Unlimited access >

OTTB’s losing weight - help to gain weight

My two boys got to me a little over a month ago. both are OTTB’s. One is 4, just off the track, the other is 7, 3 years off the track. The 4 year old came to me a little thin since just getting off the track. He has slowly lost a tiny bit of weight. The 7 yr old has lost a bit of weight as well. His past owner said he is a bit of a hard keeper. Working with my current vet but just wanting to hear what others have done and if it worked well for them.
They have 24/7 access to high quality forage.
Any advice is welcome.

1 Like

First, what’s the quality of the 24/7 forage? Second, 2 qts of alfalfa pellets is nothing. Can you get alfalfa hay? I’d be feeding that instead. Third, I would expect the youngster to lose a little while transitioning to life off the track. So long as his health is good and he’s getting enough to eat I wouldn’t sweat it too much.
IIWM, they’d have access to 24/7 good quality grass hay, not just “forage”. They would also be getting a hefty flake or 2 of alfalfa hay. I’m not familiar with the grain you’re feeding but forage based and low sugar is my go-to for anything ‘fed in a bucket’.
Aside from that you could try adding some oil to their grain, if they will eat it.


Also, adding a high quality fat source can be the key for some horses (on top of a balanced diet and adequate forage). I’m not a fan of most oils, but some people like them. I’ve had good luck with Empower Boost, as well as Ultimate Finish.

I’ve found a lot of our OTTBs did well with alfalfa (I think the protein and gut soothing effect helped), as much good grass or hay as you can pack into them, and a good amount of fat. One of mine was eating 30k calories a day until his metabolism slowed down!

How many pounds of the Triumph is that? How many feedings?

What is the dental status?

What have you dewormed with, when, and have you had any FECs done?

What ulcer treatment did you use, and did you scope beforehand?

1 Like

Free choice alfalfa.
High fat low starch feed.

If you’re in the south, though, it’s a win to just maintain right now. My chonky and the other chonkies at the barn have all dropped ~50 pounds in the last 2-3 weeks from this heat. Luckily they all had the pounds to spare.


I bought an 8 yr old TB gelding, 17H, who came to me about 200 lbs underweight. I gradually increase his feed up to 5 quarts of Strategy (which is 6 1/4 lbs) per day, fed over 3 meals, plus 2 quarts of Purina Amplify, plus as much hay as he will eat. He turned his nose up at soaked alfalfa cubes and beet pulp, so I just had some nice alfalfa hay delivered. He’s gained about 75 lbs in the last month and looks a lot better.


“Access to 24/7 forage” can mean a lot of things. This is my first summer at a new boarding barn (our “forever barn”…love it so). My horse shares a little over an acre with one other. Next door is one horse (who belongs to the person that owns my horse’s roomie). All of the horses have “access to 24/7 forage” on their pastures. The problem is, we were in a drought in spring and early summer, and the horses were eating the pasture down as fast as it was trying to grow. Therefore, the pastures weren’t enough to sustain the horses. We knew this with the two that shared a pasture, but thought the lone horse had enough on her pasture. So we weren’t feeding her hay. She was grazing all the time, looked fine, etc. Until she didn’t look fine. It happened so gradually that we didn’t really notice, but it was pointed out when her owner took her to a lesson. Mind, she wasn’t starving or anything, just losing some topline. We immediately started giving her hay (upped her ration balancer, added a fat supplement and an amino acid supplement too). She bloomed right out in a matter of weeks and looks phenomenal now.

With my own horse, I’d cut back on his and his friend’s hay. His friend stayed plump, but she doesn’t get ridden. He gets ridden and also doesn’t get much fat, etc. in his diet, and I noticed him starting to lose a little condition. I started upping their hay literally last week (mind you, the pasture is much better now too) and this morning I looked at him and realized he’s rounded over his back and hindquarters again.

Hay. Hay is almost always the answer for me. If the pasture and feed aren’t doing it, add hay. If they have hay already, add some better hay. If the hay is what it is and 1.5-2% of their body weight isn’t cutting it, add high-quality bagged hay (chopped, cubed, pelleted, baled, whatever). If that STILL doesn’t do it, look at some fat supplements like Empower Boost.

Make sure the forage is plentiful and the highest quality you can possibly get it. That will normally fix things.


What part of the country are you in? I agree with others about “high quality forage” - what is it really?

Are you keeping them at home? Are they out during the day? (My horses won’t stay out for long during the day in this hot weather - between the heat and the bugs they are choosing to stay in front of their fans in the stalls). That means you need to be giving hay.

What is the setup - do they have stalls? Fans? If not, they may need them.

Have you had TBs before? Often times, “hard keeper” is what non-TB people call them because they don’t realize how much more calories they need than other breeds. My nearly 30 year old retired TB mare still eats twice or more what my others eat and is still on the thin side. (while they are fat.)

I would probably offer hay in stalls/run-ins etc, and if you can get alfalfa hay would recommend that.

What about grain? I see it quoted in posts but it’s no longer in your original post.

If you’re feeding that much, I’d start by looking at the pasture/hay situation.

I’ve got some questions:

  1. What’s the type and quality of the free access forage?
  2. How much hard feed are they getting? Weight, not volume.
  3. Have these horses gotten a dental exam? Floated? Anything notable?
  4. FEC done and dewormed accordingly? How often do you deworm? What did you use to deworm if you didn’t test?
  5. When you treated for ulcers, did you scope them both? What did you use to treat, at what dosage and for how long?
  6. How are insects managed? I’ve seen more than a few OTTB’s walk/fidget and run off weight trying to get away from bothersome insects.
  7. Are you separating to feed? If not, are they pushing each other around? If so, are they bolting their feed?
  8. Are these horses turned out all the time?

Personally, I’d be getting these horses floated, and a FEC done before doing any more deworming. I’d be adding preferably a second cutting grass hay as your free choice hay, and supplementing with alfalfa hay or soaked cubes. Forage first, ALWAYS. Then we can worry about hard feed. Weigh your feed out, what you think is a qt, may be vastly different than what it actually is. I am going to be a devil’s advocate here and not put a high fat feed, yet. I’ll have to see if I can find it, but I was listening to a podcast where a DVM was talking about a horse on an excessive amount of high fat feed, and it wasn’t maintaining weight. When switched to a more forage based diet, and a forage based grain with less fat, he packed the pounds on. The Triumph feed looks fine as long as you’re feeding at least the recommended weight daily for your horses weight and workload. Splitting it into 3 meals per day would be more beneficial than 2, but 2 would suffice as long as you’re not feeding more than 5lbs per feeding in combination with the alfalfa pellets (measured dry). I’d forgo the alfalfa pellets for beet pulp. Just make sure to soak and rinse it good to get the dirt out. Some kinds come with added molasses, which I avoid. They need fiber based forage and feeds, not sugar. I’d add a good source of amino acids before adding too much fat.

I’d start too look at environment management too. Are they out all the time? How are the flies? Are these horses getting adequate sleep time and quality? Is there access to fresh grass or is it dry lot?

Not unusual for a horse just coming off the track to lose a little weight for awhile. All my horses have been OTTBs, and my current/most recent one came to me after having been let down and he was on 12 lbs of feed/day. I put him on Nutrena Pro Force Fuel—a high fat/high protein/low starch feed and he gets 1 pound in the am, 1 pound in late afternoon (5-ish pm) and a ½ pound as a snack around 8:30-9pm. He also gets a handful of alfalfa in the morning and a full flake in the evening, and as much grass hay (coastal here) as he wants, which isn’t much. Granted, he doesn’t work hard at all, and he’s out on coastal and native pasture 24x7 (his choice!). He also gets 1 dose of Platinum and 1 dose of Farrier’s Formula, but he is almost fat and really shiny. I’ve had other OTTBs deemed to be hard keepers, but they have all done well here.

Something also to remember with OTTBs is they tend to loose weight with stressers. For example my guy drops weight if:

  1. I leave his cribbing collar off
  2. He goes to a show with a friend
  3. He goes to a show alone
  4. It’s hot (over 90 heat index)
  5. It’s cold (under 25 F)
  6. He friends aren’t in the field with him
  7. I mentioned I had money in the bank account

Anyway. My horse is on pasture 24/7, the quality is better than past years but definitely could be improved. He gets a total of 6 lbs of Purina strategy, 4 lbs of alfalfa pellets, 1/2 lb of Purina amplify and a biotin and magnesium supplement split over 2 meals. The amplify is a new addition this year and a little goes a long way.

I have also had great luck with weight gain with grain designed for Cushing’s horses to add extra weight to him when he was fresh off the track and still far too in shape for his own good.


OTTB’s also lose weight and rack up vet bills right after you’ve saved up and bought them something new and non-refundable, you look cross eyed at them, you gave another horse attention, or you haven’t recently declared your undying allegiance to them that week. God love 'em!

I’ve got a 25 year old OTTB that arrived at my place as a boarder. She was slightly underweight when she arrived. Her owner swore she didn’t require grain beyond ration balancer so I left her be and gave her time to settle in. She dropped a fair bit more weight and then I realized that her owner and I had very different ideas of acceptable body condition. I started her on a performance feed, alfalfa cubes, and mad barn oil. She didn’t make much progress on that so I switched out alfalfa cubes for beet pulp, and that was the magic balance. I worked with the vet, a nutritionist and a local TB expert to find the right balance, but she is doing very well now. Her weight fluctuates during the seasonal transitions from grass to hay, then hay to grass. So I feed her more during those times. We’re now into year three with a consistently good weight.