View Full Version : How to keep weight while increasing fitness

Mar. 13, 2010, 09:21 AM
Any suggestions for keeping weight on a horse while conditioning ? I am having the worst time keeping weight on my OTTB while preparing for my first 25 miler. He is looks shiny and super fit, his muscle tone is great, but he feels bony when I groom him and he is ribby to look at. He gets corn oil, minimal alfalfa, unlimited good hay, 11% sweetfeed mixed with beet pulp. He does have a huge pasture though obviously scarce of grass this time of year. He is ridden 4-5 times a week, about an hour plus each time, I do long trot sets in a frame, go up all the hills I can find, and do short canter sets in a hayfield. Am I doing too much ? This seems no more than when I've conditioned event horses for 3 days and they never got this lean. Any advice appreciated on feeding or conditioning levels.

Mar. 13, 2010, 10:17 AM
what has worked well for me in the past (i do not do endurance, but my TB is worked the same way yours is but with hills too)
~Seminole show and sport 12% protein 12% fat under 15% starch -gets a total of 4 quarts a day (i forgot the weight)
~ 5-7lbs Alf orchard hay with it at least 50% alf
~ 5lbs orch hay (it was cheaper for me to just buy two diff bales than to find the right ratio)
~1 quart ultrabloom rice bran
and 22hr turnout on grass
The pic below is what feeding like this yielded

At that weight he could do 20 minute canter sets up and down hills and recovery quickly. he'd be dripping sweat but he'd recover

Mar. 13, 2010, 10:26 AM
unfortunately with the TB's, they just need A LOT of food. The racehorses across the street get fed 3-4 times a day (with each feeding about 2-5qts). If you let his weight slip away, he will begin to lose his muscle. I'd probably up his alfalfa and perhaps the beet pulp if you are worried about him getting too much sweet feed.
Good luck. And keep his protein adequate with the work increase to help him maintain the muscle

Mar. 13, 2010, 05:32 PM
Might try rice bran pellets. The fat is great and the protein isn't bad, either.

I find that TB's need more protein than some other breeds. I supplement their protein with alfalfa pellets, too.

Beet pulp.

The biggest problem with the OTTB I was conditioning for endurance was that he was a picky eater, and it was hard to get him to ingest enough calories. When I lowered the sugar/carbs in his feed, he did better on less feed. I figured every bite counted for more.

The biggest problem I had was that when his weight was good and he was fit, he was a tough ride. Well, he got tougher as he got fit, regardless of his weight. But he'd get more fresh when is weight was good. He became very fit very fast. That was cool.

He was a career bucker (I think that contributed to his retirement from racing) and I did not keep him after three years of working to figure out the problem. I've got kids and a business that requires the use of all my limbs. Got too dangerous, but gosh he was a fun horse to ride!! There's few things as exhilarating as riding a fit TB.

Mar. 16, 2010, 01:07 PM

Beet pulp is great stuff but has little fat. Corn oil is good but messy. There are a lot of feeds with a 8-12% fat content. Most "sweet feeds" only have about 2 % fat. That is not enough for a working horse.Look at the fat content of the corn oil, and figure how much you would have to add to increase a 2% feed to 8-12 %. It will take quarts per feeding.

Feed him fat. Maybe some probiotics. Plus have an experienced equine dentist look at his teeth. The average vet just waves a rasp at the teeth and calls it done. A good equine dentist does much more than that.

Paul N. Sidio
Spokane MO

Mar. 16, 2010, 01:47 PM
Try putting him on senior feed....I add a fat supplement like cool calories. Keep hay in front of him 24/7.

Mar. 17, 2010, 10:38 AM
If you are looking for a good hi-fat feed, Nutrena's Vitality Ultra does a good job. Sorry, but I can't remember the exact percentages. I put my gelding on it after a long lay-off when he lost some weight. He's never been a very easy keeper anyway, but the Ultra packed the weight back on him quickly. It seems to be pretty tasty too. They make several "Vitality" feeds. The Mare & Foal may have more protein. Good luck with him!

Mar. 17, 2010, 10:50 AM
Almost forgot, Digestmore by Amaferm helped him too. It's a probiotic/pre-biotic. Basically it makes your horse more "fuel efficient". It's much more affordable than Succeed, too.

Mar. 17, 2010, 11:07 AM
What's his score on the Henneke Scale? That tell much more about a horse's proper condition than mere weight.

Remember that when a horse works it burns calories. If you burn more than you take in weight will decline; if you take in more than you burn then weight will increase. Just like in humans! :)

Remember that a TB is not QH and won't necessarily look like one when they are in proper conditon.

So before you do anything get a proper analysis of what you have now. Then make such changes as are necessary.


Mar. 21, 2010, 02:42 PM
Great thread!

I am having a very similar issue with my OTTB.

He came to me VERY thin. I am finally starting to get weight on him but it's been an extremely slow process. He is also a picky eater. Too much beet pulp and he quits eating. Too much rice bran and he quits eating. Hay isn't the perfect bale for him and he won't touch it. Anyways, you get the idea.

Currently, we are doing a 12% sweet feed, rice bran, daily wormer, beet pulp, and a product from Cox Vet Labs called Muscle Up. It still isn't an ideal combo. I am thinking of switching to a different feed but, honestly, this one is economical to feed the whole barn (makes it easy and cheaper).