Condition and Weight Loss

You have probably reached this page because your horse has been losing weight, become skinny and thin and is lacking condition.

Horses drop weight, lose condition and become thin and poor because of an inadequate supply of essential nutrients! The fat cover is used up first to meet your horse’s daily energy requirement. When that is exhausted muscle and other high-protein tissue gets broken down, leading in extremis to the poor example below.

Horseheath Nutrition products have been used very successfully for many years to promote weight gain and restore lost condition to thin horses, and then maintain it.
Causes of Equine Weight Loss

Human error – Underfeeding! If in doubt seek advice – you should invest in weighing equipment – many feed merchants and tack shops stock spring balances for weighing hay nets and kitchen scales can be used for feed scoops.

Insufficient/Poor quality protein: Muscle consists of protein. Proteins consist of amino acids. All animals require a daily supply of suitable quality protein (must contain enough essential amino acids, e.g. lysine, methionine, etc) to maintain muscle and other protein. Hard working or growing animals have a much greater need for good quality protein.

Illness suppressing appetite or impairing digestion: e.g. gut tumours, colic, scour, gastric and colonic ulcers, ” leaky gut” (see Scour) etc.  Consult your vet.

Stress: e.g. bullying, travelling. Stallions are notoriously prone to weight loss during the covering season.

Worn or damaged teeth preventing a horse chewing its food properly, impairing food digestion.

Inadequate worming – serious damage can be caused to the gut, liver and blood vessels, which will cause condition and weight loss (as above) and ultimately death. Do not omit tapeworm from your worming programme!

Other parasites e.g. lice, mange, etc can in extremis have a debilitating effect.

Age – A horse’s digestive system will become less efficient over time. A number of veterans, including some toothless geriatrics (equine) have had their lives extended considerably with Horseheath products.

Restoring Condition

1. Address the management problems listed above.
2. Check the diet –  if necessary complete the nutrition section of the website’s contact form so that John Chapman can evaluate it. Ensure good quality forage is available ad-lib.
3. Increase the protein and energy content of your horse’s feed by adding full fat soya and/or micronised (cooked) linseed to the diet. The latter is of particular benefit to the veteran. Other quality sources include copra, milk powder, cooked peas and cooked beans.
4. If the condition loss is only moderate, simply increasing the supply of current feed may suffice, or switch to a good conditioning mix or nut.
5. Exercise your horse regularly, with sufficient intensity to encourage muscle re-growth.

A horse requires a minimum of 1.5% of its body weight per day of dry fibre to keep its gut working properly. A 500 kg horse will therefore need about 8.5kg (12.5lb) of hay (12% moisture content) or 11 kg of haylage (30% moisture). In practice it will need rather more (to satisfy its chewing urge) and can eat up to around 3% of its body weight in fibre. A typical small hay bale weighs around 20kg/44lb; a stabled horse will normally require around 1/2 bale/day. If in doubt weigh your hay net!  Especially if you are feeding hay or haylage from large bales.

Significant weight loss will involve muscle wastage; weight gain requires top quality protein, which you will find in products such as full-fat soya and full-fat cooked linseed meal ( ground whole grain – ready to use) and copra.   Linseed flakes, lozenges & pellets are the high protein (35%) residue, after most of the oil has been extracted. They are a useful source of protein but will need balancing with more energy. Cooked peas and beans are useful, but lower quality sources of protein. Milk powder is a very high quality source of both protein and energy, albeit rather more expensive.

Suitable products are available from Gravenhorse Feeds
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