Horses typically digest food well and absorb nutrients effectively, but not always. Certain breeds have issues keeping a healthy body score. They are referred to as “hard keepers.”
Some horses may have to gain weight following an illness or be taken from an environment that doesn’t provide sufficient nutrition. Learn to spot a thin horse and understand the reasons why horses might be suffering from a lower body condition and prepare the most effective food items for fast but secure weight growth.
How To Assess the Need for Weight Gain
The Body Condition Score (BCS) is an important and objective scoring system that can determine the level of muscles and fat. When horses lose weight, they first utilize carbohydrate reserves (glycogen) that are rapidly exhausted. Fat stores are mobilized later after which is the breaking down of muscle protein. The majority of BCS scoring is conducted using a nine-point scale. There are a few differences between breeds and disciplines regarding the ideal body condition, however, generally, a score of 4 or 5 is considered to be ideal. These horses will be symmetrical in muscle mass; a faint trace of the back could be visible, but it isn’t visible. Additionally, there may be a thin fat pad that is placed over the tail. The neck and the withers are a seamless blend.
It’s very risky to try and rapidly to rapidly increase the weight of horses that are severely dehydrated ( BCS of 1-2.5). Also, horses that are obese (BCS 8-9) are also susceptible to health problems that are severe in the event that weight loss is tried. It is not recommended to attempt this under the close supervision of a veterinarian.
Health Reasons for Poor Body Condition in a Horse
The first step when assessing the condition of your horse is to identify health problems that could make them unappetizing. Healthy horses are active and bright, engaged in food, and possess shiny coats that are of the right length for the time of year. There should not be any nasal discharge visible. The manure should be a soft-formed fecal ball. While eating, horses should be able to get food from their mouths with mouths, chew food without dropping food and swallow with ease without coughing
Causes of Weight Loss
- Dental problems
- Low-quality feed
- The increased energy costs
- Herd competition
- Stomach ulcers
- Gastrointestinal illness
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- The underlying infections
The veterinarian must evaluate horses that become overweight. Dental problems are a major reason for the loss of weight in horses. The teeth of horses constantly change grow and change in shape throughout their lives. They are also ground down through chewing the roughage (hay as well as grass). Sometimes, teeth are unevenly ground down, leading to sharp points that may cut cheeks or gums and cause chewing pain. The older horses grind their teeth to create a smooth surface. They could be able to lose their teeth. An oral examination should be conducted every year to determine if there is a dental problem even for horses with a healthy weight.
A fecal sample is taken as part of the examination to determine if there are nutritionally-deficient external parasites. It is possible to draw blood to look for any underlying infections kidney enzymes and liver infections as well as other illnesses. The vet may also inquire about what feed you’re giving your horse and if there’s competition among horses at the feed trough.
One of the most frequent reasons for weight loss in recent horses is increased energy consumption. Mares lose weight after foaling since the process of making milk requires an enormous amount of energy. A greater intensity of exercise usually will require an increase in calories also. Another common cause to have a higher demand to fuel your body is the sudden decrease in temperature. Horses typically maintain their physical condition solely in the hay or pasture, however, grain supplements are usually required in the event that winter temperatures fall below freezing. Check your horse’s condition every day by taking the help of their blanket off during cold weather because this shift could occur within the span of a week.
Best Foods for Weight Gain
Hay is the most important ingredient in the horse’s diet, but the quality of hay varies greatly. Horses need to consume between 1.5-2 percent of their total body weight in high-quality hay every day when pasture isn’t readily accessible. Many horses require supplements of hay during winter, even though they are they have plenty of pastures in a climate that is seasonal. Alfalfa has more calories than grass hay which is also dense in calories than straw.
Fast weight gain can be difficult to attain in horses because the microbes in the gastrointestinal tract of a horse are very sensitive to changes. However, certain fiber concentrates, and grains are better than others for promoting healthy weight increase. Beet pulp is a fantastic source of fiber and helps to promote safe improvements in fitness. It should be soaked prior to eating.
The concentrations that are high in protein and fats can also help in weight gain in a safer way than those with high sugar content because sugar causes rapid changes in the gut microbial populations and can cause colic. oil(corn or canola flax and commercial formulas specifically for horses) offers a substantial amount of energy source in the form of fats that do not contain starch. They are particularly useful for horses sensitive to starch, for example, those suffering from gastrointestinal diseases or prior laminitis. 2 Any supplementation of oil or grain should be done gradually over the course of 2 or 3 weeks to allow the horse’s digestive system enough time to adjust.
Overall, filling the tiniest horse first requires some research by both you and your vet. Eliminate health issues such as dental issues excessive parasite burdens or other systemic diseases, as well as external factors like a competition between herds first. After that, evaluate the quality of roughage and add oils and concentrates gradually, with a focus on protein, fiber, as well as fat, over sugars, and digestible starches.