Best way to maintain/add weight for just one horse through the winter

I have a now 4 yr old OTTB who I got earlier this year, straight off the track, but has since been let down and restarted. The farm I board at (small private farm) has excellent pastures and he had no problem gaining weight and then maintaining that weight (BCS 5/9) over the summer, even as he continued to grow and fill out. However, now that the summer grass has died, he looks to have started to lose a bit of weight so I would like to proactively ensure he maintains his weight throughout the winter.

For background, he currently gets 2lbs Sentinel LS AM&PM, along with an 8oz cup of wet beet pulp AM&PM. When I come out to the barn (I go out 6-7 days/week), I give him 0.7lbs of Gro N Win as well as 1.5lbs (dry weight) of soaked alfalfa cubes. On the days I ride him, he gets an extra 0.75lbs of the LS after our ride. He is out 24/7 (only comes in to eat) in a 4acre pasture that he shares with 2 other horses (my other horse and the BO’s horse) and the pastured is seeded with winter rye. I have used Amplify in the past to add/maintain weight in the winter and plan to pick up some this weekend to begin adding to his feed. The BO has just started tossing 1 flake her hay (coastal) in the PM and will eventually work up to 2 flakes (1 coastal, 1 timothy/orchard mix (my hay)) AM&PM as they eat down the winter rye.

I would love to just add more hay to his diet (and I think that’s what he needs). However, he is out 24/7 and the other 2 horses in the pasture as easy keepers and do not need any additional hay. There are only two pastures at this farm and the horses in the other pasture are even easier keepers (they only get fed once per day) so changing pastures isn’t an option. I was thinking I could give him extra hay (of my T/O or pick up some alfalfa maybe?) in his stall for the 1-1.5 hours I am working my other horse every day. Any other suggestions? Anything I can add to his feed? Should I increase the alfalfa cubes? Or should I focus on ways to maximize his hay intake? He is a good eater (licks his bowl clean every time) and the BO is very good about giving any additional feed, supplements, etc. that I supply.


Sentinel Performance LS is to be fed at a rate of 0.4-0.6 lb/100# for light exercise or 0.45-0.7 lb/100# for moderate exercise.

That’s 4.8 - 8.4# for a 1200 pound horse. You’re underfeeding, probably by quite a bit. One thing to try would be upping him to an appropriate amount of grain.


@Simkie – thank you! I’m so used to having horses that are easy keepers or get hot on too much grain that it never occurred to me to just increase the LS. Thanks!

If there’s not enough grass, there needs to be hay Hopefully you can get that change made.

But yes, feed at least the minimally recommended amount of the LS, and increase as needed, up to about 5lb per meal max

Winter rye is not the greatest forage for a hard keeper by itself in my opinion, having grown up where that was our winter grass if we had any. I think it’s a good idea to feed some more hay in the stall. T/O or a flake of alfalfa or both. I think he’d eat the alfalfa hay faster than cubes. We fed cubes free choice to the hard keepers who were stalled at night (plus coastal hay). But for a short period in the stall, I’d just get bales if you have a place to store it. But more T/O wouldn’t be a bad place to start since you already have that.

I would also highly recommend adding alfalfa hay or pellets to his diet. My ottb is out 24/7 solo but I don’t have storage for alfalfa hay (my boss would let me store some but the hay storage space was full when I could have ordered bales). I went with alfalfa pellets being fed at 4-5 lbs per meal and 3 lbs of purena strategy. I find that when he was turned out with a group he held his weight well with alfalfa pellets and ate his grain fast enough he wasn’t an inconvenience to the person feeding (we separate our horses to feed grain).

I put my OTTB on this:

I have to say in a few weeks I did start to see results. Plus their customer service is amazing.

Any way he can have daytime turnout but have his own stall/ paddock for 12 hours with free choice hay?

Even if you have to buy your own round pen panels to make a paddock is it possible? I really think he will continue to lose weight if all he gets is at most 2 flakes of hay.


Mine is also a hard keeper and her two roommates are not. I just try to find time to pull her out and let her have some alfalfa this time of year. Pretty much any time I’m at the barn doing stuff, I’ll let her eat alfalfa. Sometimes I bring my laptop and get work done, sometimes I bring my yoga mat, sometimes I bring a book and I just let her eat alfalfa in a separate paddock by herself. Some of my fellow boarders will also help me out and if they’re at the barn for awhile they’ll let my girl in to eat alfalfa if they’re there. I probably get at least an extra 30-40 lbs of alfalfa in her a week by doing this.

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I have three older horses that do very well with extra alfalfa hay during the winter. I feed-out a bale of alfalfa every morning to each group of 8, and these three older ones get about two or three flakes each in the morning (depending on flake size…and temperature) again in the evening. i have them together and not in with either of the larger bands of 8. All horses have pasture (fescue is still green most of the winter here) and there are free choice pasture hay roundbales for everyone. i’ve always relied upon good quality alfalfa to put weight on/keep it on.

My harder keeping OTTB is currently out with my minis. I put out an orchard pasture bale and muzzle the minis at night to limit their access.

Any way you could only have your two horses in the field and muzzle the one who doesn’t need the extra food for part of the time?

If that’s not feasible, doing the alfalfa as you described is probably your best bet. I would stick with straight alfalfa, to get more out of the limited access.

My hard keeper did fine on 24/7 pasture all summer, with the occasional flake of alfalfa when I came out to ride. Once the temps started to drop and the horses moved to their winter dry lots, though, it became clear that he wasn’t going to be able to hold weight on 24/7 turnout for the winter, even with constant round bale access.

I had to weigh the pros and cons of 24/7 turnout vs. a stall overnight. We made the decision to stall him overnight for the winter mostly because the 3 other horses in the paddock are easy keepers. They don’t need alfalfa, and there was no way to separate for feeding.

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