Q: I own a very fussy eight-year-old ID X TB middleweight mare who is in poor condition. I bought her froma dealer a year ago and know nothing about her past. She will either refuse her feed altogether or pick out the bits she likes.

I tried feeding her a weight gain mix but this just made her hyperactive. She is also on Blue Chip feed balancer.

Christine Smy replies: To put weight onto a horse you have to increase the calories in the diet.

Horses will either lay the extra calories down as weight or burn them as energy. Unfortunatelythe horses who need to gain weight are often the ones who burn the extra calories as energy.

This is why conditioning feeds were developed. They usually contain good levels of oil and protein, both ideal for weight gain.

As your horse tends to be silly on a weight gain mix, I suggest you change to the cube version. The grinding of ingredients involved in the pelleting process helps lower digestive stress. Cubes are also higher in fibre and lower in starch than a cereal mix – starch is an instant energy source and can cause hyperactivity.

Fussy horses can be very difficult, especially during the winter. Many people add a tablespoon of honey per feed as an appetiser as this is a natural sweet product.

You may find equine milk pellets will help. These are a soft, easily absorbed product, which will help condition and do not need to be fed in great quantities. Try grating carrots and apples into the feed to prevent your mare picking them out and eating them first.

Feeding little and often can help the appetite. Feed as little as 1 lb (0.5 kg) six times a day if necessary to mimic the horse’s natural feeding instinct.

Blue Chip helps stabilise the gut so it is important your mare continues to eat this product.

If she’s happy to eat chaff, choose high calorie version, either those rich in oil or dried grass or alfalfa as these will add more nutrients to the diet than a standard molassed chaff.

Click here to subscribe to HORSE magazine, which is packed with horsecare features every month

Read more about feeding for extra weight: