Putting weight on a horse is very dependent on the individual. Some horses are easy keepers and seem to stay fat on grass and air, while others will need twelve pounds of feed three times a day with all of the hay and grass they can get. Here are the best horse feeds for weight gain and some tips for maintaining weight over time.
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Manna Pro Cool Calories 100
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What are Forages Necessary for a Horse?
Alfalfa is the best forage for putting weight on a horse. Alfalfa comes in various forms, from bales to pellets to cubes. It’s important to purchase alfalfa from a reputable dealer and to avoid certain states, like Texas, due to blister beetles. Blister beetles infest the fields and are deadly to horses. To ensure clean and beetle-free alfalfa, you can also purchase the Standlee compressed bales, cubes, or pellets. These products make it easy to know your horses are receiving the best alfalfa possible.
If alfalfa is not easily located or you’re not able to feed it free choice, you can also feed grass hay. Coastal and Timothy are two popular grass hays, but grass hay varies by region. It is recommended to feed horses hay with 24/7 access. Some grass hays are also available in pellets, such as Timothy hay. Alternatively, you can buy a combination of alfalfa and timothy hay pellets.
Remember that some alfalfa products, like cubes and pellets, must be soaked before feeding to horses. This is to prevent choking. Because they are dehydrated products, once they are chewed and mixed with saliva, they may ball up, causing a blockage in the horse’s throat. In some cases, this is a medical emergency.
Our 5 Favorite Horse Feeds for Weight Gain
Our Top Pick
|Manna Pro Cool Calories 100
|Bluebonnet Feeds Triple Crown Senior
|Purina Mills Equine Senior Active
|Purina Animal Nutrition Purina Ultium Gastric Care 50
|TRIBUTE Kalmbach Feeds Kalm ‘N Ez Pellets
|Manna Pro Max-E-Glo Pellets
|The Phoenix Renew Gold Supplement
Our Top 5 Feeds to Help Your Horse Gain Weight
There are many different feeds available on the market today. The first thing to consider when choosing a grain is the horse’s age, and the second thing is their workload. Are they a performance horse that is worked with daily? Do they burn a lot of calories daily? Or are they lightly worked or not worked at all?
Does the horse has medical issues?
Another thing to consider is if the horse has any health or metabolic issues that should be taken into consideration. For instance, some horses are insulin-resistant and should not be fed sweetened feed.
A performance horse will need a feed that is 14% protein and has enough calories to replenish and possibly exceed the calories that the horse burns daily to ensure they put on or keep their weight. On the other hand, a pleasure horse may only need a 10-12% protein feed to maintain its weight. With underweight horses, protein is vital and essential for growth.
Protein comes from various sources such as alfalfa meals, soybeans, legumes, cottonseeds, and more. Grain should always be fed by weight rather than by scoop, as each type of feed in the same scoop weighs differently than the next.
The majority of feeds on the market utilize starches and carbohydrates. These come from grains such as oats and barley. However, some horses cannot consume grains due to various health issues. If this is the case with your horse, look for grain-free feed.
When trying to help a horse gain weight, you want to look for a feed that includes ingredients such as beet pulp and rice bran. These are great because they are super fibers and high calorie and fat but are still a forage. It is best to opt for a feed that is high-fat and high-fiber.
Oils also help with weight gain as they are pure fat. Flax oil is an excellent choice as it is anti-inflammatory and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
You also want to look for a feed that includes prebiotics and probiotics. This ensures that the good bacteria in the horse’s hindgut stay happy and helps the horse gets the most out of its feed. Feeding a junior or senior feed is often recommended because they are designed for horses that are growing as well as horses that are aging. Both age groups have higher nutritional needs than horses that need maintenance.
#1) Bluebonnet Feeds Triple Crown Senior
Triple Crown Senior is a high-fat, beet pulp-based feed that is designed for easy chewing. This is a complete feed, so it is ideal for horses with digestive issues like ulcers or teeth.
You can serve this feed by itself if the horse cannot eat hay or pasture. It is also great for horses that have difficulty swallowing or are prone to choking.
Because this feed is designed for senior horses, it has concentrated nutrients and can be soaked to form a mash easily. It is also low in sugar, so it is excellent for horses that are insulin resistant. The protein range is 13-15%.
- Easy-to-chew extruded pellet
- Complete feed that doesn’t require pasture or hay
- Great for horses with digestive issues or bad teeth
#2) Purina Mills Equine Senior Active 50 lb. Bag
Purina Equine Senior Active is the best Purina horse feed for weight gain and combines all of the important ingredients, including flaxseed, rice bran, and vegetable oil. It is a high-fat, high-fiber formula low in starch and sugar.
This feed is designed for the active senior horse versus the retired senior horse. It includes prebiotics and probiotics, as well as the Amplify high-fat nugget. This feed includes more calories from fat and less sugar.
Vitamin E helps to support the immune system. This feed is not complete like the original Purina Equine Senior and is designed to be fed with hay and pasture.
- Includes multiple weight gain ingredients
- High fiber and high-fat formula
- Low in starch and sugar
#3) Purina Animal Nutrition Purina Ultium Gastric Care 50
Purina Ultium Gastric Care is a feed developed to help horses who suffer from hindgut ulcers or are prone to them. This feed is ideal for high-performance horses that travel frequently.
This feed was created with hardworking horses in mind and was designed to help them deal with stress. An underweight horse is often a stressed horse.
This feed also includes the Purina Outlast supplement, which buffers faster and to a higher pH during digestion. This feed is designed for mature horses working, so it is not ideal for young horses that need to gain weight.
- Includes the Purina Amplify Supplement
- Includes prebiotic fiber designed for the hindgut
- Includes multiple fatty acids
#4) Kalmbach Feeds Tribute Kalm ‘N Ez Pellets for Horse
Tribute Kalm N’ Ez Pellets are designed for insulin-resistant horses with PPID or laminitis who can’t have added sugars in their diet. This feed is low NSC and has no corn and no molasses.
This is a grain-free feed but provides proper nutrition and highly digestible fiber, resulting in performance horses that are calmer but still energetic.
It also includes organic minerals. This feed is appropriate for horses that are two years and older.
It is a complete feed, so it does not have to be fed with forage as long as you feed enough. This feed includes joint support supplements, including MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate.
- High fat with highly digestible fiber
- Includes amino acids and fatty acids
- Active dry yeast acts as a prebiotic and probiotic
#5) Manna Pro Cool Calories 100 Fat Supplement for Horses
Manna Pro Cool Calories 100 Equine Dry Fat Supplement is not a feed but a supplement designed to be added to a quality feed. The Manna Pro brand has a longstanding reputation for providing quality weight gain supplements.
This supplement can be fed to hard keepers, underweight, and performance horses.
If you already use a balanced feed that you’re happy with and just need your horse to put on a few more pounds, this supplement is a great option.
- Easy to mix
- High in fat
- Highly palatable
#6) Manna Pro Max-E-Glo Pellets for Horse
Manna Pro Max-E-Glo Pellets is a rice bran supplement that can be added to a horse’s diet. This can be added to your horse’s daily feed or fed on its own to help put weight on a horse, as long as the horse receives ample daily forage. Some users report a weight change within two weeks of using the product.
Rice bran comes from the most nutritious part of the rice kernel but must be stabilized to keep it from becoming rancid. Max-E-Glow Pellets are guaranteed fresh for one year.
It is also available as a meal versus a pellet, so you can choose which one your horse prefers.
- Extruded pellet
- Stays fresh for one year
- It can be fed to horses of all ages, from weanlings and up
#7) The Phoenix Renew Gold Supplement
Renew Gold is another rice bran supplement that is easy to feed. You will see results in your horse’s weight and coat at just a cup per day. One bag lasts a whole month.
Renew Gold combines high-fat stabilized rice bran, Cool Stance coconut meal, and flax. It is Non-GMO and designed to eliminate high starch from diets, helping to make a healthy digestive system.
Renew Gold includes concentrated nutrition that is designed to replace grain-based feed. It is also calcium/phosphorous balance, so it can be fed with hay.
- Feed one cup a day
- Small pellets that mix with feed easily
- Includes multiple ingredients ideal for weight gain
Things to Consider Before You Buy a Horse Feed for Weight Gain
- Check their teeth — In many cases, horses lose weight because of their teeth. Horses should have their teeth floated at least once a year to ensure that their teeth are level and that they don’t have any sharp points. Some horses drop feed as a sign that they are having difficulty eating. However, some horses are also just messy. Other signs that their teeth need to be floated is that the grass or hay may ball up in their cheek, and they spit it out. This is called “quidding.” The teeth affect the horse’s body in many ways, so teeth should always be checked first when there are signs of trouble with a horse.
- Check for ulcers — A horse with ulcers will have difficulty putting on weight and show physical signs of pain in most cases. If a horse is sensitive around its belly, it’s a sign of ulcers. They will often bite at themselves or you while grooming or saddling. Some horses develop neurotic tendencies such as weaving or cribbing as well. There are two types of ulcers as well. They occur in the foregut and the hindgut. Hindgut ulcers are more difficult to treat and may require a special feeding regimen. Medication is necessary to treat ulcers, and you must discuss this with your vet. Using a feed for weight gain that is ulcer-friendly is also important, as is feeding alfalfa.
- Deworm your horse — While working with your vet, getting a fecal egg count for worms is also important. Parasites like worms make it hard for your horse’s body to take advantage of all the nutrients it consumes. Creating a deworming program with your vet is vital to your horse’s health.
- How much should I feed my horse?
Every manufacturer has their suggested amounts to feed based on the product’s nutrients and ingredients. Some feeds are concentrated so that you will provide much less than others. When determining how much to feed for weight gain, you will want to consider the horse’s age, the work it does, and how many pounds of forage per day they consume. Then you will want to get a kitchen scale, weigh your scoop and subtract that weight from your results when you weigh the scoop filled with feed. You must weigh your feed rather than go by scoop count.
- Does the feed I choose to cover all of the horse’s vitamin and mineral needs?
Some of the products we listed above are supplements rather than feeds. They are designed to be combined with an actual feed product. You cannot feed them alone and expect your horse to receive all the necessary vitamins and nutrients. It is also recommended that you provide a free choice of salt or mineral block to horses.
- Do I still have to feed hay?
In rare cases, a horse can not eat grass or hay. In this case, choose a complete feed. Complete feeds include forage in them, so you don’t have to feed hay with the dinner, but you do have to feed more of the feed following the manufacturer’s guidelines. If a horse can eat hay, it is recommended to provide free-choice hay as horses need to be able to graze throughout the day for their digestion and mental health.
- How much forage does my horse need?
Horses need to consume 1% of their body weight in forage per day. This means a 1000-pound horse needs at least 10 pounds of hay daily.
- My horse has bad teeth — how can I ensure he can eat his grain?
In senior horses with bad teeth or very few teeth, choosing a feed with an extruded pellet is recommended and will break apart easily. You can also soak your grain of choice in water and make it soft and easier to eat. Some horses require soupy grain servings to get the most out of their feed.
- Should I exercise my horse while trying to put weight on?
Exercise is important because many underweight horses are also under-muscled. Walking is the best way to put muscle on a horse. Just be sure that the exercise your horse receives is balanced with the amount of feed required to put on weight.
- What horse feed is best for weight gain?
As mentioned, it is important to consider weight, age, and exercise level. Senior feed will give older horses the nutrients they need, but it may not help them gain weight. A junior feed, however, is designed for growing horses and will provide an underweight senior horse with the extra boost it needs. Some horses simply need a couple hundred more pounds, so a stabilized rice bran supplement added to the feed you already use could also do wonders for their weight.
- My horse is a starvation case — what should I do?
For severely underweight horses, it’s very important to follow the UC Davis refeeding plan. This plan is designed to prevent Refeeding Syndrome, which can be deadly to starving horses. This plan is based on feeding alfalfa and eventually working in a grain intended for weight gain.
- How many times per day should I feed my horse?
Multiple small meals per day are ideal for horses. Horses can better utilize their feed if their daily intake is split into three or more small meals per day. However, many horse owners cannot feed their horses three or more times daily. In this case, it is recommended you feed twice per day.
- Why did you not include more weight gain supplements in your list?
When it comes to underweight horses, you have to be certain that their forage and nutritional needs are met first. Most supplements are single ingredients or a combination of a few ingredients designed to help increase weight gain. However, they cannot be fed alone. Additionally, some weight gain supplements are the human equivalent of eating junk food. While this has shifted somewhat in the market over time, it’s still essential to ensure you aren’t feeding your horse a bunch of calories without the rest of the nutrition they need to put on weight and muscle.
Finally, once you get weight on a horse, you want to keep it. You may be able to lower the amount of feed you give your horse daily but watch them closely. Also, ensure that they always have access to fresh water.
You also want to make sure the horse isn’t burning calories where it isn’t necessary. In the summer, flies cause horses to stomp all day. Help relieve their misery with a quality fly sheet and fly spray. Even fly boots may be necessary for some horses. It depends on the individual.
In the winter, older or underweight horses should be blanketed in cold temperatures so their body can use their feed to keep weight on rather than burn it to stay warm.
Access to hay or green pasture at all times is essential. You can also help boost your horse’s weight by practicing good pasture maintenance and fertilizing it every so often. Your county extension agent can test your pasture and help you determine what nutrients your grass may lack. Access to high-quality forage at all times is essential for stalled horses with the minimal turnout. A slow-feed hay net may help you make the most of your hay and reduce waste.
Remember that nothing is fast with horses! It takes time and effort to put weight on a horse and to keep them at a healthy weight. Thank you for reading our review.