When it comes to helping your horse gain weight, there are several factors that need to be considered. Horses need to maintain the necessary weight required to process energy obtained from calories and preserve its metabolism, and signs of weight loss can range from digestive complications. Arguably the most important way to assist your horse gain weight is by identifying the root of the problem, seeing what can be done to correct it and maintain healthy dietary and nutritional guidelines. Here’s how you can detect signs of weight loss, what factors cause this issue as well as tips for helping your horse gain back weight:
Detecting weight loss
Identifying weight loss in horses can be tricky and requires more maintenance effort and inspection than usual. The first physical sign a horse is underweight is a lack of muscle definition. If your horse is looking bonier than usual and appears to have lost its tone and muscle bulk, it’s usually a tell-tale sign that your horse is too skinny. Once you suspect unintended weight loss, you should begin recording your horse’s weight on a weekly basis, so you can see unhealthy weight fluctuations. The most common method of estimation is with a girth measurement. It also never hurts to get a professional opinion from your trusted veterinarian to help gauge whether it’s a routine phase or a cause for concern.
Once you’ve identified that your horse is underweight, learning the cause of this unintended weight loss is the next step. Believe it or not, there are several factors beyond being underfed that can cause your horse to gradually shed pounds. Take a look at these more probable health factors that could be the underlying cause of weight loss:
An easy explanation for your horse being underweight is simply the fact that it might not be fed enough. Fluctuations in metabolism or nutritional needs can often change the older a horse gets, especially if there’s been changes to the animal’s training or competition sessions. Most horses require at least three separate feeding periods each day to maintain its weight, and maybe one to two more depending on the desired weight and training demands of the horse. A common way to correct underfeeding your horse is to simply increase the amount of feed your horse consumes. This typically doesn’t immediately remedy the issue, as a horse that has grown accustomed to eating a certain amount of food a day won’t suddenly adjust to additional feed. Adding horse supplements to your animal’s daily meals is a way to promote a healthy replenishment of nutrients and calories to your horse without drastically altering food intake.
Occasionally, stress or anxiety can alter appetite or increase metabolism. If you notice your horse is losing weight while behaving erratically or occasionally acting in a spooked-out manner, review what potential situations may be causing this stress. It might take a decreased workload or training intensity to help calm your horse’s nerves and get back to its normal metabolism.
A more urgent cause for unintended weight loss can be chronic digestive problems, such as ulcers and intestinal complications, which can impact feed consumption and absorption. Stomach discomfort will usually cause a horse to refrain from eating and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Worms and parasites are also factors that play a role in weight loss, and fecal exams might be required to analyze whether these are the root of the problem. If you suspect worms, parasites or ulcers might be an issue, contact your veterinarian for a professional examination.
Poor dental health
Sometimes, inadequate feed consumption can be traced back to poor dental health. Simple issues, such as discomfort in the jaw or gums, may affect a horse’s ability to properly chew food. Floating, or smoothing out your horse’s teeth with a file, is one way to maximize a horse’s ability to chew and process its food.
If none of these factors are causing weight loss problems for your horse, there are other ways to help the animal gain back weight. Switching to a higher quality of hay could help increase calorie intake, or changing a horse’s feed to one with more fat may do the trick. Supplying your horse with probiotics may also work to promote healthy intestinal balance of digestive enzymes.
If you suspect a healthier digestive system is needed, the essential vitamins and herbs in U-7™ Gastric Aid could help encourage healthier digestive activity. When it comes to fitter muscle development and function, Muscle Tone™ can supply an array of healthy ingredients that can promote your horse’s performance. We also offer Performance Builder™ for rapid muscle growth.