Feeding the Thin Horse

By Carol Reynolds, Marketing Manager

When determining how to feed your thin horse, knowing the current body condition score and estimated weight of your horse can be very helpful. When we see our pasture partners every day it is difficult to monitor changes in weight or condition. Weight tapes are a good tool to estimate weight. Following are some ideas for feeding the thin or recovering horse once you have a good assessment of its condition.

  • Provide plenty of clean, fresh water and approximately 1%-2% of your horse’s body weight in good quality forage. Having access to ample quality forage spread out in 2-3 feedings will minimize gorging.
  • Special feeding situations may need to be implemented for the thin horse if it is at the bottom of the pecking order. Feeding a complete balanced ration of concentrate feeds in addition to the forage is best. Approximately .75#-1.5# per 100# of body weight is a good starting point depending on the specific feed and body condition. Keep in mind you need approximately 6000 kcals above those needed for maintenance to reach one pound of gain per day. According to the 2007 Equine NRC, the estimated increase in DE intake necessary to change the condition score of a 500-kg (1100-lb) horse from a body score 4 to a 5 is 5300-6700kcal/day for 60 days.
  • While beet pulp has some benefits, including a high-fiber content which may “normalize” fermentation in the large intestine, it is not particularly high in kcals and contains no vitamin A. Although processed beet pulp is not high in sugar, some beet pulp products have added molasses to increase palatability, so check labels carefully, especially if your horse has carbohydrate tolerance issues. Also when feeding beet pulp, it is best to feed it wet. This will help encourage increased water intake especially in the winter. Although no good documentation is available, feeding beet pulp dry raises a common concern that the product may swell after consumption leading to an increased risk of both choke and colic.
  • A good choice for increased weight gain is to look for a feed or top dress option with a high kcal (digestible energy -DE measurement) and fat content. High fat feeds need to be introduced gradually but offer a palatable, balanced solution for your horse that will help you get the Kcals you need to meet the weight gain goals necessary for your horse.

For more information about the nutrient-packed feeds and high fat, top dress options from Kent Feeds, visit our website www.kentequine.com and check out the product OMEGATIN®. While you are there, take advantage of the free download of the body condition score card to help you monitor the progress of your horse.