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  • Q:

    I have a Quarter Horse gelding in his mid-20s that needs to gain more weight. He spends about half his time stalled and the other on pasture. He is in light work six or seven hours a week, nothing strenuous. He’s fed 10 lb (4.5 kg) of a high-fiber feed and 2 lb (0.9 kg) of rice bran per day with as much hay and pasture as chooses to consume. He seems to be gaining weight little by little on this diet. I am worried about his forage intake at night, as he seems to consume less at that time. I’d like to add some calories to his nighttime diet. Thoughts?

  • A:

    How would you rate the quality of hay your gelding consumes? Hay quality can affect palatability and rate of intake. Older horses often prefer forage with fine, flexible stems and soft leaves, which is usually indicative of early-maturity hay. Some may not touch mature hay, regardless of the quality. Not knowing specific information about the hay you’re feeding, other than he has free-choice access, makes it difficult to offer advice, but I can give some general recommendations.

    In selecting hay for your gelding, choose an early-maturity hay with a high leaf-to-stem ratio. Early-maturity hays deliver more digestible energy per bite. A mixed hay with alfalfa or another legume would also be appropriate. You could also provide him with alfalfa cubes or chopped forage, alternative forage sources that are typically well made.

    There is a limit to the amount of feed and forage horses will consume daily. The upper range is considered to be 2.5-3% of body weight. Just the concentrate portion of his diet (12 lb or 5.5 kg) is providing 1.25% of his body weight, which you reported to be 950 lb (432 kg), so his lack of interest in hay when stalled could be due to him reaching his maximal feed intake for the day. Older horses sometimes display reduced feed intake.

    Horses that struggle to maintain a healthy weight despite receiving high-calorie diets benefit from daily digestive health products that support optimal health and digestive function. EquiShure is one such product; it is a unique digestive buffer that features a protective coating to ensure its delivery to the hindgut. EquiShure supports fiber digestion and potentially improves feed efficiency. EquiShure supplementation has been beneficial for both performance and senior horses that need weight gain without clinical signs of digestive upset.

    In addition to these suggestions, it might be beneficial to have your gelding evaluated by a veterinarian. As horses advance in age, teeth often become diseased and fall out. This makes chewing forage difficult, if not impossible. Horses with severe dental issues or tooth loss will be unable to derive nutrients from traditional forages, including hay, so special provisions have to be made for these horses.

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