Q&A: Feeding for extra weight

  • Q: I have a 15.2hh Welsh/Thoroughbred 10-year-old mare who has lost condition since the turn of the year. She lives in because she suffers badly from sweet itch and the area where we live is wet lowland.

    She is currently fed as much hay as she can eat, together with 4lb a day of a low energy mix as she can be a little fizzy sometimes. I hope to compete at riding club level this summer, so what should I be feeding her to help her put on weight?

    Christine Smy replies: The first thing to do is find out why your horse has lost weight. Could it be due to sharp teeth or worms? Your vet will be able to advise you on these problems.

    On the nutritional side, is she thin because she is not eating enough? Is she prone to stress due to continual stabling? Are her droppings normal? These points will all affect her ability togain weight.

    Look at the forage you are feeding. Is your hay good quality? Make sure it is sweet-smelling and contains no dust or mould.

    It’s a shame she is not able to benefit from the spring grass. If you have the time, cutfresh grass to give your mare – she really will appreciate the taste. Alternatively, provide succulents in the form of apples, carrots and sugar beet pulp.

    Consider changing your low-energy mix for a feed that is designed to add condition without fizz. I would suggest you feed your mare 6-8lbs of conditioning cubes daily in two or three feeds.

    Introduce it slowly to allow the gut to adjust. A cube will provide better weight gain than a mix, but if your mare is really fussy, then a mix may be more appetising.

    Feeding chaff will encourage your mare to chew her food slowly, which will aid digestion. An oil-based chaff is preferable to a molassed chaff as this will help aid weight gain and coat condition without adding energy. Feed 2lbs a day split between her feeds.

    If you are feeding the recommended levels of concentrate feeds, a broad spectrum supplement may not be necessary. Look for a body builder product, such as a milk pellet, which is designed to put weight and topline on horses. This works very well because of the digestible protein present.

    If your mare gets stressed, or is not digesting her feed properly, try a feed balancer containing a live yeast culture such as Yeasacc. Yeasacc is good for horses with digestive problems as it settles the gut, allowing beneficial bacteria to form and digest fibre sources. These products are fed in relatively small amounts.

    If your mare is not putting on weight after several weeks on her new diet, then you may want to ask the vet to take a blood test to check for a non feed-related problem.

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