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Chess46 07-15-2010 04:49 PM

Rescue horse just wont gain weight..
Hi everyone,

I got a rescue back in february of this year and have been trying my butt off every since then to get her to gain weight. She has put on some but it is only under her belly. Her back and ribs still show horribly. Her teeth are fine and she gets wormed every month (vet says to) with a different wormer each time. She gets fed Manna Pro Sweet 10 - high fat formula, about 2-2/12 scoops of soaked beat pulp as well as some corn oil at feeding time. I was told that corn oil would help with weight gain. She also has a round bale of grass hay available to her all day long. What can I do to get her to gain some weight? I have another horse with her, he gets fed the same as her and he is fat. Could I try a weight gain supplement?

Also, is it possible that she is pregnant? The place I got her from had many, many horses. I'm not sure if any were stallions but, she hasn't gone into heat in the 6 months that I've had her and she has only put on weight in the belly area. I have had horses for many years but never any pregnant mares so I don't know what to look for. I have also never had any skinny horses so I have no idea what to do with her.

Any advice will help.

Thanks :)

MIEventer 07-15-2010 06:12 PM

I would look to the inside to fix the problem - your horse could very well have digestive issues, and or ulcers causing the lack of weight gain.

My TB Gelding, is a hard keeper. I could shove as much food in his mouth as humanly possible, and he wouldn't gain weight. I couldn't get those ribs to dissapear. I would spend a fortune on Fat Suppliments, Hay, Complete Feeds, Rice Bran, Beat Pulp - you name it, I bought it.

Until one day, I had an indepth discussion with my Veterinarian, where I learnt that many horses, especially TB's deal with digestive issues, that causes the lack of weight gain because their bodies are not processing the food correctly, adequately or efficiantly.

So I turned to a couple of Digestive Products, which, surprisingly - has helped dramatically! I got him started on SmartDigest Ultra from SmartPak and SmartGut Pellets and he went from this:

To this:

He is, and was - on 5lbs of feeding twice a day. 3lbs of Purina Senior, and 2lbs of Purina Ultium. Plus round bale of hay. Then by adding the 2 digestive aid suppliments - he filled out beautifully.

I can't help you with the pregnant thing, never delt with it ever, never plan on it either.

boxer 07-15-2010 06:20 PM

MIEventer, I was going to say something similar! That is could be a digestive issue and maybe to try a probiotic or something. Also definately get the vet toc heck for pregnancy, you never know with rescues! Do you have pics from when you got her to now?

RogueMare 07-15-2010 06:32 PM

Apple Cider Vinegar is good for horses. It won't put any weight on it. It will however help him better digest the feed you are feeding, from what I understand. If it is a digestive issue its a possibility?

MissPhoebe 07-15-2010 07:13 PM

I also have a rescue that is difficult to put weight on. The two supplements that I have found that work the best are Cool Calories (basically dehydrated oil so it is less messy and doesn't have energy side effects) and SmartDigest, which someone else mentioned. After just two weeks on the Smart Digest she was gaining weight. I never thought she might have stomach issues or nervousness but it is helping. She also has the similar problem to you in that she is gaining everyhere but along that topline like you mentioned. Someone on here suggested riding her up and down hills to help build muscle. If she is lacking muscle up there it is going to make her look skinnier than she is. Hope this helps :)

equiniphile 07-15-2010 07:16 PM

Try adding both oats and a weight gain supplement to their diet. Beet pulp works great, I'm glad you're using it. For weight gain I like both Focus WT and Weight Builder.

Chess46 07-15-2010 07:27 PM

Thanks so much to everyone who replied. I will start looking into digestive supplements right now for her. That could be the problem. She is a TB. I don't have any hills to ride her on. I live in fl and I swear it's the flattest state in the world. I have alot of horse books to look through tonight. Thanks everyone!
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luvs2ride1979 07-15-2010 11:21 PM

Sweet feed can make it harder for some horses to put weight on. Instead, I'd have her on this kind of diet.

If you can feed twice a day:
  • 2 scoops alfalfa pellets twice daily (4 total, using a 3qt feed scoop)
  • 1 cup of Flax meal once daily ( has a good one, prices include shipping)
  • SmartVite Senior Grass from SmartPak once daily
If you feed just once a day:
  • 3 scoops alfalfa pellets
  • 2 cups of Flax meal
  • SmartVite Senior Grass
This kind of diet has worked wonders for me for thin horses or hard keepers. I've had much better luck using a no-grain approach, with less feed. The SmartGrass Senior has pro/pre-biotics for digestion and other weight gaining goodies all in one supplement.

Once she's up to weight, you can cut back to 1-2 scoops of alfalfa pellets a day, cut out the flax or cut it back to 1/2 cup a day, and switch to SmartVite Maintanence Grass supplement.

I would have your vet check her for pregnancy, just in case.

loosie 07-16-2010 12:56 AM

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First & foremost, luvs2ride's comments about sweetfeed are a very important consideration. Of course, don't just take our words for it & do your own research, but horses don't tend to cope well with sugary/starchy feed(it's effectively junk food - yes, I appreciate it's traditional & still quite common) and failure to gain weight is but one of many potential issues with it. As a rule I would avoid grains, as in addition to the very high starch content, they are virtually indigestible in the horse's stomach.

If you must feed grain, it's important to ensure it's well processed and oats are about the safest, easiest to digest grain, corn being the worst for horses. Another thing to keep in mind is if you are going to feed starchy feed, it's very important to ensure it's fed little & often - at least 3-4 very small meals daily. Horses have evolved as 'trickle feeders' and feeding in this way will minimise the potential & severity of the problems it causes and maximises what the horse gets from it.

I am actually a bit shocked by the Manna Pro write up on the sweet 10 prod to tell the truth. Not only is the largest ingredient corn, but there's precious else in it besides grain & molasses(there's even more molasses than oil & soy meal! The mineral ingreds look OK tho...). On top of that, after the list of ingredients it says "High quality hay and (or) pasture should make up at least half of the complete diet." That's like a Coco Pops ad advising that for a healthy diet, Coco Pops should not make up more than half of a kid's diet!!! Junk food to the max!

Agree with those who suggested ulcers could be part of the problem, especially when she's being fed sweet feed. Other possibilities & contributors could be lack of protein &/or muscle for other reasons - it may be she's not skinny, just lacks top line. Could be that nutrition is imbalanced & she's lacking some nutrient or other rather than calories. Could also be that she has Cushings(tho I hope not), as one symptom of that can be horses with big bellies but no muscles.

Given all the above, I urge you to find yourself a good equine nutritionist or nutritional service(pref independent of feed co's) to consult with and educate yourself on healthy feeding ingredients & practices. I personally subscribe to a great service called which is invaluable & cheap to boot.

With regard to possible pregnancy, how on earth could we know this? If you suspect she could be, it is even more important that you get her healthy & onto a healthy diet asap, because among other probs, dams can pass on IR probs due to junk feeding to their foals in-utero. Laminitis & IR probs are common enough & serious enough probs without causing horses to be born with the prob. Get a vet to come pregnancy test her asap is my advice.

draftrider 07-16-2010 02:25 AM

Our Emaciated horse protocol-

1. Check teeth
2. Do bloodwork to determine condition of organs
3. Do fecal to determine parasite load

I do a power pack deworming. I am thinking that the monthly deworming is just knocking down the load a wee bit, but it may not be strong enough to kill a heavy load.

Sand. Sand in the belly is VERY common in emaciated horses. Mainly because they get soooo hungry they eat anything- dirt, twigs, sand, manure. A belly full of sand can cause colic, and it will not allow the horse to digest properly.

No molasses. I use shredded soaked beet pulp and senior complete feed. They also get free choice alfalfa hay.

Free choice loose minerals made up for my area.

Do a weight tape on horse weekly. If after a month an otherwise healthy horse hasn't gained a significant amount, then checking for ulcers and other "blocks" to allowing digestion is in order.

With this, I have put over 100 lbs a month on emaciated horses. Once they reach their target weight and start laying fat covering on the ribs and around the tailhead, I start doing light exercise- walking and trotting on a lunge or being ponied down the road for a short while every day. Once muscle starts coming, then you can start riding.

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