My 17-hand (172-cm) Hanoverian gelding, Potash, weighs about 1,000 lb (450 kg), and he looks far too skinny. He’d be a score of 3 on the body condition scorecard. His current ration includes grass during 23 hours of turnout, one flake of grass hay, 8 lb (3.6 kg) of a low-starch concentrate, 2/3 cup (5-6 oz) of corn oil, 1 cup flaxseed, electrolytes, and a joint supplement. His hooves are brittle, but his coat looks amazing. Potash is a hard-working horse, showing every weekend with only one day off a week.
Because pasture is the primary forage source in your gelding’s diet, it is important to assess if the quality and quantity are appropriate to provide him with the calories needed. If the pasture is low-grade because of the types of plants available (too many weeds) or the availability of forage (overgrazed), then more supplemental hay or hay products are needed. Forage should make up at least 50% of the diet, with greater proportions being more favorable to maintain digestive health and mental well-being.
Free-choice pasture is ideal for horses; however, because Potash is not maintaining his weight well, even with an appropriate amount of concentrate feed based on his exercise level, a review of his forage intake should be the first step. Maximizing your forage program may include offering free-choice grass hay; adding legume hays, such as clover or alfalfa; or making available forage alternatives such as beet pulp, a great source of energy and fermentable fiber.
Does Potash have a medical condition that requires the low-starch feed, or does he perform and behave better when fed this product? If controlled, low-starch levels are not required, then selecting a traditional performance feed that contains more nonstructural carbohydrates would be a suitable choice to provide the appropriate energy sources for exercise and weight gain.
Dietary fat can boost the caloric content of the diet without changing feeds or significantly increasing the amount of feed he gets. You can increase the amount of vegetable oil offered to 1-2 cups, so long as he will readily consume it. In certain management situations, top-dressing vegetable oil is not always the best option, but large amounts of vegetable oil can be replaced with high-fat dry products. Supplemental stabilized rice bran can also be given.
Other causes of weight loss should be considered and ruled out. These include parasite load, digestive disturbances, and dental conditions. Digestive disturbances can have a negative impact on the horse’s ability to utilize the digestible energy provided. A digestive buffer, such as RiteTrac, can help reduce the incidence of digestive upset in both the foregut and hindgut. Daily supplementation of RiteTrac fosters optimal digestive health and function in performance horses. RiteTrac is available in the U.S. and certain other markets. In Australia, look for these products.
Dividing Potash’s daily concentrate into three or four meals throughout the day can help reduce the risk of overwhelming the digestive system. Regular weight assessment with a weight-tape will help you keep track of Potash’s weight gain and make timely dietary changes to ensure he reaches and maintains his desired weight and condition. Based on his height and breed, I would estimate his target weight to be at least 1,400 lb (640 kg), with a body condition score of 5 or 6.
Bio•Bloom PS (Bio-Bloom in Australia) is a comprehensive hoof and coat supplement containing biotin, zinc, methionine, and iodine, formulated to be fed at 1 oz per day. Bio•Bloom PS provides the essential nutrients needed for strong and durable hooves. Improving hoof condition takes time, although visible signs of improvement at the coronet band are often seen in two to three months.
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