Underweight Horses

As horses age, so do their needs. What once worked well, may not work anymore. You may be feeding the same as you always have, but suddenly your senior horse isn’t maintaining his weight. Winter is coming and you don’t know if he’ll make it through. Assuming nothing is medically wrong, what can you do?

Horses can consume 1 ½ % – 2% of their body weight per day in forage. For a 1000 lb. horse that’s 15-20 pounds of hay/pasture per day. If your horse is underweight, weigh his hay and make sure he is consuming enough. Sometimes an underweight horse is just not eating enough hay.

If your horse lives in a herd, you may need to separate him at feeding time so you can monitor how much hay he is eating.

In addition, consider high quality hay for your senior horse. As they age, they don’t have the same wiggle room they had when they were younger.

One senior horse I have came to me with his ribs beginning to show. I took him off all grain, and put him on 20 pounds of high quality hay per day. (He is 1100 lbs.) It’s been several years now, and he has been able to maintain his weight on hay and pasture alone.

Another senior horse I have can no longer chew hay, so he gets soaked hay pellets. Again, I feed him 15 pounds of pellets per day. (He is 1000 lbs.). He also maintains his weight well.

While there are other ways to help a horse put on weight, I prefer to start with high quality forage at 1 ½ – 2 % of their body weight. Once this need is met, it’s amazing to see how senior horses respond. Sometimes that’s all they needed.

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