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Under weight horse, what am I doing wrong?- update

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  • Under weight horse, what am I doing wrong?- update

    2 week update: very pleased, definite weight gain, still a ways to go but I'm happy with our progress, thanks for all your advice!

    2/14 - pre-diet overhaul

    2/28 - post diet overhaul

    Still more ribby than this pic shows but I'm ok with his progress thus far! Apologies for the post poop pic lol

    My gelding was in great weight over the spring/summer/fall, then dropped a TON of weight late fall. He was living out 24/7 in a group of 6 gelding on a round bale, I fed grain 1x a day. We got some bad hay about the same time the weather turned cold, that's when he started dropping weight

    I moved barns 5 weeks ago to full care (I provide feed though) to see if that would help. So far I swear he's lost more weight! What should I do??? Does he just need more time?

    He's a 9yr old TB, 16h. Light to moderate work. Has a bit of a trace clip (just sides, last barn was heated) but is blanketed and inside over night.

    Split into AM/PM this is what he's getting right now:
    8-10 flakes of hay (moderate quality)
    5.5lbs Purena SafeChoice Perform
    1/2 cup Calf Manna (just been on it a week)
    Ranitidine - just in case

    I've been increasing his grain slowly, he was getting 2 lbs a day before I moved, we're up to the 5.5lbs now.

    I'm going to buy some bags of alfalfa pellets, as I can't get access to alfalfa hay right now.

    He gets turned out alone, from about 9am-6pm, i've started setting 2 flakes of hay out in his turnout for him with the BM's permission.

    The only other thing is he's due for his teeth to be done in the spring, but he's eating well, no issues with his bit. Help please? I feel like such a failure of an owner!!
    Last edited by NErider; Mar. 1, 2013, 12:53 AM.
    Team Ginger

  • #2

    I'm not sure how much you mean by a ton of weight. Just to be on the safe side, since it does not look like you are doing anything wrong, you may want to get him checked out by a vet/blood work drawn. Any sudden drop in weight would make me question what is going on with him health wise (and he is still young too), maybe it is not something you are doing. Good luck!!


    • #3
      "8 - 10 flakes of hay" means nothing to anyone reading this. How much is that by weight?
      "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


      • Original Poster

        I'm not sure, I will take a scale out tonight and see if I can weight myself holding the hay lol. It is nearly half a bale, but the hay we've all been able to get this year has been scare and less than fantastic.

        Ton of weight would be no ribs to clear ribs. Last year he did the same thing, we treated him for ulcers/worms but he also got a vitamin b-complex shot, but last year he wasn't eating, this year he's a vacuum.
        Team Ginger


        • #5
          Definitely weigh the hay. My first "batch" of hay this year, 8 flakes was around 25lbs. With my new hay, its only about 18. Big difference!

          Could you try something like Triple Crown Senior? Ive had luck getting weight on with that.
          Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
          White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

          Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.


          • #6
            Is he finishing his hay? Going by flakes is a hard way to judge quantity. When dealing with a horse's diet you are concerned about, you might want to start weighing your hay. Use a hay net, get your hands on a hanging scale, and weigh it. If he is finishing every scrap. the increase it by 2-3 ponds a day until he leaves a handful.

            Five pounds of grain a day isn't a whole lot, but you certainly don't want to get him high. I would focus on the hay, quality and quantity.

            The initial weight loss would make me wonder whether with bad hay and the competition for the edible bits, he just lost out.

            I'm assuming he is up to date with his deworming.
            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


            • Original Poster

              I Powerpaked him 3 weeks ago, his panels were clear this fall too but I did it just in case. I will get a hay net tonight and weigh the hay, the hay does seem "light."
              Team Ginger


              • #8
                My rules when feeding skinny TBs:

                1. More hay! More hay! More hay!
                2. More forage products!
                3. More fat!
                4. More protein!
                5. Add even more hay!

                One thing that jumped out at me: he was being turned out from 9am to 6pm with no hay? And now he's only getting "2 flakes" out there? That long stretch without forage is going to wreak havoc on his GI tract, even while on ranitidine. If it's only possible for him to get 2 flakes when outside, maybe you can put it in a slow-feed hay net so it lasts all day. Is there at least grass to nibble on?

                I agree with everyone who said weigh the hay-- what can look like a lot of hay in volume can weigh much less than anticipated. Make sure he's getting offered at least 2% of his body weight in hay a day (about 20lbs for a 1000lb horse). Thoroughbreds in general have higher metabolisms than your average horse and many do NOT tolerate being short-changed in the hay department.

                This is *my* personal experience, but I've never had a horse thrive on Nutrena feed products. There are plenty of higher quality commercial feeds on the market-- Triple Crown is a good suggestion from AliCat518. Many TBs do exceptionally well on their Senior and Low Starch products. Do you know what other feed companies are available at your barn or in your area?

                I like your idea of adding in alfalfa pellets-- that really helps many thin TBs. You increase calories from forage sources and increase protein. Beet pulp, hay cubes, or chopped hay (like Lucerne Farms) are also great. Any of the above can be used pound per pound to replace "missing" hay from a diet.

                Adding fat can really boost calories and energy. Many people add oil-- oil is 100% fat and very calorie dense. Personally, I prefer adding high-fat feed sources like stabilized rice bran or extruded fat. I feel like I get better results.

                Good luck with your horse... winter can be hard when there's no grass and hay is limited. I'll bet come spring he'll probably start turning around no matter what.
                Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                • #9
                  Can you get a hay analysis done? it may be high sugar, low protein, low digestibility, & then that "half a bale" doesn't mean much, especially if it's only a 50lb - 70lb bale.

                  How much fat can you add into his diet & still have him eat all his rations - I prefer whole "feeds" such as flax, BOSS but many people just add oil (it's pure fat & cheap - though some horses will only eat limited amounts).

                  I'd definitely consider ulcers (cold weather can precipitate or worsen existing ulcers), don't assume the Ranitidine is effective, but also try Omeprazole at full dose for at least 1-2 weeks (some horses respond within a few days, other horses need an entire month before you see significant change) - obviously scoping is more efficient but can also be very $$$$ depending on location.

                  Most horses I know prefer the Alfalfa cubes over the pellets so maybe pick up both.


                  • #10
                    I would add more hay (alfalfa?) and definitely suspect ULCERS! I know he is on ranitidine but have you tried him on GG or Succeed?
                    "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

                    Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue


                    • #11
                      My steps when I have a skinny one:

                      Worm for encysted strongyles (power pak or Quest)
                      Worm for tapes
                      Free choice hay
                      Some alfalfa
                      High quality grain

                      5 1/2 lbs of grain a day is nothing for a horse that's skinny and needs weight. Depending on what you're feeding, that's one 3 qt scoop to a one and a half 3 qt scoop a day? I'd be feeding that much twice a day, plus working up to a cup of oil in the grain with each feeding, too.

                      I'm also a little confused about what sort of grain you're feeding him. SafeChoice is a Nutrena product, not Purina?


                      • #12
                        A good way to calculate how much feed in pounds that you need to put weight on a horse, is to figure out what he weighs and what you want him to weigh at his ideal weight, then feed him as if he weighs the weight you want him to be. If your horse weighs 1,000lbs, but you want him to weigh 1200lbs..feed him at the recommended weight rate for a 1200lb horse.

                        I had very good success putting weight on my OTTB (He was ribby, tent shaped topline and hindquarter, skinny neck with dip in front of withers, rough coat) after trying everything (Beet pulp, Empower, oats, senior, etc., and nothing worked)...by feeding him alfalfa in 3 forms...soaked alfalfa cubes, small alfalfa pellets that you do not need to soak, and alfalfa with his coastal, plus Cool Calories. That combo is what turned him around. They need "green". Once he gained the appropriate weight (which he did in all the right places quite quickly), I switched him gradually over to Safe N Sound (which is very similar to SafeChoice)...now he gets 10lb per day and lots of coastal (I'm in TX, and our hay has been less nutritious since the drought began). He is 16hh and 9 yrs old, and has been off the track for 1 year. He looks perfect now, but it took me months trying everything else..and of course teeth and worming.
                        Last edited by fairtheewell; Feb. 13, 2013, 02:46 PM.


                        • #13
                          I'd have the vet out again just in case. Aside from that weigh the hay like everyone said and see if he is getting enough. I would also switch him to triple crown senior to pack on some weight and it's easy to digest. I don't care for nutrena products myself.
                          Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                          • #14
                            for my TB who is difficult to keep weight on and a picky eater, I have always had luck with adding alfalfa or triple crown grass forage and rice bran pellets in additions to the 8-10 lb of grain and free choice quality hay he gets. Senior feed and Fibergize are great feeds as well to try as they are easy to digest so I think they get a lot out of them. I have also had luck with addng corn oil. when he was in full work he was on corn oil and rice bran for extra calories.

                            Make sure you are blanketing him with enough clothing. Some TB will loose weight trying to keep warm. My TB always has an one extra layer (extra 100-200gram blanket) on then every other horse when its below 40.


                            • Original Poster

                              I've weighed his grain to be 1 full scoop as about 2.7lbs, he gets 2 scoops a day of the Nutrena.

                              On that note...I think I made up a hybrid of Purina and Nutrena: Purena lol...yikes.

                              BM did say we can throw him hay during turnout, so I'm going to push that, I can even do it at night to save them some time. He does finish his breakfast by turn out time, so maybe we'll have to do 3-4 flakes outside (will weigh tonight).

                              I put him on the safe choice bc when he was at my trainer's last year, all he got was 1/2 safe choice 1/2 cracked corn, about 1 scoop a day and he packed on the lbs. My trainer's hay was also very nice and mixed with alfalfa, however. So I continued the Safe Choice. So you'd recommend a Senior instead, even though it has fewer calories and fat %?

                              Here is what he looked like over lunch today (just threw him some more hay too)http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y15...psbc0a532c.jpg

                              Here is what he looked like this fall, a little trimmer than i'd like but he was in full work

                              and him at his fattest ever, just so you know my poor horse isn't always starving lol... *tear*http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y15...ps44ac36ff.jpg
                              Team Ginger


                              • Original Poster

                                The brans I have available in my area are Purina, Nutrena, Dumor and Producer's Pride.
                                Team Ginger


                                • #17
                                  I've never fed Nutrena, but the protein and fat looks fine on what you're feeding. I would just feed MORE of it. I'd likely look to double what you're doing now, plus add some oil.

                                  Just for comparision, the OTTB I picked up this summer is doing nothing--she's not in work yet--but is eating a lovely grass-alfalfa mix hay free choice and gets about 7 lbs of TC Senior/day, plus a cup of oil, and that's what it takes to keep her looking good. I expect that I will have to up her when I bring her into full work.

                                  The note about keeping him warm is certainly valid, too.

                                  You may also want to try adding tri-amino, or another amino acid supplement. I've found it quite useful in aiding with building muscle.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Ok, looks like I'm swinging by TSC tonight and getting a hay net and alfalfa pellets to start with, and increasing his grain, and adding a third feeding of hay during turnout.
                                    Team Ginger


                                    • #19
                                      In the picture( #3) you call "fat" he looks good and nowhere near fat. I think he is losing weight because the hay he is eating (currently ) probably has very little nutrition. Maybe it is just the lighting from the picture but it looks to be the same color as the dirt? He is also not wearing a blanket ,has a short coat and is clipped and is burning needed calories to stay warm. I would do my best to get some decent quality forage in front of him 24/7 if possible.


                                      • #20
                                        You might try adding rice bran to his feed, very dense in fat. You can get that at TSC, I believe. My 35 yr old is eating Nutrena but we add about a cup of the rice bran (Envision) to her feedings.
                                        Is he blanketed, can you add a second liner or blanket? My gelding and his pasturemate both lost weight noticeably during a really cold 4-5 days. And they are both easy keepers.
                                        One more thought, especially if he eats off the ground, either grain or hay. Check to see if he has sand in his gut, you can do with a fecal test or drop off a sample at your vet. If he has a load, that will hamper his ability to absorb nutrition.