Getting Some Weight On a Hard Keeper... what are your experiences?

Hi, I am curious what experience folks have had with various means of getting weight onto a hard keeper? I have a 16 yo QH mare who is just staying thinner than I’d like to see despite being basically a pasture pet. She does need to have her teeth floated soon but I am positive she eats all of her grain because she is separated at feeding time until she finishes. I know nobody is getting any of her ration. She is together with one other horse for hay but they share nicely and if he tries to push her aside she will stand her ground. So again, I’m not thinking the issue is her getting pushed away from food.

She is currently getting a full ration of Tribute Kalm N EZ (she is a picky eater and has shunned other feeds) twice daily plus hay as the pasture is fairly well grazed down. I can’t say how many flakes as we are feeding off a round bale, but I give the two horses a hay tub full and there is usually a small amt left over when I come out to feed again.

I’ve read about some different things-- rice bran, rice bran oil, corn oil, beet pulp, and various commercial supplements. Has anyone had any luck with any of these? I’m curious how well they work, if there were any issues, and especially which seem to be most palatable, as my lady is a little bit of a diva when it comes to the taste of her feed… :slight_smile:

Also, is there anything else I might be missing? She’s otherwise healthy as, well, a horse LOL-- nothing seems off and she’s active, alert, etc.

Getting the teeth done is important not only in terms of them not “dropping” food but in being able to CHEW properly. Even if she is finishing and not spilling her grain she may not be making optimal use of it if she can’t chew properly.

I’m a big believer in MORE HAY before any other intervention. If you don’t know how much she is eating you’re left to guess. Maybe the other horse is hogging more than its share.

Oil is a very calorie-dense thing to feed, but it can be a PITA. For something palatable and easy to handle I’m a big fan of Purina’s Amplify, which is a fat supplement in pellet form that horses seem to like to eat. Buckeye’s Ultimate Finish is nearly the same thing. I rarely have to feed it for more than a month to see a horse gaining weight big time. :slight_smile:

Oat hay. I have the best luck in feeding all they can eat oat hay. Nothing else works as well for me. In the winter I LOVE feeding oat hay as they chew chew chew all that great fiber to keep warm. Oat hay can be stemmy and not alot of horses like the stems, but I have yet to have a problem with anyone not eating it. I wish I could feed it year round but no one make a 100% oat hay cube :frowning:

I’ve had the best luck with chop, but I understand it’s difficult to get in some parts of the country.

My youngest gelding went through a tremendous growth spurt between the ages of 3 and 4. I’m not a big advocate of feeding more grain and oil is messy and hard for the barn staff to feed. The timothy chop did the trick.

I’ve also had great luck with it on older horses whose teeth are not what they used to be.

Teeth, worming, and soaked alfalfa “cubes”.

Do get her teeth done. She’s at the age where she may start to require more frequent dental work, and as mentioned above, if she’s not able to chew properly she won’t get the full benefit of either hay or grain.

My boy is 15 this year (TBxQH) and dropped a distressing amount of weight over the winter due to the drought hay’s lesser quality. He’d had his teeth done in February and at that time they were worse than they’d ever been. When I started the intensive “gain weight” process I had the vet recheck his teeth because they’d been so bad, and he was forming hooks right at the back again. She rasped those off before they got bad enough to affect his ability to chew his feed. I will have his teeth checked again in the fall. Teeth - check.

I also did a fecal - he came back right on the negative/mild line. Worms - check.

I even put his rainsheet on some wet days and nights into June! This is a huge departure for us as he really dislikes wearing blankets (but is very good about tolerating them) and normally the blanket is off for the summer by early May. But I didn’t want him wasting energy keeping warm, and he would have had to use even more energy on warmth because he lacked the insulating fat layer.

My guy is incredibly picky about what he eats, plus has some dietary restrictions due to his EPSM, which makes feeding him a nightmare at the best of times! He also won’t eat a large volume of hard feed at one time, and I have to keep him working so his body can handle the extra starches that come with increased hard feed. In addition to free choice hay I have got him on a low NSC, higher energy feed, and a complete vit/min ration twice a day at his maximum single intake amount (1 1/2 lbs total :frowning: ). He gets 1oz of Ultimate Finish 100 in each feed. He also gets some dampened alfalfa hay cubes with 1oz of Ultimate Finish 100 after he’s eaten his hard feed. A couple of random times a day I give him 1/2 lb of a stabilized rice bran product all by itself. He likes the taste and I am hoping that by keeping it a “treat” he will be happy to eat it long enough for him to get the weight back. He gets about 1-2 hours good grazing each day in a separate grass paddock.

The new hard feed and alfalfa cubes program started about six weeks ago. He dropped a little more weight at first. The rice bran product was added about 3 weeks ago and the Ultimate Finish 100 shortly after that. Teeth done two weeks ago. He is finally starting to look like he’s put on a bit of weight. I can still see his ribs, but his hips don’t look so hollow.

One last consideration is pain. I don’t know if it’s a physical issue making her a pasture pet, but if there is something check to make sure it hasn’t become (more) painful. When my last horse’s hock started causing him more pain he dropped weight despite eating the same amount of feed.

Get teeth done and do a fecal. Other thought is to consider a Senior feed. Have seen several mid-teen horses blossom on a senior feed after years on regular feed.

Feed-wise, I have had great luck with rice bran for hard keepers, particularly Purina Amplify. My picky eater is particularly good at picking powders out of his feed, so the pelleted rice bran is great! Alfalfa hay also helps him a lot- even just one or two flakes a day in addition to his grass hay helps him put/keep weight on. I also recently switched him to senior feed, which does seem to have helped- he looks great!

Try Tribute’s Kalm Ultra? Its the step up meant for performance horses. My Arab eats it because he needs the extra fat and protein. He’s a harder keeper anyway and he’s my endurance horse so needs the extra calories. He does very well on it.

My friends’ horses who are much easier keepers in much lighter work get the Kalm N Ez.

Most of the horses show a preference for the Ultra. It smells sweeter than the others as it has more sugar for performance horses.

Ditto getting the teeth done as soon as possible. As has already been mentioned, teeth are responsible for more than chewing.

If the horse swallows the food before it’s been correctly chewed, digestive issues can ensue; that’s how some horses lose weight and/or develop ulcers or possibly colic.

I have two hard keepers, both in their mid-late 20’s. Lots of forage in the feed pan. I feed one horse well soaked timothy/alfalfa cubes (I hand mush them into wet grass).

The 27 yr old refuses to eat the soaked cubes but will eat pellets so he gets a mix of timothy pellets and alfalfa pellets.

Rice bran is a healthy fat additive and provides them will cool energy.

Also, at that age, they really need a good vit/min supplement. Either in the form of a feed or ration balancer suitable for them or something concentrated that only takes an ounce or two daily.

What is “thinner” than you’d like? Too many people expect to see a plump horse, and when they see one who’s nice and lean, think he’s too thin.

Or, they mistake lack of muscle (which is going to be lacking a bit in this horse) with lack of weight.

Picture? :slight_smile:

I have a 30+ year old gelding, most likely TB or TBx. He has a few teeth, but not many. Doesn’t eat hay, sometimes nibbles on grass, but prefers to spend the day standing in his stall. He comes and goes as he wants, but the stall is the favorite. sigh.

Lost weight on TC Senior, and Purina Senior, actually stopped eating either one of them. He’s now on something called “stock and Stable” pellets, it’s an all purpose feed and cheap. I add flax seed meal, probiotics, soaked alfalfa cubes and soaked beet pulp. He’s fed 3x day, and is now round and sleek as can be. Looks the best I’ve ever seen him look!

I live in fear of the time he decides he doesn’t like the Stock and Stable. He’s been getting this for almost a year, I think that’s a record for him. Usually after 6 months, he’s done with a feed. I think he’s been on everything the feed store has to offer!

He’s a good boy, but can’t be ridden. He spent his entire life as a lesson horse before we got him (as a companion), so I figure he’s earned his keep.

Teeth (like everyone else has said) and also check for sand in the manure as well.

Once those are under control - I had good luck with a combination of Triple Crown Senior, Buckeye Grow N Win and Buckeye Ultimate Finish, totally soaked alfalfa pellets and chopped hay (Lucerne Alfa Supreme or TNT Alfalfa/Timothy blend) with my old guy and his terrible teeth.

Oh, and if you can, weigh the feed (and hay) - it’s pretty useful when you’re trying to maximize the nutritional “bang for your buck”.

Agree - get the teeth done for sure.

I’m also a believer in good old fashioned alfalfa hay. I give my picky eater a flake AM/PM with his grain. It doesn’t make him the least bit hot, he loves the stuff, and it helps me to know that he’s getting at least 7-8 lbs of long stem forage into him daily with the additional calcium that’s also good for his tummy.

having dealt with this recently with my 18yr old TB, i’ve found the best results with Renew Gold. this is on top of practically free choice orchard grass hay, alfalfa, 14 hours of pasture daily, BOSS, Dynamite and Dynamite’s Excel. silly me changed a few things at once (i know, i know - not the best idea) but it’s worked out in the end and i have a horse that’s nicely putting on weight and has a much more energetic outlook on life.

I recommend Blue Seal Sentinel Performance LS or Sentinel Senior LS. Easily digestible, even if her teeth aren’t great (of course the teeth should be done regardless). It’s rice bran AND beet pulp based and has a high fat content.

The Kalm n EZ is only 6% fat and not really designed to put weight on horses. The Sentinel feeds have TWICE that much fat and are low starch and safe to feed. I make a large chunk of my living on rehabbing ‘hard keepers’, and it never ceases to amaze me how many people have skinny horses on low fat grains. Just because the company advertises ‘high fat’, doesn’t mean it actually is. Be sure to look at the guaranteed analysis on the bag.

Be sure you are following the feeding label instructions on whatever you feed. Be aware of fat content. Some grains are just not designed to put weight on horses. Weight tape her and get an estimate on how much she SHOULD weigh, then follow the feeding instructions for either ‘weight gain’ or ‘heavy work’, depending on how comprehensive the label is.

Be sure to WEIGH the grain you feed, not measure in scoops or quarts. For example, I know that the Sentinel Performance LS weighs about 1lb per quart, and that I use a 2qt scoop. Important information to know when feeding a hard keeper.

What is a ‘full ration’ of Kalm N EZ? How many pounds? According to the bag label, a 1000lb horse in intense work (or rehabbing from poor BC) should be getting 10-14lb of Kalm N EZ per day AND 12-18lb of hay on top of that. Is your mare getting that much?

She should also be on free choice hay. If she’s not getting ~25lb of hay/grass per day, she’s not getting enough forage. If she can’t physically eat that much and she’s picky about grain, supplement with alfalfa cubes/pellets/chopped.

I wouldn’t waste time with ‘weight gain supplements’ and oils, etc. Chances are she’s missing something nutritionally or just not getting enough food. If she’s nutritionally incomplete, you’ll need bloodwork to decide what she’s missing and go from there. I have yet to find a feed supplement or oil that does a better job than proper portions of quality hay/grain.

In the SouthEast…peanut hay is fantastic. It is affordable compared to T/A and Alfalfa here…horses LOVE it…and it puts great weight and muscle on horses…I have to put mine on a diet when it’s fed!