
If your horse does have access to hay/grass all the time but still is having trouble putting on weight then there are a variety of options.
Fat is just stored energy so you want to feed your horse foods that are high in energy. Oats are a good grain. They are considered one of the "safest" grains to feed because their high fibre content means they are easily digested by the horse. Most horses can eat whole oats, but old or young ones may require softened oats - this is generally done by soaking. Lots of people say oats "heat horses up" - which in a way is true. They provide a fair bit of energy and this energy may be used in hard work, or by the horse playing up, but unused it will turn into fat. Oats have less energy than barley and corn, which are two other grains that are often fed to horses.
Oils contain the most calories to weight so they are very efficient at putting weight on, and are less likely to "heat a horse up". You can feed straight corn, canola, soy bean or sunflower oil (there are other varieties too) by mixing it in the feed. Feeds that are high in oil, such as sunflower seeds, can also be fed. Oils also make a horses coat look nice.
There are other options such as sugar beet, copra, rice bran and a variety of other things. Sugar beet I believe is the leftover pulp from cane sugar, copra is coconut meal or some derivative there of.
I just bought a horse and am trying to put weight on him but I am doing so on a budget. I'll tell you what I feed him. He's in a paddock with LOTS of grass and is fed this twice a day.
Two scoops of oaten chaff
1 cup of oats
1 cup of sunflower seeds
1 cup of boiled barley
2/3 scoop of a pre-mix
4 Tablespoons sunflower oil
I'm changing his premix to a vitamin and mineral supplement so I don't feed all that "filler". I've just introduced the oats and barley, and plan to increase them both over time. Barley, in its whole form, can only be fed boiled or soaked, but its a cheap grain for weight gain.