Ask the Vet – Tips and tricks to get a horse to gain weight
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Ask the Vet – Tips and tricks to get a horse to gain weight

August 24, 2019


SARAH: Jenna.and.Ginger are asking, “My horse
has a lot of trouble gaining weight. Do you have any tips and tricks?” So the opposite situation we were just in. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. So did you know I used to work for a horse
rescue? SARAH: I did. DR LYDIA GRAY: OK. SARAH: I did know that about you. DR LYDIA GRAY: So I have a lot of tips and
tricks for getting horses to gain weight. The first one is you’ve got to get the veterinarian
out, because there are lots of reasons why a horse might be thin or have trouble maintaining
or holding weight that are medical in nature. In fact, I went to a CE yesterday, and we
talked about one. So I had forgotten about that one. SARAH: What’s a CE? DR LYDIA GRAY: Continuing education. SARAH: Thank you. DR LYDIA GRAY: So it’s where vets go to keep
up with the latest and greatest and the new things. And one of the trainings was on Equine Herpes
Virus, which I know is huge. So you’ve got to get the vet out. And once you have the all-clear, then you
look at the diet and you say, am I feeding the right amount? And am I feeding the right– so that’s quantity–
quality? So some examples are, we like to feed about
2% of a horse’s body weight. You like math, right? SARAH: I do. So we like to feed about 2% of a horse’s body
weight in forage. So if it’s 1,000-pound horse– I’m putting
you on the spot here. SARAH: 20 pounds. DR LYDIA GRAY: It’s 20 pounds, right. So 20 pounds of hay, which means you have
to weigh your hay. And you can use a luggage scale, a fish scale. But you put the couple flakes in a hay net,
and you weigh it. You don’t just go, hmm, looks like– that’s
quantity. And then quality– it can’t be hay from like
three years ago and it’s brown and dusty. I mean, it should be fresh and good-smelling
and green and bright. There’s also grain. There’s a host of grain choices– not only
companies, brands, but types of grain. And the important thing there is to feed the
minimum that’s on the bag so that you’re getting the vitamins, minerals, and the protein. In this case, you probably also want the calories
from the grain. And so there are grains that range from hardly
any calories– and therefore the question before, right? SARAH: Sure. DR LYDIA GRAY: And then there are grains that
have a lot of calories. They’re very calorie-dense, is what we call
them. And so that’s one. But then other tips and tricks are things
like feeding more than twice a day. I go out to a rescue place. And then I’d see a horse in a dry lot. And it was thin. And the person’s like, well, I just can’t
get him to gain weight. And I’m thinking that there’s no food in front
of him. So they had to have food in front of them. And that’s why I like– this is going to sound
crazy. I swear I’m not crazy– small hole hay net. SARAH: Oh. DR LYDIA GRAY: Right? You didn’t see that coming, did you? SARAH: Restricting access to food for a horse
that’s having trouble gaining weight, it feels like a surprise. DR LYDIA GRAY: It does. But here’s why it works– because that’s how
mother nature intends horses to eat, just small amounts all the time, because that’s
how their digestive system is made. They secrete acid all the time. So these horses– it turns out that that horse
that needs to gain weight does so with a small hole hay net because they’re eating all the
time, versus a big meal here that their small, 2-gallon stomach can’t handle and then a big
meal later. But if you keep a small hole hay net in front
of them all the time, they’re eating all the time. And they don’t have these peaks and valleys
and spikes and troughs, but food is present all the time. And it’s fresh food because it’s not trampled-on
hay. And you’ve got to remove those reasons, too. What else? Oh, and so there are things like beet pulp,
hay cubes, hay pellets. Chopped hay is quite tasty, if I say so myself. SARAH: I want to know more about that later. DR LYDIA GRAY: Fat puts weight on some horses. The thing with these is you have to try something
for at least two weeks– maybe four weeks is better– because, again, like I say, every
horse is different. So fat might work in one horse, but it might
not work in another horse. So you just try it. Some horses respond really well to digestive
support, things like probiotics and prebiotics, yeast and enzymes. These things all work differently. But the main focus is they help digestive
efficiency. Does that make sense? SARAH: Yeah. DR LYDIA GRAY: They help the horse do his
job of breaking down and absorbing food. SARAH: Rather than just passing it right through. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah, they get more out of–
they’re able to extract more nutrition out of the food they’re getting. I mean, I could go on all day. SARAH: And then you’re getting more for your
money’s worth with what you’re paying for hay. DR LYDIA GRAY: Oh, my gosh. But look at, also, the environment. If you’ve got a horse that prefers to eat–
they’re social creatures, right? If you’ve got a horse that prefers to eat
with other horses and he’s not eating because he’s alone, that’s stressful. Then he’s losing calories, not gaining. Conversely, if you’ve got a horse that is
in a herd, but he’s low on the pecking order, then he’s not getting his fair share. So you have to take a lot into consideration
when you’ve got a horse who’s not gaining weight. Why? First, the vet. Then the quality and quantity of food. And then you keep opening the picture up,
the frame wire, and looking at other things. SARAH: I have several follow-up questions
for you. DR LYDIA GRAY: Oh, goodness. SARAH: The first one– so you said try something
for at least two weeks. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. SARAH: Would you recommend for this person,
similarly to the person before, keeping that journal of the weight tape and the body condition
scoring? DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah, I would. SARAH: So that you can see trends. And then that way, you’re objectively evaluating
how your horse is responding, rather than saying, ah, I think he feels better this week. DR LYDIA GRAY: Right. And this is a person, too, that needs to body
condition score and weight tape so they have those hard, objective numbers in that journal
along with things they tried. Because there might be three, four, five things
they have to try to find the one that works. And you don’t want to forget what you already
did.

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  1. #AskTheVet I own a 25 year old arabian gelding. when he walks, his back legs hit his front legs and it leaves a nasty mark. Although it used to bleed, it does not anymore. i think he is still in pain when he walks though. would bell-boots help? if so, what bellboot would you recommend from SmartPak?

    -Thank you so much!!!!!!!!

  2. also for anyone reading through the comments,, I own a hard keep tb and along with hay and complete pellets, she gets milled soy with her special (high natural fat) supplement feed, it's worked great for me(:

  3. ALL horses should be paddock kept .. if you keep your horse in a stall how can you expect it to be healthy

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