Best Food To Put Weight On Horse: It’s not always hard to feed a horse to make it gain weight. It can be hard to know you need to: If you take care of your horse every day, you might not notice small changes in his body that show he is losing weight. Then it hits you one morning: As you watch him turn toward you in the field, you can just barely make out each rib along his sides. He also has a less round back end. It’s clear that your horse is losing weight. All of a sudden, you can’t stop asking yourself, “What’s wrong?” Is he not feeling well? Am I giving him the wrong food?
Some horses lose weight more easily than others. A “hard keeper” horse may have a body that needs more calories than most horses do to stay healthy.
The only reason a horse drops weight is because his food needs aren’t being met. His body is either using up more energy than it’s taking in, or the food it does eat is not being used properly.
The Best Types of Food For Horse Weight Gain
To add pounds to your horse in a healthy way, you need to provide the right types of nutritious food.
1. High-Quality Grass Hay
High-quality grass hay, like timothy, orchard grass or bluegrass, should make up the bulk of your horse’s diet. These hays are high in calories and protein to promote weight gain. Offer free-choice hay, meaning keeping it available at all times. This way your horse can eat whenever he wants and take in more calories overall.
Adding grain, like oats, barley or corn, provides extra calories, protein, and nutrients. Start with 3-5 pounds of grain per day, depending on your horse’s size and activity level. You can then gradually increase the amount to encourage steady weight gain. Be sure to introduce any changes to your horse’s diet slowly to allow his digestive system to adapt.
3. Alfalfa Hay
Alfalfa hay is high in calories, protein and nutrients, so adding some alfalfa to your horse’s diet can help with weight gain. However, alfalfa can be too rich for some horses. Start with just 1-2 pounds of alfalfa hay per day and monitor your horse to make sure he does not show any signs of digestive upset before increasing the amount.
Weight gain supplements, like rice bran, flaxseed or vegetable oil, provide extra fat and calories. Follow the directions on the product packaging and start with a small amount, about 1-2 pounds per day. You can then gradually increase the amount as needed to continue adding weight. These supplements are great for “hard keepers” or horses with high metabolism.
Tips For Safely Adding Calories To Your Horse’s Diet
To safely add calories to your horse’s diet, consider the following tips:
Choose High-energy Feeds
Horses require forage and grain to maintain a healthy weight. Increase the amount of grain, which is higher in calories than forage. Good options include:
- Sweet feed – Made of grains like corn, barley and molasses. 1-2 extra pounds a day can add 200-400 calories.
- Rice bran – Rice bran oil is dense in calories. 1-2 pounds a day provides an extra 500-1000 calories.
- Beet pulp – Shredded sugar beet roots, soaked in water. 1-2 pounds wet weight adds 200-400 calories.
Provide Free-choice Forage
In addition to grain, allow your horse constant access to high-quality grass hay. Grass hays like timothy, orchard grass and bluegrass contain more calories than legume hays like alfalfa. Free-choice forage, along with the additional grain, will boost your horse’s calorie intake.
Add Fat Supplements
Supplements high in fat, such as rice bran oil or flaxseed oil, pack an energy punch. Start with 1/2 cup of rice bran oil. That’s an extra 1000 calories a day. You can also try a commercial high-fat supplement according to the directions. The extra fat will make your horse’s coat shiny and support weight gain.
Weigh Feed And Gradually Increase
Weigh your horse’s grain and supplements to ensure proper amounts. Increase amounts slowly, no more than 1/2 to 1 pound every few days. This will allow your horse’s system to adapt and prevent digestive upset. Aim for about 2-5% of your horse’s body weight in total feed per day to gain 1-2 pounds per week.
Provide Constant Access to Water
Fresh, clean water is essential for your horse’s health, digestion and weight gain. Check water sources daily and clean automatic waterers regularly. Lack of water will reduce your horse’s feed intake and calorie consumption. Weight gain depends on your horse taking in more calories than are used, so constant access to water is key.
With patience and the right approach, you can safely add calories to your horse’s diet and support steady weight gain. But if your horse does not seem to be gaining, or loses appetite or energy, consult your vet to address any potential medical issues. Better safe than sorry when it comes to your horse’s health and nutrition.