Q&A: Coping with loss of appetite

  • Expert advice from HORSE magazine on how to tempt a fussy eater

    Q: My horse is recovering from an operation and, although he seems well in himself, his appetite has decreased. I am unable to turn him out in winter, which does not help. Can you suggest ways in which I can encourage him to eat?

    Nutritionist Christine Smy replies: First, you need to find an appetising feed that will interest your horse. Try herby mixes for maximum palatability, or those high in soya and oil – the latter can be fed in small quantities, yet are excellent for weight gain. Molasses or honey can be added for sweetness.

    Many horses appreciate fresh foodsuch as cut grass and alfalfa, together with succulents, including carrots, apples and greens.

    These can be chopped very small or grated to prevent the horse from picking them out.

    Feed your horse little and often, if possible. Give him asmall amount of concentrate – about 1lb (0.5kg) – four or five times a day and remove any untouched food after an hour.

    Although bran mashes are not often recommended, in this case, you may find your horse prefers the soft texture. Other feeds can be added to provide nutritional value, including a mineral and vitamin supplement to balance any deficiencies. Experiment with different textures and levels of dampness to find one your horse enjoys.

    Also, consider the position and depthof your manger as some horses will not eat readily unless they can see around them. If your horse’s appetite has not picked up after several weeks, consult a vet in case there is an underlying problem. Often, a B12 injection from a vet can be enough to kick-start a horse’s appetite and start him eating normally again.

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