Best Way to Put Weight on a Horse
Learn the Top Methods for Horse Weight Gain
There are dozens of reasons why you might want your horse to gain weight, and just as many reasons for a horse’s scrawniness. But what it comes down to at the end of the day is having a healthy and happy horse. Maybe this horse is a picky eater, maybe they were recently sick, or maybe they just don’t process nutrients the same as other horses. Whatever the case and whatever your reasons, there are many time-tested methods for increasing the weight of your horse.
Weight gain and weight loss can be slumped into a few rough categories: metabolism, calories, starch, fat, protein, and fibre. These all have to do with maintaining weight in most mammals.
Let’s take a look at some of the solutions to weight gain.
We all know what metabolism is, and we’re not here to give you a course on biology. The essence is that a slow metabolism will allow your horse to function optimally with the least amount of food fuel. A fast metabolism will do the opposite. If your horse has a super speedy metabolism, they are going to need more calories to operate the best they can. Horse metabolism can range vastly between different breeds and within the same breeds, and from horse to horse. Skittish horses may need more calories than well-tempered horses. The point is that metabolism and calories play a huge part in the weight of your animal, and also their energy levels.
If your horse is thin compared to other horses of the same breed in the stable – especially if they all eat the same amount of food – chances are this horse has a slow metabolism and needs a heartier diet to maintain their body condition and construct stores of fat. This can be done with fat and protein. Because a fast metabolism eats too much energy too fast, the horse is likely deficient in proteins and fat. This can be serious and lead to emaciation and the depletion of muscle tissue, as the horse’s body begins to cannibalize itself in search of the missing nutrients.
Here are a few handy solutions to weight gain for your horse.
Animals need calories to gain weight. There are three specific nutrients that offer the needed energy to supply the horse’s missing content of calories: fibre, starch, and fat. Every one of these nutrients produces energy inside the body in unique ways. Most specialty feeds and supplements can provide your horse with all three in one serving. Specialty feeds can be used alongside hay and foraging to add that needed boost in calory intake to provoke weight gain in your horse. Vitamins are also a healthy option.
Fibre & Green Hay
Fibre is the most important ingredient in weight gain. It is also the safest. Found in grass and hay, most horses maintain their necessary fibre levels easily by foraging and a normal diet. Unfortunately, some horses may need extra. You can try incorporating fresh spring grass into the horse’s diet since it has more digestible fibre than matured hay or summer grass. By adding more amounts of green and high-quality hay with very little stems and a lot of green grass blades, you might not need supplements or specialty feed at all.
Pasture is another source high in fibre. If possible, allow your thin horse additional access to pasture.
Alfalfa is a miracle in itself. The energy content inside alfalfa is even more than grass hay. But it must be the best quality alfalfa to provide maximum fibre. Although the additional quality in foraging is the first recommended action, alfalfa can never hurt. You can buy it in pellets and cubes and feet them to your horse as snacks.
More Fiber Alternatives
Alfalfa is not the only option in giving your horse extra fibre. You can try beet pulp (which is 80% digestible fibre where normal hay is only 50%), wheat bran, or soy hulls. Soy hulls (soy skins) are almost always used in commercial horse feeds because they are an excellent source of fibre – yet they are a bit less digestible than beet pulp. Check any horse feed you are planning to buy and look for soy hulls as one of the ingredients. If it is, that means the feed is going to have a fantastic source of good quality digestible fibre.
Wheat bran is not only a source of excellent fibre but also digestible starch. Both of these are crucial in weight gain for horses. If you have chosen to add alfalfa to the horse’s diet, wheat bran is a good compliment. This will give more fibre and an additional pinch of starch.
Grains are a huge source of starch for a horse. The best grains are going to be steam-rolled barley or cooked barley; also, steam-flaked corn or super-flaked corn. These are untreated and will be better for the horse’s digestive tract. This is important for sick horses since you want the intestines to be as healthy as possible. Always choose processed grains to stay safe.
Rice bran, corn oil, soybean, copra meal, linseed, and sunflower seeds are superb snacks for your horse, all of which are high in fat – and we all know fat means weight. Fat also means a nice shiny coat for your horse. By adding any of the aforementioned food to your horse’s diet, you will be increasing their energy level and adding endurance thanks to the surge of energy. Rice bran is probably the best since it combines rice oil with digestible fibre.
If your horse is thin but still eating healthily and getting the appropriate nutrition, they could have a worm infestation. Worms will often be accompanied by low energy. Be sure to worm your horse regularly to avoid this problem. If you suspect worms, speak with your vet. It could be a simple solution that won’t take more than a few weeks to bring them back up to normal weight.