If a horse is underweight, the solution seems very straightforward: just feed him more. But this is not always the case. A skinny horse might have a considerable worm infestation or bad teeth that keeps it from eating comfortably.
Parasites can damage internal organs and bad teeth can force the horse to swallow poorly chewed food, which is harder to digest. Perhaps the horse has an undiagnosed illness that requires immediate medical attention.
Barring these possible causes, underweight horses can be fed enough for weight gain. But before buying horse feed from authorised NZ retailers, consider the following factors:
Fibre is King
As with any other horse, fibre is the most critical feed component. It is one of the most important sources of energy for animals. Unfortunately, many people underestimate its importance. For instance, grass and hay are excellent foods for weight gain, and they contain a lot of fibre. It’s important to note, however, that fibre alone will not help maintain a healthy weight.
Some Helpful Add-Ons
Supplements can go a long way in making a horse gain weight. A lot of the effort involves increasing caloric intake. Experts recommend adding oils such as flax, rice, bran, and corn. Naturally, more calories equate to more weight.
But be careful when adding these to a horse’s feed. Too much of these can cause health problems, such as diarrhoea. Starch is also a good add-on if a horse cannot maintain weight with just fibre. People usually add this to rations in grain form.
Never Forget Forage
Commercial feeds can only do so much. The most basic pillar of a horse’s diet is forage, so focus on that. A horse usually needs to consume two per cent of its body weight in forage for a healthy weight. Increasing forage ration gradually is key. Experts advise incremental increases until the animal consumes about 2.5 percent of its weight in forage. The quality of the forage is important as well.
It is important to note that increasing and maintaining a healthy weight for horses don’t just rely on the feeds, but also on the feeding practice. Consult an animal nutritionist to determine the best type of feed, formulation, and feeding style for your horses.