Tips to Help Your Horse Gain Weight
Some horses tend to lose weight very easily or have difficulty staying at their ideal weight, losing strength, energy and muscle tone all at once. This can mean a battle for horse lovers, as the horse's health and performance depend in great part on its weight.
Regular monitoring of a horse's weight with a scale tape is the first rule of prevention that will allow you to identify any changes in the animal's weight. This way, you'll be able to take action as soon as you notice that your horse is too thin.
If you have a horse and you can already see its ribs, it is well below its ideal weight. Read this AnimalWised article where we will give you some tips to help your horse gain weight and help it recover all those muscles and energy.
Does your horse have enough energy?
Being able to see the horse's ribs is one of the main signs that it is on the brink of malnutrition: we must not let this happen. If you have noticed your horse's ribs, this is the moment to change its eating habits.
A thin horse requires a new diet that provides lots of energy to ensure the proper functioning of all organs and the construction of fat deposits. Of course, food is what fuels the organism's functions and gives the horse enough energy to stay healthy and vital.
Weight, muscle and body fat gain are due to protein and/or fat intake. When a horse does not have enough calories or protein in its food as a routine, its organism may start to wear down the adipose tissue and even break down its own muscle tissue. This results in poor muscle formation and even deformities, where bones may protrude from the body.
The most obvious - and healthiest - solution will be to increase the calorie content in the horse's diet without forgetting to add the appropriate protein content. The three nutrients that will provide the necessary energy for your horse are fiber (found in beet pulp), starch (found in rice and cereals) and fat (found in vegetable oils).
Don't forget to consult your veterinarian before changing your horse's diet. They will know your horse's specific problem and lifestyle, as well as the best diet for your type of horse, and they will help you make the best decisions regarding the health of your four-legged friend.
What nutrients do horses need?
Fiber for a horse's diet:
Fiber is a necessary substance for any horse's diet, as it provides energy and helps maintain the digestive system. Fiber can be found in hay and grasses: the best fiber for horses can be found in fresh spring grass, because summer grass is poorer in nutrients and drier. Better still to help your horse gain weight is alfalfa, as it has a higher energy content.
Substituting hay for alfalfa is a good choice if you want to fatten up your horse. You can give your horse dry feed - mixture of grains and other foods - in the morning and in the afternoon. In the evening, offer alfalfa and hay. Carrots are a great treat from time to time, as they have lots of vitamins and horses love them.
Fats for a horse's diet:
Almost all horses receive some fat intake, be it through the inclusion of vegetable oils from corn, rice bran or flax seeds or through a diet rich in commercial fats. A diet rich in good fats provides more energy and will be great to help your horse gain weight.
Oils are very good and healthy for horses, both to gain weight and to aid the digestion of other foods. Start by adding 1/4 cup of oil a day to your horse's diet, and after a week, increase the intake by another 1/4 cup. The best vegetable oils include corn, canola or vegetable oil.
Horses usually have no problem digesting fat provided that it is introduced gradually into their diet. Vegetable fat is digested best when supported by grains and other sources of easily digestible fiber, such as beet pulp.
A diet rich in protein and calories is also highly recommended if you want your horse to gain weight. You can look for good quality hyper-caloric specific feeds, of which you can offer 400 to 700 g per 100 kg body weight mixed with an equal volume of straw, barley or rice bran.
While your horse is consuming a lot of calories, make sure it also exercises a lot. This way, the horse will strengthen its muscles and avoid being sedentary. Here you can learn more about what is the best diet for horses.
How much food does your horse need?
If your horse is too thin and underweight, first consult your veterinarian to know what goal to set as its ideal weight. With the help of a professional, you can decide on the best amount of food to help your horse gain weight.
As a general guide, at AnimalWised we recommend the following:
- Weigh the amount of food and be as accurate as possible. Avoid using spoonfuls, as they are inaccurate and can overestimate the correct amount.
- Always feed your horse with the desired weight in mind and do not deviate from those limits.
- A horse of an average weight needs between 2% and 2.5% of its body weight in food, including supplements and treats. This means that a healthy average horse needs between 8 kg to 10 kg of food per day.
If you want your horse to gain weight, you can increase the amount of food by 2.8% to 3.5% of its body weight. It's better to increase the horse's intake slowly and gradually to avoid problems with its body processes.
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