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Weight Gain & the Thin Horse

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  • Weight Gain & the Thin Horse

    What is typical timing to see weight gain on a very thin horse?

    A little background: We recently picked up a TWH gelding that had been rescued from the auction. I feel that the gal that "rescued" him caused him more harm than good as she had him (low in the pecking order) out in a pasture with several dominant mares and only fed from 1 round bale. He was very thin - can see his ribs, with a very pronounced croup point and visible hip points. (See Pictures)

    We dewormed twice in the month that we've had him due to high parasite counts in his FM test (per vet). His big belly is looking better.

    His coat is looking better, but having shed out his old nasty coat he looks quite a bit thinner, but his hips seem a little more rounded and less bony. (wishful thinking?) His mane and tail still look dry and dull, but I keep conditioning it.

    We're feeding Senior feed (tribute), quality hay (both in his stall and in pasture away from the alphas), good grazing, and a Hard Keeper supplement. He also gets quality treats (apples, carrots, and oat and molasses cookies) and a mineral block (Redmond Rock) to make up for anything else.He seems to have gained a little weight, but I anticipated more gain.

    He's not being ridden and is only lightly worked (lounging and groundwork for respect & bonding)

    What is the typical time-frame to see a significant increase in his weight? (I've not had a horse this thin before)

    Day we brought him home. 

Covered in dull coat, very thin, feet need trimmed. Week 1

Dewormed on day 7 due to incredibly high FM parasite counts. 

Shedding out, but looking a little better. Feet were trimmed, but still long. Week 3

His coat is looking better. He's looking more thin after a 2nd deworming

  • #2
    I got an emancipated old man (23) and it was about 8 months before he started looking decent. He got nutrena empower boost and triple crown senior, as well as alfalfa cubes 3/daily. Rice bran is great for adding weight safely. Gleam and gain and omega shine are helpful supplements carried by smart pack, lots of omega fatty acids. EquiJewl is a vet created product that I have never tried but heard good things. I would caution you not to over feed (particularly sugar/starch) to put weight on too quickly as it can have fatal consequences. I am even cautious and limit apples carrots and molasses with my herd because of the sugar.

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    • #3
      It took a long time to lose the weight, and it'll take him a long time to gain it back. Gaining it back too fast is not good for them.

      Has he had his teeth done? That was a big game changer for my hard keeper. His molars were so sharp that his cheeks were black from bruising/irritation.

      Does he have hay 24/7? That also makes a huge difference with hard keepers.

      https://i.imgur.com/tFGYstO.jpg

      One year later:

      https://i.imgur.com/rxNfPqF.jpg

      And current (five years after purchase):

      https://scontent.fagc1-2.fna.fbcdn.n...3c&oe=5B9BACB5

      It takes a long time to narrow down what the issue(s) are, get all of the stars aligned with a diet that works for them, and then for them to actually gain the weight. Overwashing his tail can make it really dry as well. A leave-in spray conditioner might be a better option for it.

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      • #4
        Awwww that face!

        How long it takes to have good weight on depends on how long they were thin, how thin they were, and whether there was permanent damage to the GI system due to malnourishment or parasite damage.

        That said, he looks pretty good now. Thin, but not scary. The longer he was "very thin", whatever that means, the more the fat stores around his organs would have been depleted. That's what's going to be restored first, so it can take a while for the external structures to fill in.

        How much of all those feedstuffs is he getting, over how many feedings?

        Teeth taken care of?

        What was he dewormed with?

        How long has he been on free choice hay?
        ______________________________
        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Very thin = hip, spine, ribs and top point of the croup were visible, area above eyes sunken, breast bones protruding. It's difficult to see in the earlier pictures since he had so much gunk in his dull fur and he was shaggy.

          He has had our vet fully check him out. Teeth were ok. His parasite counts were at 500 in his fecal test... and they stopped counting. We dewormed with Zermetic Gold first and followed it by Safeguard. We're sending another test in later this week.

          Someone recommended Red Cell. I don't want to overload him and make him sick. Has anyone tried RedCell ?


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          • #6
            I would try probiotics/prebiotics. A horse that has been starved and with a heavy worm load likely has an unhealthy gut bacteria.

            I am really good at putting weight on horses: I usually go with feeding small amounts of hay often, and feeding a high fat extruded feed mixed with a pre-probiotic and mineral/vitamin pellet.
            Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Kickin' It View Post
              Very thin = hip, spine, ribs and top point of the croup were visible, area above eyes sunken, breast bones protruding. It's difficult to see in the earlier pictures since he had so much gunk in his dull fur and he was shaggy.

              He has had our vet fully check him out. Teeth were ok. His parasite counts were at 500 in his fecal test... and they stopped counting. We dewormed with Zermetic Gold first and followed it by Safeguard. We're sending another test in later this week.

              Someone recommended Red Cell. I don't want to overload him and make him sick. Has anyone tried RedCell ?

              This is why it's useful to categorize weight by the Henneke scale, because "very thin" means a lot of different things to different people. I agree with JB that he doesn't look "very thin" to me, but my very thin is a 2 BCS, and maybe yours is a 3.5.

              When I got my "very thin" TB mare (I'd say BCS 2.5) it took about 6 months for her to regain weight and another year to rebuild muscle. She was not in work and had a foal by her side for the first few months, so that made a big difference. She had also been fairly neglected for a while, which definitely makes recovery slower.

              I would say that you should be able to visibly see weight gain about every 2 weeks if you take pictures if you are feeding enough...you might not notice it with your own eyes, but comparing pictures can be more helpful. And within 4-6 months you may have the weight gain back but it may take quite a bit longer to get into decent working condition - another 6+ months.

              As for tail and mane...nothing you do to it will make the old growth "better" (it might look better but it's not changing anything). Condition the tail it if you want, but that hair was grown years ago.

              How long have you actually had the horse? You say "recently" but it's hard to know if that means 2 weeks or 6 months.
              Last edited by S1969; May. 22, 2018, 07:44 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Kickin' It View Post
                Very thin = hip, spine, ribs and top point of the croup were visible, area above eyes sunken, breast bones protruding. It's difficult to see in the earlier pictures since he had so much gunk in his dull fur and he was shaggy.

                He has had our vet fully check him out. Teeth were ok. His parasite counts were at 500 in his fecal test... and they stopped counting. We dewormed with Zermetic Gold first and followed it by Safeguard. We're sending another test in later this week.

                Someone recommended Red Cell. I don't want to overload him and make him sick. Has anyone tried RedCell ?

                Is he on free choice hay/pasture and how many pounds of senior feed is he getting a day? How much is just as important as what you are feeding. Read the feeding instructions on the senior feed bag (or look them up) and make sure you are feeding at least the minimum. I'd increase the senior feed prior to adding anything else to the mix. Senior feeds are usually roughage based and with most of them you can safely feed quite a bit. You need to read the feeding instructions on the bag.

                Weight gain is a slow process and the last places to fill in will be the areas of bony protrusions that you mention.
                "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Kickin' It View Post
                  Very thin = hip, spine, ribs and top point of the croup were visible, area above eyes sunken, breast bones protruding. It's difficult to see in the earlier pictures since he had so much gunk in his dull fur and he was shaggy.
                  That sounds pretty thin, but we still don't know how long he was like that. In the end, it doesn't matter, other than knowing it may be part of what takes so long to become truly healthy again The pictures show a horse who is currently in decent weight - a bit too thin, but I'd guess a mid-range 4, maybe on the higher side. The pictures aren't all that great for seeing, but I don't see unhealthy weight.

                  Keep in mind that as a TWH, he may always be very angular, as so many are. They often have pointy hip bones that you can never cover without making them obese. I can't tell if this guy is like that, but it's something to tuck away.

                  He has had our vet fully check him out. Teeth were ok. His parasite counts were at 500 in his fecal test... and they stopped counting.
                  It's unfortunate they stopped counting, as a (reasonably) accurate count is good information to have.

                  We dewormed with Zermetic Gold first and followed it by Safeguard.
                  When and how far apart? Safeguard (fenbendazole) is almost entirely useless on its own, and entirely useless following ZG (ivermectin + praziquantely).

                  We're sending another test in later this week.
                  How long since the Safeguard?

                  Someone recommended Red Cell. I don't want to overload him and make him sick. Has anyone tried RedCell ?
                  A hard no to the Red Cell. Unless he's been accurately deemed to be anemic, and it's attributed to, say, a high parasite load (which doesn't happen with a FEC of 500, another reason why an actual count would have been useful) or acute blood loss, he doesn't need any more iron in his diet.

                  We still need to know how much of the Sr feed he's getting and how long he's been getting that much (because I assume you took maybe a couple weeks to ramp up).

                  1 month is not nearly enough time to get a horse back up from what you described. If he's still gaining, then don't change anything. You don't want to add 200lb in a month.

                  Originally posted by S1969 View Post

                  How long have you actually had the horse? You say "recently" but it's hard to know if that means 2 weeks or 6 months.
                  She said it's been "about a month"
                  ______________________________
                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JB View Post

                    She said it's been "about a month"
                    Ah, I see it now. Well, that's not long at all. Especially if the deworming was still going on during that month.

                    I'd definitely expect it to take several months, assuming that he continues to get enough calories. Weighing the hay and feed is important and useful to keep track - especially for hay.

                    When I was trying to refeed my mare I was aiming to get some crazy # of calories/day in her because she was still nursing a foal. I had to add alfalfa hay to get her to eat enough hay because she would only eat a certain # of lbs of grass hay. But without weighing it is hard to know if it's enough.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Thanks!

                      JB - He was wormed 2 weeks apart. I've not heard back on the last fecal test. The stable owner was going to grab that and send it out. I have no idea how long he was as thin as he was when we picked him up. I'm guessing that since he was tossed out to pasture and ignored for 2+ years, that it might have been a fairly decent amount of time... especially if he was dropping weight immediately. I do know that where we had picked him up, there were other horses that looked thinner than him. The alpha horses were thick and the betas were skinny.

                      I have another TWH and, where he is not as thick as a QH, he is certainly built like a TWH tank. He was on the thin side when I got him, but don't recall having to do anything special other than slightly increase hay, feed, and water. Now he gains weight just looking at food. LOL

                      Yes, we slowly ramped up to the amount he's getting now - 1-1.5 scoops (am/pm), 2 flakes of higher quality hay (am/pm) - yes, he has his own bales earmarked for only him, all the grass he wants in pasture, a supplement of hard keeper (am) and treats from time to time (we cut the apples and carrots per suggestions)

                      I'm not particularly concerned about him looking like a TWH (yes, they tend to be more narrow), but the points and well defined spine worried me. I've ridden many walkers that are not thin, but are an acceptable sturdy weight - not bony, ribby, or predominant spine showing. That being said and looking at him today, he's gained a little more weight and his coat has a continued shine... minus the dust from rolling outside.

                      I will avoid the red cell supplement unless I hear otherwise from the vet. On a bright note, Skipper is fully vaccinated and tested negative on his recent Coggins.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It's hard to measure calories on pasture; is the pasture in very good shape?

                        And 2 flakes am/pm - is the horse off pasture when he is getting the hay? Or are both available? If hay and pasture are both available and the horse is eating hay, I would guess that the pasture isn't really that dense. My horses will only eat hay instead of pasture when it's the end of grazing season and there isn't really any grass left.

                        So, if the horse is choosing hay over pasture - I'd feed more hay.

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