Tips from LAPS for owners of underweight horses:
LAPS has rehabilitated hundreds of horses that have been surrendered to, or seized by our Humane Agents. We have successfully increased their body conditions and sent them out to new homes. If your horse is underweight we have some tips for you that will help you bring your horse back to a good body weight.
1. Have your horse examined by an equine vet. The vet can determine if the poor body condition of the horse is caused by illness or lack of proper nutrition. Follow the advice of the vet to rehab your horse.
2. Worm the horse. Preferably you will give your vet a fecal sample to check for the type & magnitude of parasite infestation. Your vet can then advise you on when to safely worm the horse and which type of wormer to use.
3. Have your horse’s teeth checked by an equine dentist or your vet. Have dental work done to make chewing more comfortable for your horse & to aid in digestion.
4. Add grain to your horse’s diet to add increased calories. Several types of feed work well for an underweight horse. A Senior feed combines protein, fat & fiber in a complete feed that can be fed without hay if the horse has trouble chewing. Follow the directions on the bag for the correct amount to feed. If the horse has trouble chewing soak the feed to soften it.
5. Beet Pulp is a good source of digestible fiber. It can also be used as a partial replacement for hay. Make sure to soak it for at least 15 minutes prior to feeding.
6. Consider adding an additional fat source to the horse’s diet. Rice bran or a product such as Purina’s Amplify can help you to safely add extra calories.
7. Divide the amount of grain you feed per day into as many small meals as possible. Smaller meals are easier on your horse’s digestive system.
8. Feed free choice, high quality hay. Hay should be soft, green and free of dust and mold. The horse should have access to it at all times. Hay cubes and alfalfa pellets can also be fed. Make sure they are well soaked before feeding.
9. Separate the thin horse from other horses for grain meals. The horse needs plenty of time to eat without being pressured by other horses.
10. When feeding hay to more than one horse put out more hay piles than there are horses. Make sure the piles are far enough from each other that they cannot be guarded by a dominant horse.
11. Make sure the horse has access to shelter. If a run-in shed is shared by several horses watch their behavior to make sure that a dominant horse is not keeping the others out of the shed. Shelter is also important in the summer as it provides shade and protection from flies. A horse that is constantly shaking its head and stamping flies will burn more calories than a horse standing quietly.
12. A waterproof blanket will help an underweight horse conserve calories in cold weather.
13. Clean water should always be available.