Horse losing weight and non-concentrated feeds
I moved my 16 year old horse to a new stable back in January and since then she has dropped a fair bit of weight. You can see more ribs than I'm happy with but at the same time her coat is still shiny, she's happy, perky, energetic, and enjoying her work. What has changed in her lifestyle is that she was on haylage all the time at her previous barn whereas now she is turned out in a field most of the time. Still gets haylage in her stall at night. The grass in the field is only now starting to come back after a hard winter. Her feed now consists of chaff, conditioning cubes (alfafa and molasses, more or less), beet pulp, and pellets. No grains or sweet feeds. I like the idea of not feeding concentrates like grains or sweet feeds, since I have heard they increase the risk of colic. On the other hand I have had the horse for ten years and at stables where she was on concentrates, I didn't have such trouble keeping weight on her.
I moved her from the States to the UK about three years ago and since she has been here, she has been much harder to keep. Again the main difference is that at most of the barns we were at in the US, she was kept in dry lots on hay and grains and sweet feeds. Could there be something in the soil here she is not getting which we need to supplement somehow? At her current barn she is getting hours more turnout than she got at other places.
I'm tempted to switch her (slowly now of course) back to a sweet feed.
She is on a regular worming schedule and was tested when she moved to the new barn. Also had blood tests in August/September because she was being stressed at the barn she was at then. She checked out healthy (turned out what she really wanted was a pasture buddy).
We just upped the conditioning cubes today and if there is no improvement in a week or two, I'm going to talk to a vet and/or an equine nutritionist. In the meantime, I'd thought I'd post here and get your thoughts.
I'd try to keep more hay in front of her first, see if that helps, then go from there. From what I read, it sounds like she doesn't have as much as she did in the US, even if she's on grass.
I wouldn't put her back on a sweet feed, that's the junk food equivalent to horse food. If you go with a concentrate look for a complete pelleted/etruded feed.
How much hay was/is she getting during the day? I'm a little confused by her being out in the pasture during the winter w/ no real grass and I'm not surprised she's lost weight if she isn't getting forage for most of the day. I wouldn't consider my pasture to be any sort of food during the winter or even late fall/early spring for that matter.
Bottom line in getting a horse to gain weight - Maximize forage intake, maximize forage quality. If these don't work then add some concentrates. You've already had the vet tests, so it's just a matter of finding what she needs. Again, I think it's a lack of quality/quantity of forage problem.
She's been in the field for most of the day since the end of Feb. She gets hay at night, lots of it, which she inhales. No problems with her appetite.
She may be on the field but in your OP you said that "the grass is only just now starting to come in after a hard winter"... that's likely where your problem is. Unless they were supplementing with hay over the winter when the grass was dead.
I agree with Tigerstripes, up the forage. If she's an easykeeper normally you probably won't need to turn to concentrates.
Aye, I'd tend to agree with that. She's not the easiest keeper but not the hardest, either. In any case the yard owner was not supplementing the grazing (or lack thereof given the state of the field) with hay while the horses were in the field during the day. They only got hay when they were brought back into their stalls at night.
Yup, I'd say you found your problem. :) Now we need to see pics of your girl! :D
The other horses at the barn seem fine, however. This could be a stupid question, but could my horse just require more forage to keep weight on than her stablemates?
She could and it isn't a stupid question at all. I wonder if they are getting the same amount of other feed once they are in at night? That may be part of it or they could just be way easier keepers than her.
My old mare gains weight on air... literally. I could feed her straw and she would gain weight. Her half brother wouldn't gain weight on the best hay and concentrates. Some horses are easier keepers than others.
Not to sound redundant, but I agree with Tigerstripes... stand her in good quality hay
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