I see a lot of people asking how to put weight on their horse. So, here are some thing that I found really helpful:
1. Check for worms
Before you start dumping a bunch of money into food, test for worms so you aren’t feeding them instead of your horse. Running a fecal test is important to know what type of worms you might be up against and planning accordingly. Over deworming can cause resistant worms, so I only worm once every 3-4 months and I rotate what type I use. Typically I run fecals on my horses once a year – sometimes every other year.
If your horses teeth mean that they are unable to eat properly, then they won’t be able to intake the necessary food to obtain the correct caloric intake. Generally horses should get their teeth filed once a year – sometimes twice a year.
3. Feed as much forage as they can eat
Now, you need to work your way up to this so that your horse doesn’t get sick, but because a horse’s diet is supposed to be grass/hay, the best way to safely put weight on your horse is free choice hay and/or 24/7 pasture turn out.
4. Feed fats
As part of their meal, you can feed high fat foods. These will put weight on without the extra energy that additional grain will produce. For me, I like rice bran pellets because I have some picky eaters, but some horses do well with having corn oil added to their food.
5. More meals
Personally, I’m not comfortable feeding a horse more than 4 – 5 qts of feed per meal. So, to increase the grain I’m feeding a horse, often times I’ll need to feed them 3 meals instead of 2. In general, because horses are grazers, many small meals are healthier for them than a few large ones.
6. Know that your horse is an individual
Galahad only needed to get wormed when we got him in order to have him gain weight. (This took a full Panacur Power Pac) other horse’s are a little trickier. Sometimes he horse is really under muscled and need more protein in their diet to build themselves up. Other horses take a lot of time. Recently I had a horse that I had been struggling to put weight on and it turned out that he grew 3 inches once his body got the nutrition it needed (and this at age 6/7). Just know that you might have to tweak your plan for your individual horse.
Also see the UC Davis guide – shown below: