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This is how you treat an underweight horse

You are what you eat. And that goes for horses too. If your horse is too skinny, chances are that his diet is not up to scratch. Given that extreme weight loss can be life-threatening for your four-legged friend, it is essential that you act fast. In this blog we explain how you can help an underweight horse to recover.

Written by
Valerie de Clerck
Published

STEP ONE — check whether your horse is too skinny

If you’re worried about your horse or pony’s weight, use the
Body Condition Score (BCS)
.
This is a handy, relatively simple way to visually assess your horse’s fat and muscles.

STEP TWO — figure out why your horse is too skinny

The most common
causes
of weight loss in horses and ponies are: anorexia, a need for extra energy, malnutrition, malabsorption, and parasites.

STEP THREE — treat your horse

1. Tackle the underlying problems

If your horse is too skinny, you should first of all give your vet a call. Low body weight may be a sign of illness or parasites. Also get him to check your four-legged friend’s teeth because dental problems can lead to weight loss.

2. Take a good look at your horse’s diet

Underlying conditions treated or excluded? Time to take a good look at your horse or pony’s diet. The most important thing: sufficient high-quality roughage (hay and grass).
When in doubt, contact
UGent
for an in-depth analysis. Certain feed producers also offer a service that assesses the concentration of the various nutrients in hay and grain.

3. Adjust your horse’s diet

It is essential that you tailor your horse’s diet to his specific needs. For instance, older horses with dental problems will benefit from roughage in the form of short grass fibres (e.g. Just Grass), in combination with a wet mash (e.g. Zupa from Equifyt) and
vegetal oil (e.g. BCS Mix).
On the other hand, horses with a higher energy need will require plenty of calories, which is why they are often fed large quantities of grain.
The downside: grain is high in sugars, a risk factor in gastrointestinal conditions (such as colic) and laminitis.
Does your horse have a higher energy need? Avoid an abundance of grain and give him
vegetable oils
for sustained energy. Choose one with a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids and a low amount of omega-6 fatty acids (
BCS Mix
for example). So corn oil is better used for frying chips than for feeding your horse.
Bonus: also his performance will be given a boost. On top of that,
vegetable oils
have a host of other benefits.
  • Hello, lovely shiny coat!
  • They will give your horse the extra energy he needs without making him jittery.
  • Your horse will generate less heat while training, causing him to sweat less.
  • Your horse’s breathing will be less laboured while exercising, which, in turn, will help him to recover faster.
  • Vegetable oils have a glucose-sparing effect during exercise. This means that his muscles will use fat as their main source of energy, leaving plenty of glucose for your horse’s brain which will do wonders for his focus.
Treat your horse to a daily dose of
BCS Mix
, a plant-based nutritional supplement with a high DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) content. Ideal to help your skinny horse put on some weight and boost his gut health. Cheers!