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horse just doesnt gain weight!

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  • horse just doesnt gain weight!

    my 10 yr old OTTB - that came to me a year ago after having been through some tough times - is thin and despite my best effort, is still somewhat thin. his ribs are not exactly showing, but he def does not have a nice layer of fat. his hind end is also lacking in muscle - hips stick out and he has a pronounced hunters bump.

    he is currently on 12 lbs of grain/day. i feed him 3 times a day. he gets Triple crown complete supplemented with 11% protien pellets, beet pulp, cooked flax seed. his suuplements are total calm and focus, acti-flex, vitamin e and right now we started him on a treatment of doxy as his lyme test came back in the high range (the cornell test - 3rd number was at 922 and 1250 is the indicator base line number). over the summer he had a few episodes of spiking a high fever and seeming somewhat colicy - never thrashing and biting, but would lay down and stay down, stretch out.

    he can walk in and out of his stall 24/7. we have good pasture and he has free choice hay.

    i've treated him alternately for gastric ulcers as well as hind end ulcers, although i havent had him scoped - just knowing his history felt it was best.

    he's a really hot TB so i dont want to add more grain. i've had his teeth done.

    any suggestions for me????

  • #2
    How & with what did you treat the ulcers?
    Was there any improvement following the treatment but then he reverted back? Any other symptoms that would indicate ulcers?
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


    • Original Poster

      did gastrogard/ulcergard for front and and then Succeed for hind end. there was no real change - he would still spike the fevers every now and then and act colicky.

      the last fever was about 2 weeks ago and that is when we (me and vet) decided to put him on doxy, even though he didnt test positive for lyme.

      he runs alot in the pasture.


      • #4
        More important than the grain...how much hay is he eating, and could he be eating more?

        Also, add some rice bran or oil or both. Oil is 100% calories.

        I'd run a basic blood panel just to see if something is up somewhere, too. Worth the $40 or whatever to just be sure everything is on the up and up internally.


        • #5
          Have you thought about switching grain? When I got my OTTB, he was skin and bones, nearly 600lbs underweight. I had him at one barn on something similar to yours and if any weight was gained it was minimal and I had to eventually move him to another place. Originally he was getting 16 lbs of grain 3x a day! We were using oil, alfalfa pellets and Blue Seal grain (cant really remember which one). He was also getting a couple flakes of pure alfalfa hay as well. Nothing. He was out 24/7 but the grass wasn't all that great.

          I moved him to a new field board location where the grass was much MUCH better. We switched his grain to Triple Crown Senior as it has a higher fat concentration and is easier to digest and have the body absorb. We also put him on rice bran pellets. he got 3 lbs of senior and 1 lb of rice bran 3x a day along with 2 flakes AM and PM of alfalfa, along with the grass (it was September/November grass). He gained most of his weight within the first 6 weeks!

          I know for each horse is different but I was amazed at what a difference and he was getting less than the other place! Here are his before and after pictures...

          Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
          Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
          Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
          Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook


          • #6
            My TB was a very hard keeper at multiple boarding facilities. I am married to a feed dealer so I've had this horse on every type of feed and supplement through the years. He has always been very active in turnout, and is just generally always "on alert" and probably has a higher basal metabolism because of this. Mine is also turned out 24/7 in a situation where he can go in and out of his stall as he pleases (except sometimes when I board him at a place with an indoor over the winter).

            The thing that makes the difference with these types IMHO is protein. It drives the digestive cycle, and I think many TBs and senior horses just burn through way, way more protein than most people think is necessary.

            The first year I brought this horse home, I put him on a giant round bale of alfalfa 24/7 ( I know a lot of people are reading that and freaking out, but this is a horse who will only eat a set amount of feed/hay). That made the most significant difference for this horse. I was able for the first time to reduce his grain intake, and he finally filled out to the point where I wasn't constantly asking myself if he was too ribby. He also had a pronounced hunter's bump and hips that always seemed to stick out. I've never gone back to grass hay for him...he needs the extra calories and protein that the alfalfa provide. I round out his diet with a high protein ration balancer, and when he is on grain it is usually a performance/training or senior formula. Protein does not make him hot; his breeding and temperament make him hot!

            Adding fat never made a difference in his weight or appearance, and only made him go off his feed (I've used both oils and pelleted fat supplements...again, being married to a feed dealer I have access to a lot).

            Adding calories was difficult because he self-limits the quantity he will consume. For him I would try to pick feeds that were very high in calories/lb (TC Senior, some "race" or training formulations are the highest I've found over the years).

            But, if I could only make one recommendation I'd try to get him on free choice quality alfalfa, and maybe add some soaked alfalfa pellets or cubes too. Even with all the feeds and supplements I have access to, this is what works best. I've used to bring back a starvation case, several seniors, and am currently using this same plan to improve an arab who has zero topline and hat-rack hips.


            • #7
              IMO, a horse doesn't need "a nice layer of fat." You should be able to feel the ribs pretty easily.

              However, 12 pounds a day is a lot of feed for a horse that's also on free-choice hay. Is that 12 pounds of TC Complete or 12 pounds including everything?

              And why "supplement" with beet pulp, which is already in Complete, and a lower protein pellet? Sounds like you should nix the "stuff" and increase the Complete.
              "Why would anybody come here if they had a pony? Who leaves a country packed with ponies to come to a non-pony country? It doesn't make sense!"


              • #8
                Scaramouch, with a hot horse beet pulp can add calories without adding hotness. Have done that with my own horse and seen it done with others.
                You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


                • #9
                  I second making sure he's getting a really good quality hay, fed truly free choice. Preferably a good quality alfalfa (NOT something really stemmy and expecting them to eat the stems like a lot of people seem to do!) or an alfalfa and orchard grass mix.

                  I also agree with someone else who said get rid of the extra beet pulp and the lower protein pellets. I would add oil to the Triple Crown Complete--up to 2 cups a day if he'll tolerate it. Keep the flax if you want, but if he's picky about his feed, I would cut it out.

                  I've never had a TB that was treated for ulcers, was happy in their management (ie turn out with a buddy, steady work load), given free choice alfalfa or alf/orchard mix, and as much Triple Crown Complete as I could safely get into them with additional oil, not gain weight. For what it's worth, my husband and I have 15 TBs (we breed to race in addition to my couple of show horses) and even though we have several that started out as hard keepers, our hardest two keepers at the moment, now only get about 6 lbs of TCC a day in addition to free choice orchard grass hay, a flake of alfalfa hay a day, and whatever grass is left in their pasture this time of year. And they are FAT. So have hope! Once they get heavy, it's easier to keep them heavy in my opinion.



                  • #10
                    You have not mentioned past and present deworming. What have you done there? Have you considered regionally possible odd ball parasites? What climate and environment do you live in? Wet or dry? Wildlife hanging around?

                    What about blood work?

                    Have you checked to see if he is passing sand? A gut fill of sand will keep them lean every time.

                    I'll second or third alfalfa and if needs be use pellets to get max intake. High quanlity alfalfa should be in front of him 24X7. Oil (up to 2 cups a day) is the real savior for my hard keeper during winter. Without it I would be sunk. If you do not want to use oil then consider oil grains (whole roasted soybeans, flax, high oil cannola meal, or BOSS) or oil fiber such as rice bran.

                    You mentioned Triple Crown Complete. I suggest you do a little experiment cuz I put a hard crimp on my oats (own my own crimper). Triple crown complete uses whole oats. So make a horse poo planter and stick it in the window for a couple weeks. Watch to see if the oats sprout. Around here horse poo sprouts like chia pets if I do not crimp and undigested oats passing thru are not doing him a bit of good.

                    Also there are high calorie feeds out there such as Omegatin. Have you tried those?


                    • #11
                      Lots of great advice. In our rescue we had two TBs like yours, and two separate solutions, both mentioned above:

                      First one came from a long term starvation case, with a BCS of 1-1.5. AND had a foal. Once weaned and on her own, she got to about a 4 and just sat there, not gaining. We did everything you have mentioned. We even resorted to steroid shots from the vet to help jumpstart her metabolism and muscle production. Finally sticking her in pasture on an alfalfa round bale for a month along with senior feed and oil got her up to a good weight. She's now on full care board and gets straight alfalfa twice a day plus oats and senior feed, and that's helping her maintain and keep gaining. Alfalfa was the key for her.

                      The other is a TB/QH cross, also from a neglect case. She also got stuck at about a 4. Fecals showed even with the normal power pack deworming we do after a neglect case; along with 2 more regular deworming cycles (rotational) she still had a high worm load. We dewormed with ivermectin, and two weeks later with equimax, and between that and adding Safechoice to her diet (in addition to grass hay, oats/sweet feed/alfalfa pellets/beet pulp pellets (soaked) and oil, AND about 5 pounds of alfalfa per day) she's finally up to a good weight just in time for winter.
                      If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
                      ~ Maya Angelou


                      • #12
                        My sister had an OTT-Standardbred who also wouldn't gain weight. She put him on a liquid supplement called "Healthy Coat." It was the only thing that worked for her. We then used it for my husband's very old and unable to chew QH mare - she also responded well. If you look at an ad for it you'll think it is insanely expensive but unlike corn oil, etc., you only use an ounce or two per feeding rather than a cup or more at a time (our mare balked at too much oil). Get the gallon size and a "one-ounze dispensing" pump bottle top and it makes supplementing a breeze. Good luck whichever route your choose...
                        It's just grass and water till it hits the ground.


                        • Original Poster

                          thanks for all the good suggestions!

                          to answer a few questions:

                          i have fecal samples done 2x a year - no worms at all but i still worm as vet indicates.

                          he will not eat alfalfa!!! will not touch cubes or pellets and will eat a bit of alfalfa hay but mostly pushes it around.

                          i feed really good quality hay - i really do. i have had it tested and it always comes back with good levels of everything although i havent tested in a year or so - but i have bought the same hay for 23 years. most of the time he prefers 2nd cut hay but every now and then he wants 1st cut which is much dryer. he dunks his hay in his water bucket.

                          the field that he is in wasnt really used over the summer and we do a pretty good job with pasture management - lime, fertilize, mow, etc. not really any weeds so i think his pasture is good.

                          i feed the beet pulp cause it does a few things - adds calories, makes him eat slowly, longer, etc.

                          will crimped oats make him hotter?

                          should i try veg oil, corn oil, rice bran oil???? i do have TC senior for my older guys and i can add more of that.

                          i have had blood work done - nothing unusual.

                          his typical pattern when he is eating is to eat, walk to his door, look out, come back to feed bucket, walk to door, etc. he has sooooooo many scars as in small nips and bites from other horses - seems like he might have had to fight for his food where he was before - i know he was just dumped in a field for a long time and i dont think he had alot of care.

                          maybe i'll post a picture of him tomorrow - my other horses are fat fat fat! but they are warmbloods so maybe i am being hyper about everything. just tired of people saying to me "gee he looks like he needs to gain some weight!" grrrrrrr!! like i am not trying!!!!!!

                          thanks again!!


                          • #14
                            My preference is soybean oil. It is purchased directly from the roaster/extruder and has a delicious nutty aroma. The horses love it, and the dogs ans cats too. I want to crawl inside the mixer everyday when I make feed.

                            Too many calories would make him hot and it does not sound like he suffers yet from too many calories.

                            As for the odd eating habit and take a mouthful and go on a walk about....that ADD brained behavior is actually one of the reasons my hard keeper is a hard keeper. He would lose focus on eating and pick at feed, want to go on a walk about and play and dink around. The only cure I found for him is he stands side by side with his best buddy (who is a hog) and eats his feed. Suddenly with competiton he can focus and actually consume his feed in a normal amount of time. Or maybe it is monkey see then monkey do. But it works for him.

                            Then I also in winter separate him all night with a very large munch bucket followed by a bag of fine stem alfalfa. It does take him all night to eat it and without the extra feed in rapid refill form (alfalfa pellets, BP, and other feed with an oil coating) he just drops weight over winter.

                            ETA: What is the climate and land type in your area? Wet in general...as swamp and/or wetlands present? Or dry?
                            Last edited by D Taylor; Oct. 25, 2012, 10:51 PM.


                            • #15
                              Well, completely unrelated but this makes me feel better about my 20 year old TB who eats 6 lb of TC Senior. I thought he was a hard-keeper!

                              Onto suggestions-I think adding oil and switching to a more calorie dense grain would be beneficial. I would look into TC Training. It is more calorie dense than TC Senior I believe.

                              However, you will probably see him gain a lot of weight back once the Lyme is treated.
                              come what may

                              Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013


                              • #16
                                I would NOT up the grain, but get quality hay. Supplement with a quality proven weight supplement. It may be a trial and error effort but there is plenty out there so you don't have to add more grain which could be adding to gut issues. What treatments did you do for ulcers?
                                "If you've got a horse, you've got a problem"


                                • #17
                                  Been there, done that. I'm convinced there are just some that won't be tick-fat. My TB was an especially hard keeper. And I was dumping tons of feed into him, going on here, online, everywhere, looking for advice. And finally I thought, maybe he's never going to be "fat". And as long as he didn't get thinner, and could still do his job, and seemed happy and healthy in every other way, why turn myself inside out over it? He was ribby, that's all.

                                  My advice is, you not starving the animal, give it time, even if he isn't gaining, if he's not losing, and is still normal in every other way, maybe that's his build. 12lbs of grain is A LOT. I would hate to suggest more into his system.

                                  That said, I really liked Buckeye supplements. Ultimate Finish was nice because I didn't have to feed a ton of it.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Bastile View Post
                                    his typical pattern when he is eating is to eat, walk to his door, look out, come back to feed bucket, walk to door, etc. he has sooooooo many scars as in small nips and bites from other horses - seems like he might have had to fight for his food where he was before - i know he was just dumped in a field for a long time and i dont think he had alot of care.
                                    Sounds like he is a worrier if he is that "pacy" while he eats his feed.

                                    How is his turnout now? Is he alone or with others? Are the others picking on him? If he is alone, he may be worrying because he is not in the protective herd dynamic.

                                    I can't remember - did you say you treated him for ulcers? Becuase he sounds like a classic candidate.
                                    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                                    • #19
                                      I too would make sure he gets more hay, as much as he'll eat, and maybe instead of adding more TC Senior, you could add a high fat supplement (I like a pellet supplement because its easier than a messy oil). Omegatin is a good one, I think its 24% or 30% fat.
                                      "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Bastile View Post
                                        he will not eat alfalfa!!! will not touch cubes or pellets and will eat a bit of alfalfa hay but mostly pushes it around.
                                        That is a tough cookie. My friend has some alfalfa in his barn that is so soft and smells so nice I've considered eating it!

                                        My boy is notoriously picky (although he always eats good alfalfa) but when he goes off his feed, I always go back to oats and Calf Manna from Manna Pro. Some tractor supply stores sell it. Or I'm sure you could go to www.mannapro.com to find a dealer. It has both fenugreek and anise which increase appetite. The products been around for over 50 years I think. It's a good one. I also like it because it has whey protein.