Spillers' equine nutritionist Clare Barfoot provides one H&H forum user with some helpful advice on how to feed her fussy underweight thoroughbred that requires more condition

Q: Feeding a fussy, skinny thoroughbred: “I’ve got a slightly skinny thoroughbred I’m trying to fatten up. The yard where I keep him doesn’t feed ad lib hay or haylage which isn’t a help, but there’s nothing I can do about it. My horse won’t eat a huge quantity of grass nuts, chaff, unmolassed sugar beet or purple ready mash. I also personally I don’t like linseed so won’t use it. Currently my horse is fed on a combination of a balancer, molassed sugar beet, and conditioning cubes, with a bit of oil and handful of outshine. He has put some weight on, but not really as much as I would like over past couple of months. Any suggestions welcome!”

A: This is a difficult challenge if you can’t feed ad lib forage as the best way to achieve weight gain without compromising digestive health is to use forage. However, the first thing to do is condition score your horse so you have a good idea how much condition he has to gain for example on the 1-9 scale aim for a score of five. For a clear walk through of how to do this visit the SPILLLERS® BCS calculator. If he scores less than a five it’s time to review his diet.

The best strategy to employ is making your horse’s meals as energy dense as possible while providing extra fibre in the form of chopped fibre. As I don’t know how much you are feeding I can’t advise you specifically, but assuming you are feeding twice a day I suggest you first check you are feeding the recommended amount which for a thoroughbred weighing 500kg would be approximately 3kg of conditioning cubes per day. Opt for a conditioning cube that contains a controlled level of starch, digestible fibre sources and a high level of oil such as SPILLERS® Conditioning Cubes in order to reduce the risk of excitability which is both undesirable and could cause more weight loss. If you are feeding at least 3kg per day you will not need to feed the additional balancer as the cubes will provide a balanced diet.

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Alongside this I suggest you feed a high oil chopped fibre; SPILLERS® Alfalfa-Pro Fibre is an ideal additional fibre source for those horses that are prone to losing weight, it contains a blend of fibres including pure alfalfa which is high in quality protein and organic minerals, ideal for feeding alongside compound feeds and balancers. The short chopped fibre extends eating time and combined with the buffering properties of alfalfa helps to maintain gastric health. You could also try putting this in an additional bucket and allow him to nibble on it alongside his hay.

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In the case of the sugar beet although it’s an excellent fibre source once it’s soaked it actually contains approximately 80% water which means you don’t get many calories per kg! So as you are trying to make every mouthful as nutritious as possible I would remove it from your horse’s bucket.

For more information on Body Condition Scoring and managing weight call the SPILLERS® Care-Line on 01908 226626.