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  1. #1
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    Dec. 12, 2004
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    Default This horse Will. Not. Gain. Weight.

    Back story: I've had a boarder (an ~10 year old OTTB, with kissing spine....basically retired) for the last four years. He came to me skinny and with bad feet.....he quickly gained weight (to the point of almost being fat!) and his feet improved to point where he is now barefoot and comfortable.

    Last summer was a really hard summer on him. It was hot, and very buggy. He is OCD neurotic about bugs, and while my other two easy-keepers were happily grazing in the pasture, he would be trotting around the edges trying to escape the bugs. (He also refused to keep fly masks/sheets on for more than an hour at a time, and fly spray only works so well. Yet he flipped when brought inside during the day while his buddies were out.) He lost A LOT of weight, just from his constant self-exercising. Ribs very visible, etc. I know it's better for a horse to be skinner than fat, but he was TOO skinny, trust me.

    Then over the winter (this would have been last winter) he gained back about half of the weight. To a point where he was still skinny, but not Call-the-aspca-skinny.

    This summer, it was less hot and less buggy, but he still lost some weight, which put him approximately back to where he was the summer before. I would say that he needs maybe 150lbs, which is a lot on a lean 15 hand TB. And now I'm VERY concerned about him and how he's going to handle this winter. Especially because we spent the majority of this summer trying to get more weight on him and failing miserably.

    His feed: He gets a huge amount of a quality Senior Feed, with soaked beet pulp and hay cubes and black oil sunflower seeds. Essentially all the hay that he can eat, and it's GOOD hay. Rich, well-fertilized pasture in the summer, 24/7. This horse has food in front of his face almost 24/7. And he eats it all! It's just not sticking!

    His fecal came back fine. His teeth are fine. His feet are still fine. His coat is shiny. He doesn't have much of a top-line because he's not ridden, so that exaggerates how skinny he looks. We are going to start blanketing him (something which hasn't been needed the past winters because he was a little butterball) because I am concerned about conserving his energy.

    What am I looking at at this point? Ulcers? He is a very vigorous cribber/wood chewer, which doesn't appear until they are regularly coming inside when it's cold. I know his owner can't afford a full ulcer treatment, but are there some cheaper gut supplements that would work?

    Any other suggestions? Should I be looking into straight-alfalfa hay cubes, for example? What else puts weight on a horse? We had him on the Cool Calories 100 (a PURE FAT supplement) and it did nothing for him, even after going through the entire bucket.


    I'm concerned not just for the horse but for my reputation. I know that's terrible to say. And his owner knows that I am taking the very best care of him and that it's not because I'm not feeding him that he's skinny. But even non-horse people look at my two fatties and go "But why is that other one so skinny?" My farrier comments on his weight every time he's out. It's noticeable. But I don't know what else to do!



  2. #2
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    May. 5, 2009
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    Location: Indiana, but my heart is in Zone II
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    Default

    Maybe break his meals into 3 meals a day? That way he is digesting smaller amounts more frequently and can absorb the nutrients. Also - not to be nudgy- he should be able to be separated from his friends. What if something happens and he NEEDS to be?Maybe separate them for small periods or at night or at day.
    Come to the dark side, we have cookies



  3. #3
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    Jul. 23, 2001
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    Maryland
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    Default

    Before I even finished reading this I thought ulcers. He's clearly a bit tightly wound and somewhat easily stressed. I'd recommend you simply assume ulcers and give him one full tube of Ulcergard/Gastro guard every day (it's the same thing) for 7-10 days and see what happens. Yes, it's not cheap. but you can get it online for roughly $30 a tube. I have a mare who used to get skinny in the winter. We were feeding her an ongodly amount of grain. I actually put her on Ulcergard as an experiment in curing girthiness and in two weeks I had a significantly different horse weight-wise. It was really quite unbelievable.

    good luck

    If you see a different, you'll have to bite the bullet and continue long enough to be a total of 30 days or so. You might then think about something like SmartGut (what I use) to keep ulcers away. I also don't personally recommend the cheaper treatment alternatives as they are somewhat hit or miss . . ..



  4. #4
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    Apr. 28, 2008
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    Default

    I would talk to the owner about having the vet out to do a complete workup including thyroid -- perhaps he's hyperthyroid. Ulcers are another possibility.

    Otherwise, I'd look into adding a cup of oil to his grain. Lots of calories in that. Make sure he has high-calorie hay in front of him 24/7. Save the grassiest pasture for him. Keep him warm, and see if you can find him a pasture buddy he likes to hang with, to cut down on the self-exercise.

    I would not force him to be separated from his friends, at the very least until you get him back on track. After all he sounds basically retired, why put him through that just to make a point about what he should and shouldn't be able to do.



  5. #5
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    Apr. 29, 2006
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    Evansville, Wisconsin
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    Default

    Blood test, maybe?

    I have a mare that is normally a very easy keeper, but at one point when her previous owner still owned her, she dropped a bunch of weight for no apperent reason. Had her blood tested, and she was low in Vitamin E, been on Vitamin E supplement ever since, and she's a little porker on next to nothing.
    "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
    -Edward Hoagland



  6. #6
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    Jan. 22, 2006
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    Default

    What Sr? Also have you tried multiple meals? Alfalfa hay? Oil? Rice bran? Have you tried different grains? Some horses just don't do well on some grains even if other horses do. Just some thoughts.



  7. #7
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    Dec. 12, 2004
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    Massachusetts
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Pennywell Bay View Post
    Maybe break his meals into 3 meals a day? That way he is digesting smaller amounts more frequently and can absorb the nutrients. Also - not to be nudgy- he should be able to be separated from his friends. What if something happens and he NEEDS to be?Maybe separate them for small periods or at night or at day.
    He gets two meals right now, and usually over the winter he gets a third bucket of mush at the last night check. My schedule unfortunately doesn't allow for a third feeding in the middle of the day. I just have the one boarder in my backyard.

    And I know he does need to learn how to be separate....and he can, it's not dangerous for him to stay in the stall by himself. But all he does is worry worry worry worry when he can't see his buddies. I just have three horses so they do get attached in a way that most horses at larger boarding barns don't.

    Quote Originally Posted by hollyhorse2000 View Post
    Before I even finished reading this I thought ulcers. He's clearly a bit tightly wound and somewhat easily stressed. I'd recommend you simply assume ulcers and give him one full tube of Ulcergard/Gastro guard every day (it's the same thing) for 7-10 days and see what happens. .
    Thanks, I'll talk to his owner about that. I'M not willing to foot the bill on that treatment, but maybe she can work it into the budget.

    Quote Originally Posted by fordtraktor View Post
    I would talk to the owner about having the vet out to do a complete workup including thyroid -- perhaps he's hyperthyroid. Ulcers are another possibility.

    Otherwise, I'd look into adding a cup of oil to his grain. Lots of calories in that. Make sure he has high-calorie hay in front of him 24/7. Save the grassiest pasture for him. Keep him warm, and see if you can find him a pasture buddy he likes to hang with, to cut down on the self-exercise.

    I would not force him to be separated from his friends, at the very least until you get him back on track. After all he sounds basically retired, why put him through that just to make a point about what he should and shouldn't be able to do.
    He did have "a blood test" (sorry, I don't know what it involved, exactly!) to check up on all his levels and he seemed pretty much normal from what I remember his owner telling me.

    We did do the oil last winter....time to incorporate it again, I guess! I have just three horses here, he goes out all the time with my two very relaxed, very easy going boys. There's little to no bickering, as my QH is a clear and firm alpha. They are a merry little band but like I said...while the other two are relaxing, he's pacing. -sigh- Stupid TBs!

    I don't really have any intention of separating him, honestly. He HATES being in the stall so I keep him out with my boys as much as possible. Locking him in his stall or in my dry paddock while his friends are out grazing would just stress him even more.



  8. #8
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    Dec. 12, 2004
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    Massachusetts
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Wayside View Post
    Blood test, maybe?

    I have a mare that is normally a very easy keeper, but at one point when her previous owner still owned her, she dropped a bunch of weight for no apperent reason. Had her blood tested, and she was low in Vitamin E, been on Vitamin E supplement ever since, and she's a little porker on next to nothing.
    Oh, interesting! He did have a blood test, but I will talk to his owner about what exactly was tested for/looked at.

    Quote Originally Posted by whbar158 View Post
    What Sr? Also have you tried multiple meals? Alfalfa hay? Oil? Rice bran? Have you tried different grains? Some horses just don't do well on some grains even if other horses do. Just some thoughts.
    He's on the Poulin brand senior. He was on their "working horse" grain which has the highest fat...but we thought that the extra protein and such would just give him extra energy, negating the benefit of the extra fat. The senior was recommended to me last year when I posted a similar question about this horse. And it actually DID work (we started him on it early spring) until the summer heat/bugs kicked in.

    He does get three meals a day when it's coldest out....two the rest of the time. We've tried the oil...didn't see too much of a difference, but will try a different oil/larger amount. Rice bran didn't do anything for him.



    Thanks for the help everyone. It's tough because his owner doesn't get out to see him very often (few times a month) as he's basically retired and she's a busy pre-vet student. So getting him started on a new feeding program can sometimes take a little bit of nudging, and a lot of times I end up footing the bill (like when we added the oil in last year).



  9. #9
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    Dec. 12, 2004
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    Default

    Honestly, I think part of the issue may also be that he misses his mom, thinking about it now.

    She was very present the first few years, but now that her schedule has gotten busier/harder she sees him less. He is very attached to her (knows what her car sounds like and goes running for the gate) and I think he might just be stressed about her not being around as much.

    It's hard because he truly can't be ridden with the kissing spines. But maybe I can talk her into making some time in her schedule to take him for some walks/loving if possible.



  10. #10
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    Jun. 23, 2006
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    Stoystown, PA
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    Default

    What kind of Senior feed and how much in pounds does he get a day?
    Boyle Heights Kid 1998 OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
    Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
    "Once you go off track, you never go back!"



  11. #11
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    Jun. 12, 2007
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    CT
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    Default

    If she's a vet student, she should understand. You shouldn't have to foot the bill for any of this. Sit down and talk with her about what you are seeing and ways you have thought of to address it. She may have ideas of her own- and she's the owner- so it's up to her to make a decision. If I were boarding the horse, I'd recommend a visit from the vet to discuss diet, bloodwork results, possibility of ulcers, and possibility of pain from the kissing spines causing his deterioration. I'd probably do the ulcer treatment for a week and see what improved. I'd also have him on pre/pro biotics to make sure he's digesting his food as best he can.



  12. #12
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    Mar. 24, 2004
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    Pottstown, PA (East Coventry)
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    How about a probiotic to help him maximize what he is getting? My BO swears by probiotics to put on weight. She says it normally takes a couple of months to really see the results.
    I think it has made a difference for my horse, Finnegan.

    I have used the rice bran pellets to put on weight in the winter. I was at one barn that used rice bran flakes and I did not think that worked as well. Sonny did not like the flakes much but loved the rice bran pellets.
    Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)



  13. #13
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    Apr. 10, 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoForAGallop View Post
    It's tough because his owner doesn't get out to see him very often (few times a month) as he's basically retired and she's a busy pre-vet student. So getting him started on a new feeding program can sometimes take a little bit of nudging, and a lot of times I end up footing the bill (like when we added the oil in last year).
    She's a PRE VET student?!?! But yet can't take the time to get his feeding situation sorted out? Wouldn't want her to be my horse's vet....

    I'd absolutely have blood pulled. And worm the crud out of him!! Of course those two things are kind of the owner's responsibility, not yours.

    Sugar is the devil for a lot of TB's, as is a lot of extra fat. I've had better luck with Senior feeds that have low NSC's like Triple Crown Senior. Lots of good fiber, soaked hay pellets, and LOTS of good grass hay.
    We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.



  14. #14
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    Sep. 7, 2009
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    Lexington, KY
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    Ulcers. I would bet on it. Talk to your vet about options other than GastroGard. There are some, I'm just not sure how effective they are. Maybe a supplement like SmartGut would help. It's not horribly expensive. Alfalfa hay is supposed to prevent ulcers, if it doesn't hype him up.

    Missing his "mom"? Probably not. Maybe the attention she gave him.

    I like TC Senior. Put weight and shine on my guys when nothing else would. High fat, fiber, low NSC. Lots of beet pulp in it too. I soak it to a warm mash in the winter. You can feed up to 5lbs at a feeding.

    I do hope, for your sake, the owner is paying for the extras. You can lose your shirt on a horse like this. We ended up having to put a limit on hay (2% bodyweight) and grain (8lbs) last winter solely because of one boarder. He was old, couldn't keep weight on in the winter, didn't have warm enough, well fitting blankets and turned out to have an encysted strongyles problem, which we don't routinely worm for until spring.

    You might want to think about worming with a Power Pak or Quest Plus if you haven't already done so.

    For the next summer, try Tractor Supply's Horse and Pony Fly Spray. It's worked for me when nothing else will...even for horse flies and bot flies. It's oil based, so it lasts. You might also want to think about bringing a buddy in with him in the summer on those really hot buggy days.

    Another good one to try is AniMeds Vita Calm. It has calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and tryptophan. It'd done wonders for two of my nervous Nellies. Good luck.



  15. #15
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    Sep. 11, 2003
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    Default

    On a different track - I have a young TB mare who was always an easy keeper and suddenly dropped a lot of weight last spring. Bloodwork was normal, fecal was normal, never ran a fever, upped her (low carb, high fat) diet - she ate every drop, but was still losing weight. Vet who examined her recommended a 1-week course of a strong antibiotic (we used Gentacin IV) and poof the weight came back on and she's been normal ever since. Must have had some kind of low grade infection somewhere (no evidence of such, but vet was acting on a hunch) and once it was gone the weight came right back on. Just another idea.



  16. #16
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    Dec. 12, 2004
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    Thanks everyone. We're going to go with a third late night feeding of mixed alfalfa hay cubes with some oil for right now. He did get a couple blood tests and they came back all normal. And she's looking into ulcer treatments which will be started up probably next week, once everything gets shipped after this weekend.

    I'll keep this post and suggestions in mind, and hopefully I'll have a happy update in a month or so!



  17. #17
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    Jul. 20, 2004
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    My TB used to be a hard keeper, is a major worry-wart, and has the craptastic feet too. He struggled at every boarding barn under differring regimes - multiple feedings, supplements, different types of hay. Ulcer treatment didn't make a difference.

    When I finally got him home, I did some experimenting and found that he seems to thrive on massive amounts of protein. I don't know why, but he just seems to have a much higher requirement than "normal" horses. I theorize it's because he is in perpetual motion. But anyway, being married to a feed dealer I have always fed top of the line stuff (usually senior, good quality low starch) but he did best on high octane feed and alfalfa hay. And he's a nut whether he's on straight forage or high octane so I don't worry much about that. I did find that after I got his weight and feet and coat where I wanted them, it took less protein to maintain, but I still have keep plenty of alfalfa or a high protein ration balancer or high protein feed in the mix somewhere or I'll see a decline in a couple of weeks. Obviously not a good idea if the horse has kidney issues, but as long as that's ruled out, they'll just pee out the excess nitrogen. Just a thought, and something to try if you've exhausted other avenues. I've had a couple other skinnies (3 to be exact, one of which was a starvation case) who also responded very well to high protein to get them where I needed them, and then I was able to transition to a more "normal" amount for maintenance. Obviously he needs calories, but they need the right types and amounts of proteins to use the calories too.

    Second thought is about the kissing spines...if he is in pain and under stress it will be hard to get weight on him until that is addressed.



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by meaty ogre View Post
    My TB used to be a hard keeper, is a major worry-wart, and has the craptastic feet too. He struggled at every boarding barn under differring regimes - multiple feedings, supplements, different types of hay. Ulcer treatment didn't make a difference.

    When I finally got him home, I did some experimenting and found that he seems to thrive on massive amounts of protein.

    Second thought is about the kissing spines...if he is in pain and under stress it will be hard to get weight on him until that is addressed.
    Yeah, he's been a hard-keeper from the very beginning, he's actually done better at my barn than anywhere else. He's a big worrier, and had only been at larger barns where he was stressed with all the activity. In my low-stress backyard, he just has a few things to worry incessantly over. Anyone think a calming supplement might be an option? He's not a high-energy horse, but maybe the supplement would take the edge off his constant worrying?

    He is on MSM for the kissing spines and runs/jumps/bucks with the herd, but it's something that I'll get his owner to take a look at....maybe the cooler weather is starting to aggravate them a little more.



  19. #19
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    If poss, keep him in during the day with a buddy and have him and buddy go out at night.

    So, the other half of your group goes out during day when it is hot if they don't mind and he and buddy go out at night.

    Now that it is getting colder, seems like he could do days and the other group does nights? Just a thought.

    "If you have the time, spend it. If you have a hand, lend it. If you have the money, give it. If you have a heart, share it." by me



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anyplace Farm View Post
    If poss, keep him in during the day with a buddy and have him and buddy go out at night.

    So, the other half of your group goes out during day when it is hot if they don't mind and he and buddy go out at night.

    Now that it is getting colder, seems like he could do days and the other group does nights? Just a thought.
    I just have three, not enough to split into different groups. And my two horses love being out, and are out with no problems.....honestly, if he NEEDS to be inside half the day and NEEDS a buddy, then he's going to have to find a different barn to go to because I'm not going to sacrifice my own horses' happiness to please his neurotic self. But it shouldn't get to that point....hasn't in four years, afterall!



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