Last Updated on November 7, 2021
At certain times in a horse’s life, it may start to lose weight. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as old age, ill health, or high levels of exercise. If you are worried that your horse is too thin, let’s take a look at the best way to put weight on a horse.
Trying to put weight on a thin horse can be very difficult. The key to putting weight on a horse is finding the reason why they are losing weight in the first place. It is vital to monitor the weight of your horse carefully and adapt their diet if they are under or overweight.
When Is Putting Weight On A Horse Necessary?
The nutritional needs of horses change through the seasons. They also need different levels of energy and nutrition depending on how old they are. This means that, at certain times in a horse’s life, you might think that your horse needs to put more weight on.
Here are the top reasons why you might think that your horse is too thin:
High Exercise Levels
If you are expecting your horse to do a lot of exercise, then they need the energy input to match! Horses who are working hard every day need plenty of feed, otherwise, they will quickly start to lose weight. If you are anticipating that you might increase your horse’s daily exercise, then it is a good idea to consider increasing the amount of feed to match.
As a horse ages, its nutritional needs will change. The body systems start to degenerate, and the horse may begin to lose weight. Old age is the main reason why horses become too thin or underweight.
Older horses are less able to process nutrients efficiently and will find it harder to maintain their weight. They may also have difficulty chewing food or underlying health problems, and can quickly become underweight.
Seasonal Weight Fluctuations
Over the seasons, horses will naturally gain and lose weight. This mimics the natural cycle in the wild, where a horse will put on weight over the summer months and become thinner through the winter.
Some domesticated horses, such as Thoroughbreds, can become too thin during the winter. If you own a hot-blooded or warm-blooded horse you might need to make changes to how you feed your horse to keep your equine friend in top condition.
Disease & Ill Health
Many health conditions will cause a horse to become underweight. This includes parasite infestations, chronic gastrointestinal disorders, liver disease, and hormonal disorders such as Cushing’s Disease.
When To Put Weight On A Horse
The best way to decide if you need to put weight on a horse is by assessing its body condition score. This is a clever method of assessing your horse’s overall body condition, helping you decide if he is too fat or too thin.
To carry out a body condition score, you need to compare your horse to a chart. This chart shows each part of the body at different weight levels. You give your horse a score for each body part, and add up the overall score.
Best Way To Put Weight On A Horse
If your horse has a low body condition score, then it is time to think about how to help him put on some extra weight. How you do this will depend on the reason why he has lost weight in the first place.
For horses who carry out a high level of exercise each day, you need to boost their calorie intake. To do this, you can increase their daily intake of concentrate feeds such as grains and cereals.
However, it is very important that you do this very gradually, as a rapid and large increase in cereals may cause health problems such as colic and rhabdomyolysis. It may be wise to decrease your horse’s exercise for a short while until he has put on some extra weight.
If you have a senior horse who has lost weight, then firstly get your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health or dental issues. Then the next step would be to gradually increase the overall amount of food you are giving your horse.
Another good way to put weight on an elderly horse is to give a more calorific feed. Adding in sugar beet, alfalfa, or vegetable oil are all great ways to boost the weight of an older horse.
For horses that lose weight in the winter, you need to increase the food and try to reduce the amount of energy they require. This may mean that you need to adjust their accommodation or reduce their daily exercise.
If your horse has lost weight due to ill health, it is best to consult your veterinarian to discuss how to increase the feed levels. It may be that your horse has specific dietary requirements, and a qualified professional is the best person to advise on this.
Other Methods To Help Weight Gain For Horse
Another way to help your horse gain weight is to reduce its daily energy requirements. Horses burn energy in many ways, and even horses that are not in work will use a lot of calories.
In colder weather, try to keep your underweight horse as warm as possible. Make sure he has shelter from the wind, rain, and cold, and that he has enough rugs to keep him warm and dry. In extremely cold weather, keep your horse inside and provide him with a deep bed.
So, as we have discovered, finding the right way to put weight on a horse is not always straightforward. The vital thing to remember is that first, you need to identify why your horse is too thin in the first place. You can then adjust the diet to help get your horseback to a healthy weight.
We’d love to hear about your experiences – do you struggle to keep your horse at a healthy weight? Or maybe you have questions about how to put weight on a horse? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse
care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since
she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local
stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She
has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in
various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the
patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went
on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in
the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of
horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for
educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN REVN RVN A1