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Trouble keeping weight on older horse - suggestions?

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  • Trouble keeping weight on older horse - suggestions?

    Gang, I could use your help. I will try to keep this succinct but need to provide a background since I am fairly new here. I have an almost 21-year old chestnut TB mare. She has always been a bit of a difficult keeper but in the past 2 years I've struggled to keep weight on her. Part of the problem was the barn I was at so last summer I moved to a smaller facility that had the capacity to feed supplements and higher amounts of hay with much better turnout. The new place is a small facility with 4 other horses. My horse is very happy there and so am I. Horse had gained weight thanks to the ever-watchful eye of the new BM. However, in the past month my horse lost all the weight she had gained and now I am left scratching my head. Here is what she's eating twice a day, AM & PM:

    2 cups soaked beet pulp
    1 small scoop flax seed
    1 cup Empower Boost rice bran
    1 handful soaked alfalfa cubes
    1/3 cup corn oil
    Focus HF hoof supplement (PM only)
    All mixed with 3/4 large scoop of tri-county grain (similar to Fibregized)

    Horse is turned out 24/7 except during bad storms or when it's very cold out, then she is stalled overnight in a 12x13 stall. She is blanketed very well and blankets are changed AM & PM so she is never too hot or too cold. She is lowest on the totem pole but gets along with the other horses well. BM feeds a lot of hay in small piles scattered around the field - my horse consumes minimally 3-4 large flakes of orchard grass mix twice a day, sometimes more.

    We live in Norther Virginia. Vet was out in Oct/Nov for fall shots and commented that she still looked thin but was slowly but steadily gaining weight so we left it go. Teeth were hand floated in June of 2012, she is UTD on all vaccinations and gets extra water in her grain mash to make sure she stays hydrated. Horse is happy and acting totally herself except for looking like Starvin' Marvin.

    I have access to a small grass/bluestone arena that we ride W-T-C in 2-3 days a week, however for the past 3 weeks we've received absurd amounts of rain followed by frozen temps in the teens and now back to rain again, so we haven't ridden at all. In that short span of time my horse has lost every bit of muscle and then some - all her bones are sticking out, her back is severely swayed and spine is visibly protruding, she looks horrible and even BM is shocked. When you look at her from behind it reminds me of something from Animal Cops. Definitely looks more like a 30+ year old horse rather than a spry 21 year old. Horse has more energy than she knows what to do with but something seems off to me. I can't put my finger on it, but my gut is telling me I'm missing something because the recent weight loss transition was drastic. Horse was wormed 2 months ago and we will be pulling fecals next week just to check.

    Once or twice a week my horse gets a bit of compressed alfalfa to munch on after dinner but I don't want to give her too much because it will make her hot. She is a stereotypical redheaded TB mare after all I visit 3-4 days a week and that includes lots of grooming and playing with her which she just loves. I also help out around the farm doing chores, etc so I am fairly involved in her care. I've come up with these thoughts:

    - Possible worms
    - Possible ulcers, although BM says it's unlikely and she shows no other signs of them.
    - Weight builder is essentially the same thing as rice bran and flax seed, so would there be any point to adding that? She's already on so many different things and is at this point showing no improvement and I don't have endless money to keep throwing at this issue. I'd like to know what's causing it. 21 is older but not over the hill.
    - We will be doubling the amount of Empower Boost ricebran from 1 C 2x/d to 2 C 2x/d
    - We will be increasing the corn oil from 1/3 C 2x/d to 1/2 C 2x/d.

    Any thoughts, suggestions, ideas, etc. would be sincerely appreciated. I am at a loss and extremely worried for my special girl who I rescued from a horrible situation 12.5 years ago. She is my best friend and means more to me than I can explain.

    Thanks in advance for your assistance!
    Last edited by TBPONY; Jan. 31, 2013, 03:55 AM.

  • #2
    It may be helpful to weigh her food to be sure of how much she is really getting, rather than depending on cup o'this, hand full o' that measurements.

    2 cups of soaked beet pulp and a hand full of alfalfa cubes and a cup of rice bran doesn't sound like it would weigh very much.

    In total feed, fed twice a day, my hard working pony gets 4 lbs per meal. (TC senior, alfalfa pellets, TC Omega fat supplement and vitamins) Plus as much hay as he wants (orchard grass flakes and a bucket of alfalfa chaff in the stall and orchard grass timothy mix in the field).

    Comment


    • #3
      I can just tell you that my retired and never ridden 25 yr old Tb gets:

      3/4 scoop approx 3 lbs of Triple ten complete feed,
      1 full scoop hay stretcher 3.5 lbs
      1.5 cups flax seed 2 xs a day plus free choice hay.
      During the winter he also gets a slurp of corn oil with each feeding.

      He's on pasture during the Summer so no hay needed then. IMHO what you are feeding amounts to nothing, my gelding would laugh at it and say "where's the feed?" I like to weigh my feed, but you have to take into account that some things are packed with calories and weight doesn't mean anything. So all in all my gelding gets about 7 lbs of grain and flax at each feeding. Plus top quality hay which is tested. I also soak all feed because lets face it he's 25 and his teeth aren't what they used to be.

      You could also run blood on her, but seriously what you are feeding doesn't amount to much.
      RIP Kelly 1977-2007 "Wither thou goest, so shall I"

      "To tilt when you should withdraw is Knightly too."

      Comment


      • #4
        As you said - check for worms, check for ulcers. And have the vet pull blood for a CBC.
        "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - The Little Prince

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree with Jawa, that doesn't sound like much food. Our 23 year old pony, (before we had to put her down in December) was getting 1 1/4 lbs Timothy alfalfa cubes, 1 1/2 pounds beet pulp and 1 lb of Blue Seal Senior Sentinel (soaked together) 3 times a day (lunch, dinner and late night,) plus another 2 lbs of the Senior soaked for breakfast, plus 1/2 lb of Rice Bran powder. She had tooth issues, so she got very little hay, just 5 lbs of 2nd cut a day. Total feed for this 700 pound pony was 18.75 pounds. Normally we feed 2% of the horse's body weight (most of that in forage) but for her this would have been 14 pounds of feed. She looked really good over the summer, but stopped eating this fall. I'd suggest weighing what your horse is getting and figure out the percentage of her desired body weight. But I would also give her a lot more beet pulp, and maybe up the soaked cubes as well. If you are worried about the alfalfa, you can do the 50/50 timothy alfalfa cubes or even totally timothy cubes. My vet says not to feed corn oil, it's the wrong kind of fat and can actually be harmful. Upping the rice bran is a good idea. You might want to add an iron supplement, Red Cell helped my pony a lot. You could do blood work for anemia and kidney function as well, but I'm thinking she just needs more feed. Also - are you blanketing? They can lose a ton of weight just keeping warm! All my oldsters are heavily blanketed. (Although it's probably colder here than it is there!) One more thing to check in this recent cold snap is water intake. My old guys won't drink cold water in the winter.
          blogging at HN: http://www.horsenation.com/
          check out my writing: http://jeseymour.com
          Just out: http://www.barkingrainpress.org/dd-p...ead-poisoning/

          Comment


          • #6
            Really not that much feed for a hard keeper. My hard keeper would likely lose wt during winter on this amount of feed too.

            Suggestions other than mentioned...

            1) slowly increase oil to 2 cups per day and swtich from corn oil to crude soybean oil (which is lecithin rich) and better for an ulcer prone horse

            2) turn that handful of soak alfalfa cubes slowly into a scoop (as in a standard 3 qt scoop so around 3 lbs) of soaked alfalfa pellets 2 daily

            3) turn that cup of soaked BP into a scoop of soaked BP 2x daily.

            If these and following thru with the other posters mentioned suggestion do not work then consider switching to a senior ration.

            Comment


            • #7
              I would do a number of things differently. I've never seen this not work.

              1. Pick a not molasses based complete senior feed that can be fed without forage. I like Tribute's Maturity line. Blue Seal makes a nice feed as well, though I can't get it in Indiana. Add water and make this into a mush at least at first to put the weight back on. If her teeth are still good (my 20something mare's teeth are still good, but I've known others who's aren't) you can feed it dry once the weight's back on.

              2. Hay pellets of some kind, can be just grass hay if alfalfa makes your horse a loon also made into a mush.

              3. As much hay as you can possibly get her to eat.

              Comment


              • #8
                My 24 y/o TB started losing weight this past fall. She's on 24/7 pasture and her teeth aren't that great so she doesn't do more than pick at hay. Vet did bloodwork and fecal count and we ended up doing a Panacur powerpak and the vet changed her feeding plan. She currently gets 18lbs of complete senior feed, broken up into 3 feedings with a quarter cup alfalfa pellets. Everything gets weighed. The cost of the senior feed is killing me, but she's finally filling out and gaining weight.

                I would speak with your vet about coming up with a different feeding plan.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Agree that it doesn't sound like much food for a horse in work who is a known hard keeper.

                  TC Senior is a nice low NSC feed that is pretty easy to get a hold of. I would say that she should be getting a couple of pounds of higher calorie feed twice per day.
                  A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                  Might be a reason, never an excuse...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    TC Senior and alfalfa. It's been my experience that alfalfa really does't make them hot if they need the calories, but first have her teeth floated.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'd up the beet pulp, flax and rice bran a bunch- my now 17 yo OTTB gets 1 1/2 coffee cans of beet pulp pellets which are then soaked with a 1/2 can of ground flax- this fluffs up to be 2/3 of a 5 gallon pail full. This is served 2X day, along with all the hay he cares to stuff down his neck. He is nice and round on this, and has had this as his major feeding plan for about the past 8 years.
                      Rationplus for Horses is also great for weight and overall gut health.
                      Last edited by littlecreek; Jan. 31, 2013, 12:37 PM. Reason: wanted to add something

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I have an OTTB who was very thin (6 months off the track) when I got him. He was wormed, teeth floated, etc., and I tried everything to get him to gain weight for the first 3 months. Senior feed, beet pulp, rice bran, oil, on and on and on. He didn't change at all. Finally, I took him off everything except for coastal hay and alfalfa in three forms...soaked alfalfa cubes 5lbs AM/PM, alfalfa pellets 2 lbs 2X per day, and 2 flakes of good alfalfa, plus cool calories. He turned completely around in 2 weeks. He began putting weight on across his topline (no longer a tent shape) and filled out everywhere that he should be filled out. After about 5 weeks, I had to back off the alfalfa, because he was getting too fat. I gradually weaned him onto coastal and Safe and Sound. He gets about 10-12 lbs of it now, and looks very good. I do not like alfalfa pellets due to the choke factor that sometimes occurs, but the soaked alfalfa cubes with the cool calories is what I think made the change. So, my "go to" to put on weight would be some variation of the amount of soaked alfalfa cubes and cool calories. I think horses need "green". Just my recent experience. My horse is 9. All horses are different of course.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          My 28 yr old TB gets 10lbs of TC Senior and about 20 lbs of of very good orchard/alfalfa hay. He looks fabulous but he's definitely eating more calories than your mare.
                          "Sometimes you just have to shut up and color."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I won't even go into what my 31-y-o Arab eats, but my 25-y-o TB just sort of melted away last winter and we did a complete overhaul on his lifestyle, and this year he looks great. Our winters are much harder than yours so first line of defense was to put him in a stall overnight with as much hay as he would reasonably eat. Next I put him on Ultium twice a day, probably 6 lb total, and that made a HUGE difference - he was burning fewer calories indoors at night, didn't have to compete for hay, and he LOVES his bucket-o-mush. This year he had tooth problems, so I ended up changing things again. This winter he gets a scoop (probably 2 lbs) of the barn's pellet feed in the morning, at turn in he gets 2 lb Ultium plus 1 lb dry beet pulp (a big square scoop when it's dry, then soaked) and at bedtime he gets 2 or 3 lbs of soaked hay cubes plus another scoop of the barn's feed. And all the hay he can eat, which seems to be about 3 flakes overnight plus free choice when turned out. For us, this is a nice mix between feed that the barn provides with our board and stuff I have to buy separately.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My horse (almost 19 yrs) had no symptoms of ulcers but I couldn't get her to gain weight - no matter how much I was feeding. And it was a LOT. She looked really terrible but was acting perfectly normal and going great under saddle.

                              Turns out she had hind gut ulcers. Once we treated that she started looking better immediately.

                              Can you up the amount of soaked cubes you are feeding? At one point I was feeding 15 pounds of them a day as recommended by my vet for the ulcers. Rice bran pellets are also great.

                              However, once I treated the underlying problem she didn't need all that extra food. She's now in perfect weight and doesn't even eat a ton of food.

                              Definitely check with your vet. I waited too long thinking I could just give her more and more food!

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Thank you all for the replies! Reading them has been very helpful. Water is added to each meal and we wait a few minutes before serving it and the entire mix fluffs up to 1/2 of a 5 gallon bucket.

                                Just to clarify: She is blanketed (I am a blanket nazi so she's changed at least twice daily) and is fed what I listed above twice a day - that's not a total per day feeding, it's a per feeding amount. Everything is measured into scoops so there's no guesstimating but I will go weigh the grain amount today and report back.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I would double check teeth, too. If she was only hand-floated 8-9 months ago, she could have issues in back, a loose/decayed tooth, etc.

                                  We had a 14yo mare that kept losing weight at our barn, and it took three dentals (and the super-professional comes-with-his-own-dental-trailer vet/dentist) to sort it out -- she had an unopposed tooth that would lock into the gap in the other jaw, and didn't let her chew properly. One that was dealt with, she had a lot of gingivitis/ loose teeth due to quids of half-chewed food being in her mouth, needed a few extractions and still needs semi-annual floats now.

                                  So a thorough dental check might be worthwhile.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    I weighed everything this afternoon. At each feeding she is getting:

                                    1 C (5 oz) beet pulp, which is then soaked
                                    2 oz flax seed
                                    1 C Empower - 6.65oz
                                    4.4 oz dry (8.5 oz soaked) alfalfa cubes
                                    1/3 C corn oil
                                    2.3 lbs tri-county high fiber grain

                                    I spoke with the vet who is coming out in the morning to draw bloodwork, send off a fecal, check our feeding protocol, etc. I've also got a call into my dentist to schedule a float sooner rather than later. Thank you for the suggestions, everyone!

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      I weighed everything this afternoon. At each feeding she is getting:

                                      1 C (5 oz) shredded beet pulp, which is then soaked
                                      2 oz flax seed
                                      1 C (6.65 oz) Empower boost rice bran
                                      4.4 oz dry (8.5 oz soaked) alfalfa cubes
                                      1/3 C corn oil
                                      2.3 lbs tri-county high fiber grain

                                      I spoke with the vet who is coming out in the morning to draw bloodwork, send off a fecal, check our feeding protocol, etc. I've also got a call into my dentist to schedule a float sooner rather than later. Thank you for the suggestions, everyone!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Certainly double check teeth. If it was just a hand float chances are there is a lot of work that may need to be done to get things correct. Good luck!

                                        Comment

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