You Ask, Pilchuck Answers: A Horse That Needs to Gain Weight


What are the BEST ways for a horse to gain weight if he/she can't have any sugar? : ) – Heather H.


First of all, in answering this question, I will assume that your horse does not have any underlying heath reasons causing weight loss.

Horses may need to be on carbohydrate-restricted diets for many reasons. First, it is always important to ensure your horse gets enough fiber to keep his GI tract functioning properly. A horse should receive a minimum of 1.5% of his body weight in forage (hay or complete feeds). For a 1,000-lb. horse, this would be 15 pounds of forage. If you are trying to get a horse to gain weight, you should be feeding closer to 2% to 2.5% of body weight in forage. 

If the horse is still too thin, then adding in calories from fat is your next best alternative. Many of the "low-starch" feeds are actually pretty calorie dense, and this comes from the fats within the product. I am not particular to any one feed company, but as examples, Strategy Healthy Edge and Amplify are both less than 18% to 20% starch, so they could be good options for your horse. 

Let's say you choose Strategy Healthy Edge. The feed instructions on the bag recommend feeding at least 12 pounds per day of good quality hay and between 3.25 to 9 pounds per day of the Strategy product, depending upon your horse’s activity level. As a side note, as long as you are feeding at least 3 pounds of this product to your horse on a daily basis, further vitamin/mineral supplementation is unnecessary.

We hopes this helps. If you have more specific questions about your horse, we would be happy to consult with you directly.

Answered by Dr. Wendy Mollat, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital, 360.568.3111

This is part of our You Ask, Pilchuck Answers series. If you have questions for our veterinarians, please post them to our Facebook Pages and we'll add them to the queue:

Note: For urgent veterinary questions, contact your animal companion's veterinarian by telephone.