Please help- Horse losing weight, need advice - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 52 Old 04-05-2013, 02:10 AM Thread Starter
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Please help- Horse losing weight, need advice

Hey all. I posted a thread in the beginning of winter talking about how Drifter was losing weight and I couldn't get it to stop. I got back great advice about feeding regimens, blanketing and nutritional alternatives to the grain he was on.

Well he has just gotten worse and I am looking for some more help. Equine nutrition is really not my forte. When I bought Drifter last year around this time, he was about a 2 or 2.5 on the body scale. He improved dramatically with the right food and work and looked great going into the winter. He was actually a little chubby at the beginning of the season because he had been laid up due to an injury.

He is probably back at a 2 now. I have been working with my vet because of the dramatic weight loss. I have been researching as much as I could. We scoped him again even though he was eating and not showing other signs of ulcers, but I wanted to make sure his hadn't returned. My vet said that area was fine. His teeth have recently been fine and his fecal count did not show anything out of the ordinary. I also ordered bloodwork which my vet said did not show anything wrong. That does put my mind slightly at ease because I have been terrified that he has cancer or some other weight loss causing disease.

Personality wise he is the same. Not acting depressed, lethargic or sickly. He is out 24/7 in a group of geldings in a 200-300 acre pasture. I am not sure on the exact size. They're normal pasture is 100 acres, and the BO closed off the back 40 acres and opened up the gate to the cross country course to allow the geldings more grass. He is not at the bottom of the totem pole. He gets along with most of the other horses. No insane amounts of bullying to stress him out.

He is on unlimited pasture with 24/7 access to all the hay he wants. He is fed a mixture of Strategy, beet pulp and Purina Senior. The strategy is the only way I can get him to eat his beet pulp and Purina Senior. I have recently added cool calories to his diet per vet's recommendation. We have started out at 1oz per feeding,and are working up to 2oz per feeding.He is also on the SmartGut supplement due to his history with ulcers and Tri-Amino to help him regain some of his muscle.

My vet is of the belief he is just a TB with high metabolism. He thinks I unfortunately waited too little, too late when getting Drifter a blanket earlier this winter (he had already dropped before I realized he needed one). He has recommended putting Drift's blanket on anytime its 60* or below. If ii is below 50, Drifter is brought in and stalled and given unlimited hay. He is NOT in any work right now. The last time I really rode him was about 5 or 6 weeks ago. I ended up falling off and suffering an AC joint separation so Drifter has not been worked in a while. I do not plan on working him now until I can get his weight back up.

I have been following the new diet for the past 3 or so weeks now. The management plan (stalling, blanket, etc) has been in place for a week and he seems to be doing slightly better. How long should it take to see real results? How do I know if what I am doing is not working? I am sick with worry. He looks awful and it makes me want to cry with frustration because I just cant seem to be able to help him.

Can a horse being too cold really cause this dramatic of a weight loss? It rained yesterday and i ran out to the barn to get him up only to find him shivering so hard I was afraid he was having a seizure. I brought him in, toweled him off until he was dry, gave him a warm mash and put his blanket on. I put him in a stall and he was fine and he has been in all day today and night as well since it has been raining. This is our last cold snap of the year supposedly and I am hoping the warmer weather will bring with it a new Drifter.

My vet recommended I begin managing his feed for winter before the actual cold sets in next year, to help him be better prepared and to start blanketing him immediately. I have class until noon tomorrow but my vet is coming back out around 1 to give Drifter his shots and check him over once again. is there anything else I can talk to him about? A disease or condition that needs to be ruled out? I just want to make sure I cover all of my bases and am truly getting him the help he needs. Any and all advice appreciated. Below are some few pictures of him.

The first 3 are from around 2.5 weeks ago when I first contacted my vet freaking out. I had been busy with school and had not made it to the barn in about 4 days. When I finally made it out, that greeted me. The last pic (eating in the food trough) was taken earlier this week as a comparison. As you can see, he IS looking better and there IS improvement but I think that picture misleads a little bit and makes him look better than he actually does. He is still very thin.




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post #2 of 52 Old 04-05-2013, 01:35 PM
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How much of the strategy, beet pulp, and Purina senior are you feeding? I would be upping the feed slowly to 8-10 lbs splitting the senior with strategy or feeding more senior if you can. Is there a senior brand he is more willing to eat? He would probably benefit from the protein and calories from alfalfa hay or cubes if you can get a hold of any. Also, the cool calories is only 250 calories per ounce, so unless you can feed larger amounts of it you're better off adding alfalfa and upping concentrated feed.
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post #3 of 52 Old 04-11-2013, 01:13 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the response sky! Sorry it has taken me a while to respond. I actually typed up an answer to you the other day and then had my computer die before I could post it. This week has been busy and I have actually moved Drifter to a new barn due to some issues I was having with my current barn owner.

The vet came out last Friday and placed him at a 2.5 on the body scoring chart after running his hands all over him. He said the grass in our pasture wasn't doing anything for him. There were round bales available, but Drifter was getting bulled in his pasture and would not eat them roundbales when other horses were near. That contributed to his weight loss. He also thinks this past winter was too rough on him and that I was too little too late when it came to blanketing. I was so afraid of over blanketing, that I did not realize that his lack of winter hair (since he is a TB) meant he NEEDED to be blanketed.

Drifter burns calories FAST when he is outside because all he wants to do is run around. My vet put him on majority stall time with unlimited timothy/alfalfa mixed hay. He also gets 3 feedings a day now. I had not been riding him or working him at all, but he insisted he start to get 20-30 minutes of work a day at least so that he can start to once again build muscle. The feed program he outlined with me is as follows:

Am Feeding: 2.5 lbs soaked alfalfa cubes
4 lbs Purina Strategy
2 lbs Purina Senior
3 oz Cool Calories
2 1/2 flakes timothy/alfalfa mixed hay (if he is out of hay)

Mid Afternoon Feeding: 1 lb soaked alfalfa cubes
2 1/2 flakes timothy/alfalfa mix

PM Feeding: 4 lbs Purina Strategy
2 lbs Purina Senior
2 oz cool calories
2 wells (60 grams) of Smartgut
1 well (20 grams) of TriAmino
4 flakes of hay (lasts him the night)

He also gets about 3-4 hours of Turnout in the evening while I clean his stall. The vet said to turn him back out in the pasture in about 3 weeks once he has gained enough weight where he can afford to lose some. We are making progress. It has only been a week, so it is nothing tremendous, but the progress is there. His coat is looking more vibrant and less dull and his personality is coming back. He loves his stall surprisingly enough. He has a neighbor who is injured and on stall rest and they get a long great. He has a jollyball he likes to smack against the wall and he has been acting quite content.

My vet did however express if we cannot get him to have gained a good amount of weight back by the end of June, he will do more blood tests to check for more underlying causes. Hopefully that will be unncessary since Drifter appears to be doing better. Here are some pictures to show his progress. We did some light walking/trotting in the arena for work tonight. The jumping pictures are from earlier this week when my vet came out to check for any kind of disease that would be affecting weight. We were free lunging him so he could watch him move (I believe he was looking for gait changes that might have been a sign of EPM, lyme or other such things) and Drifter kept taking himself over the low jump another rider had set up earlier. He was able to do it however, which made me happy. He is getting his spirit back. Hopefully the new barn will help.






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post #4 of 52 Old 04-11-2013, 01:48 AM
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WOW you can see a big difference in him already x
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post #5 of 52 Old 04-11-2013, 01:55 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Glenknock! The weird thing about him though is that he gains just as fast as he loses, and some days he looks thinner than others. I swear I fed him this morning and he looked AWFUL only to be greeted with him looking halfway decent before working him lightly tonight.

He has a ways to go still I know. My vet was out today looking at drifter's injured neighbor and he looked Drifter over as well as I got him out. He said his butt muscles are still basically non existent along with everything else, but that he is starting to get some fat over his ribs. They are still EASILY noticeable however, especially when he is moving. His hips are a little more rounded, but still stick out. The most noticeable difference so far seems to be in his withers. They are filling in nicely and are not so skinny and stuck out.

It is a work in progress but hopefully we will keep getting there. I hate it happened. The plan for next winter is to blanket him as soon as it gets cold and to start feeding him more immediately. That way hopefully he won't lose as much. He weighed 1250 pounds at the end of November. He was down to 1000 last Friday when he was weighed.

I just hope the gaining trend continues and that it is not a sign of some bigger problem.
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post #6 of 52 Old 04-11-2013, 09:05 AM
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I would use that weight tape more often, maybe weekly to keep tabs on his weight. This horse really needs to have your eyes on him often-hope the barn isn't too hard for you to get to often.
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post #7 of 52 Old 04-11-2013, 10:52 AM Thread Starter
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Agree Cacowgirl. He is getting a weekly check by the vet, along with a weekly picture to track progress. I am also keeping a journal about what he eats and how he appears that day along with mood, personality, energy level, etc. I am working closely with my vet and I will spare no cost in helping him
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post #8 of 52 Old 04-11-2013, 10:53 AM Thread Starter
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And the barn is about 10 minutes away from me. I am there 2x a day. Before class and after and during lunch as often as I can make it.
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post #9 of 52 Old 04-11-2013, 10:54 AM
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You and the vet have done some great detective work. Yes, he is cold because he doesn't have enough meat on his bones and his immune system is compromised but that can be corrected

The main things being:

1. You have to make sure he is getting 2% of his DESIRED weight in quality hay/forage every day. Make sure he's getting round bale time and you can also make up the difference by feeding him well soaked hay cubes or pellets.

At this point, I might suggest going to Tractor Supply and buying Standlee brand timothy/alfalfa cubes. Next to soy, alfalfa has the highest amount of amino acids; something he needs for muscle maintenance.

If you're able, feed him his feed pan stuff at least three times daily. Pushing too much down him at one or two feedings isn't going to help his digestive tract.

Measure out with a household measureing cup, one pound of the tim/alfalfa cubes and soak them down into wet grassy mush.

2. You may not like this one because it's really pricey but:

Ditch the Smartgut and put him on "Succeed". If you can afford to try it for just two months, it may possibly make a huge difference. It's a very expensive PREbiotic but this stuff works miracles to right all the wrongs in a horse's GI tract.

SUCCEED Digestive Conditioning Program Equine Supplement SUCCEED Equine You can buy directly from the compay or,

Valley Vet carries Succeed in both tubes and meal form. I used the tubes the first three months, until my horse's digestive tract got squared away then I put him on the meal because it's $10 cheaper for the same amount.

Succeed Supplement Freedom Health (Supplements - Digestive - Ulcer Control)

I know because my 25 yo has been on it since May, 2012. He has hind gut ulcers and this stuff (plus feeding him #1 above, 3 - 4 times daily) has got him gaining weight back and he hasn't colicked since last October.

I could probably take him off the Succeed but I am scared to death, so I contintue to pay $90/mo and I eat hot dogs

Those are my thoughts -- basically he needs more forage and he desparately needs his digestive tract to get back in order. That means NO GRAINS - especially no corn as it's full of starch and hard on the stomach.

Hope this helps

A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.
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post #10 of 52 Old 04-11-2013, 12:10 PM
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What a sweet face!
Im not going to comment on the strategy and senior....well, maybe only as much as stating there are better feeds out there.
He gets too much per feeding. If he would be eating this divided in 4 meals, he could utilize it better.
I am and where does he get his feed, in a stall or out in pasture. If out, is somebody there who makes sure HE really eats it? Or does he eat inside and can't wait to go back out to his buddies and therefore eats too fast?

Do you have access to Nutrena or Triple Crown feeds? The Nutrena Life Design feeds are fortified with probiotics and other goodies, especially the Senior, and did wonders for my 300 lbs underweight mare, together with free choice alfalfa- mix hay. Plus the strategy is quite high in non-structural carbs, 28%, the Nutrena LD senior has 20%.
Cool Calories....there are better choices....oil, ricebran, for example. Then flax, adds fat, all omega fatty acids, help with a lot of different things.
So, there's room for improvement
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