Getting skinny horses to gain weight can be tough, but the only way to pack on the pounds is to maximize energy consumption. This is traditionally done through adding additional quality forage, adding grain or adding in a high-calorie supplement.
Many horses can gain weight by being turned out on high-quality pasture for grazing for part of the day. Grazing is the most-natural way for a horse to gain access to the nourishment he needs, says Catherine Whitehouse, a nutrition advisor at Kentucky Equine Research. However, if there is a risk of metabolic disease or laminitis, consult a veterinarian before turning a horse out on lush pasture.
When adding forage to a horse's diet, buy the best hay available, avoiding any that is dusty or moldy. If a skinny horse is not cleaning up all of his hay, consider offering a different kind. Alternative forages like hay pellets or cubes may be added.
A healthy horse needs to eat 1.5 to 2.2 percent of its body weight in forage per day; to gain weight, a horse should be offered up to 3 to 3.5 percent of its body weight in forage. Some horse owners will offer the horse unlimited hay, adjusting the amount fed based on how much hay is left each day.
Grain is appropriate for weight gain; adding a concentrate that has a variety of fat, starch and fiber is advisable. To gain weight and receive the correct amount of vitamins and minerals, a horse must be fed the recommended amount of the concentrate. Adding an additional meal or two may also help a skinny horse gain weight.
Energy-dense supplements that are added can increase calorie consumption; soybean oil and canola oil are the oils of choice, and rice bran is also an option. Add any supplement in slowly so the horse gets used to the taste.
Read more at Kentucky Equine Research.
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