“Hard keeper” is the term given to horses who require all the groceries they can get to avoid getting thin. Many of these horses have a faster metabolism that just seems to burn up all the energy you feed them with nothing left over for fat storage. If your horse is a hard keeper, their diet is likely at the forefront of your mind year-round. But as the cooler seasons approach, you must take the necessary steps to avoid winter weight loss. These are our top tips to help your horse gain weight and keep that weight on throughout the colder months.
The first step you should always take if you notice your horse is looking thin is to have the vet look them over. Sometimes weight loss is more than just a “hard keeper” situation. Stomach ulcers could be reducing appetite or preventing nutrient absorption. Or, parasites could be stealing all those extra nutrients you’ve been feeding. Getting these issues ruled out or treated first is most important. Treatment with Ulcergard or Dewormers first will ensure your weight gain efforts are not in vain.
Getting your horse’s teeth checked by the equine dentist regularly is a necessity for all horses, but even more so for hard keepers. If they are past due for a floating, it could prevent them from chewing all their food properly, reducing nutrient absorption. Or, if they are in pain or discomfort, it could result in appetite loss, and they will not want to eat all their food. Along with the veterinary exam, you just want to rule out any more severe issues before turning your focus to diet.
Adjust Your Feeding Frequency
Besides the more obvious variable feeding amount is another important thing to consider in your feeding routine. That is feeding frequency. Naturally, horses are grazers – their bodies are designed for smaller meals, more often throughout the day. If your horse is digesting too big of meals at once, it can reduce the rate of nutrient absorption and storage, as well as disrupt digestive health. It becomes especially important to keep your horse’s feeding schedule in mind if they are a hard keeper. Instead of just two meals a day, consider breaking down the meals to add lunch as well.
Additionally, a Slow Feed Hay Net, such as this one from Weaver, is the perfect way to promote natural foraging. Instead of mowing through their breakfast of hay in an hour or two, the smaller holes help them eat slower, allowing them to digest properly. These nets are also a great way to reduce waste and ensure your horse eats all their hay before making a mess in it.
Now, Add Fat
More grain is not always the answer for upping those calories. In fact, too much grain can upset your horse’s digestive tract. Instead, add a supplement with highly concentrated healthy fats. Adding fat to your horse’s diet is probably the easiest adjustment to make when you see them dropping weight. This will help increase energy storage and is the easiest way to increase caloric intake now that you’ve ruled out other issues.
Rice bran, such as this Hygain RBO is the perfect way to add calories with Omega fatty acids, natural antioxidants, and fiber – one of the most important energy sources for horses. It also increases oxidative capacity, making this an excellent option for performance horses
Cavalor WholeGain is another excellent high-fat supplement. It contains vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids to improve body condition, topline, and coat health. It also contains prebiotics and probiotics for gut health, which is essential for proper nutrient absorption. Hold on, we’ll get more into this in just a minute!
Equine Mega Gain from O3 Animal Health is another excellent weight gain supplement that contains “calm calories” for our easily excited ponies. This perfect blend of Omega 3’s, 6’s, and 9’s provides your horse with good fats and extra calories without making them hot.
Don’t Leave Out Digestive Support!
This is an often-overlooked component of helping your horse gain weight. But if you think about it, there’s no point in increasing feed and supplements if they aren’t properly digested and metabolized anyways. Proper breakdown and storage of these nutrients are what really help your horse pack on the pounds. Probiotics, yeast, and enzymes are all important components of your horse’s diet. This will also keep them comfortable with an increased feed intake.
Cavalor Vitaflora contains live yeast cultures and prebiotics to support healthy populations of “good” bacteria in your horse’s intestinal tract. This supplement promotes digestion and overall hindgut health to maintain a healthy intestinal pH and maximize nutrient absorption.
Grand Meadows Postbiotics offers multifunctional digestive support as well as immune support. It will enhance fiber breakdown, stabilize hindgut pH, and improve the delivery of nutrients. This supplement also contains rice bran and mineral oil, making it an excellent addition to the hard keeper’s diet.
You can shop a list of weight gain products available at FarmVet HERE. Or, shop all our products at FarmVet.com 24/7. You can also call one of our friendly Sales Associates at 1-888-837-3626 or email your order to email@example.com.
Weight loss can very commonly be related to Ulcers. Want to learn more? Read our blog HERE for more information and treatment options!