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  • July 14, 2022 3 min read

    Horses may lose weight for various reasons, and often weight loss (and gain!) is a gradual process. Before making any changes to feed requirements, it is essential to assess the horse’s health and ensure nothing else is causing the weight loss. Hence, it is recommended to conduct a thorough health check to ensure the horse is not suffering from ailments such as a worm burden, poor dental health, gastric ulcers, stress or disease. Once you are sure that your horse is well as healthy as a horse, then you can slowly start increasing its caloric intake. We have shared with you below our top five tips for feeding for weight gain.

    1. Start with forage

    Forage, in the form of hay or grass, should be fed ad lib to an underweight horse. You can do this by allowing your horse to access pasture and/or a hay roll 24/7 or by providing hay to your horse, ensuring a little left over at the end of each day. Changing the forage ration rather than the concentrate is generally the better option for various reasons; the horse can safely consume a higher quantity of hay, whereas too much concentrate can lead to gut disturbances, and feeding hay will generally be more cost-effective when compared to concentrate feeds. 

    2. Feed Lucerne

    Feeding lucerne hay will help raise the caloric intake of the horse. Lucerne is high in energy and protein, which will not only help your horse put on some weight but will also help with muscle development, which is particularly important if they have suffered muscle wastage at the time of weight loss. It is not recommended that lucerne be fed ad lib to your horse due to its high protein content; however, you could safely feed approximately 0.5kg per 100kg of bodyweight. It is also important to note that some horses suffer behavioural changes when fed lucerne, so make sure this isn’t your horse before adding lucerne to its’ feed!

    3. Change up the Concentrates

    If you find that your horse still needs to gain a few more kilos after increasing the forage intake, then you can make relevant changes to its concentrate feed. An excellent place to start is by changing the current concentrate feed to a higher energy (conditioning) feed or by increasing your horse’s present concentrate to the recommended maximum amount. If you are feeding a grain-based feed, watch out for the starch content, as feeding too much starch may have the opposite effect of what you are trying to achieve. 

    Concentrates containing a high amount of fibre and a low amount of starch are safer to feed in large quantities and are better for weight gain. Such concentrates include soybean hulls, copra meal, sugarbeet pulp or lupin fibre*. These feedstuffs are high in fibre and low in starch, so they are more readily digested in the hindgut.

    4. Increase the fat

    Increasing the fat within your horse's diet is a straightforward way to add calories. High-fat feed such as oil (vegetable, sunflower etc.), copra meal or soybean meal are energy dense and are great for horses or ponies that do not like to consume large meals or who are fussy eaters. High fat feeds are also considered safe, as they do not have the same risks for digestive upsets as cereal-based feeds. 

    5. Balance it up

    Whenever you make any feed changes to your horse’s diet, ensure it is balanced. Feeding too much or too little protein, vitamins and minerals can have implications for your horse and may inhibit them from gaining weight. So, ensure that your diet is balanced and adjust to give your horse the best chance for weight gain.

    Take home message

    There are many ways in which you can increase the caloric intake of your horse to ensure that it gains the desired weight. It is important to note that when making any changes to your horse’s diet, gradual changes are recommended to ensure that your horse doesn’t experience any illness such as colic. It also gives the gut a chance to get used to his dietary changes. We have listed below some commonly sold products for weight gain, and as always, if you need any help, we are always here to assist!

    *Commonly sold products for weight gain:

    • Thompson and Redwood Lupin Fibre (derived from lupin hulls)
    • Hygain Micrbeet and Speedibeet (Sugarbeet Pulp)
    • Coolstance Copra Meal
    • Hygain Fibressential
    • Hygain RBO, Prydes Easioil Vegetable Oil, Rice Bran Oil, Canola Oil and Linseed Oil
    • Hygain Showtorque
    • Prydes Easiconditioner

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