How to Fatten a Horse: 11 Steps (with Pictures)

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How to Fatten a Horse: 11 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Fatten a Horse: 11 Steps (with Pictures)

Fattening (or conditioning) a horse is a long process, but it can improve the animal's health. A horse can become underweight when it spends the winter inappropriately sheltered, ingests fewer calories than necessary, has access to poor quality pasture, among other reasons. If the animal has very visible ribs and a very fine coat, it may be undernourished, and therefore cannot be used for work or riding. Before simply increasing the amount of food that serves him, find out if there is any disease preventing him from gaining weight. If the horse is in good health, apart from malnutrition, there are several actions you can take to fatten it up.


Part 1 of 2: Attesting to the Horse's Health

Fatten up a Horse Step 1

Step 1. Check if the horse has any health problems

Before trying to put on weight, it is important to find out if the weight loss is not being caused by an illness. Take it to the veterinarian, who should investigate the animal's health status. If he has any disease, the professional will indicate the appropriate treatment, which will probably also help with weight gain.

The most frequent causes of weight loss in horses are parasite infestations (worms) and dental problems

Fatten up a Horse Step 2

Step 2. Pay attention to the horse's oral health

If he turns his head away when putting the snaffle bit or if he eats clumsily, dropping half-chewed portions of food on the floor or bowl of water, he may have dental problems. When the horse feels pain when chewing, he may prefer to eat less than to face the pain, which leads him to lose weight without other symptoms appearing.

As a horse ages, the horse can develop numerous deformities in the teeth - tips (or sharp edges), crossbite (when a crooked tooth loses its engagement with the tooth in the opposite arch), dimples (lower molars with uneven wear) - which can occur in both arcades. When they occur, such deformities prevent the animal from chewing food properly, resulting in a gradual loss of nutrients

Fatten up a Horse Step 3

Step 3. Ask the veterinarian to check the horse's teeth

From the information he obtains, it will be possible to determine if the weight loss is due to dental problems. The veterinarian must also check that the horse chews its food correctly.

A horse's teeth grow into the second decade of life, so it's a good idea to make sure the horse has its teeth examined and, when necessary, scraped, every year

Step 4. Check the horse for worms

The veterinarian will take a sample of the animal's feces, which will be subjected to a parasite egg count test. If the horse is infested with red worms (known as cyatostomiasis), it probably suffers from stomach pain or intestinal inflammation, which prevents it from fully digesting the food. Once the species of parasite is identified, the horse will be dewormed twice, with an interval of three weeks between each procedure. This will be enough to rid the horse of adult worms as well as eggs and larvae.

  • Horses are more likely to contract worms if they share the pasture with other contaminated horses, which shed parasite eggs in the feces, contaminating the grass.
  • About 95% of parasite eggs found in pastures are red earthworms; therefore, whenever the circumstances for its propagation are favorable, the probability that your horse will become contaminated is high. Other parasites found in pastures that can also cause weight loss are strongyloides.

Step 5. Take a complete blood test

This expense may be undesirable, but the test will show if the horse has any mineral deficiencies and if its organs are functioning normally. With this information, it is possible to find out if the animal needs any supplements. In addition, the test can detect other problems that influence appetite - respiratory diseases, chronic diarrhea, ulcers, behavioral disorders, etc.

Appetite may decrease when the horse develops certain disorders, such as an addiction to swallowing air or chewing wood. Both cause the horse to ingest a lot of air during chewing, which accumulates in the stomach and makes the animal satisfied before it has time to eat a proper portion

Part 2 of 2: Feeding your horse

Fatten up a Horse Step 6

Step 1. Assess the horse's body condition

Body condition is assessed on a scale ranging from 1 to 9, and which takes into account the percentage of fat and muscle in the animal. The grade can be deduced after analyzing six areas of the horse's body. The veterinarian will help you determine the animal's grade and, based on that, can recommend a diet for weight gain. The ideal grade is 5 or 6.

  • Horses with a score between 1 and 4 are considered lean and need a fattening regimen.
  • Very underweight horses need foods high in protein and fat (such as rice bran) to encourage weight gain.
Fatten up a Horse Step 7

Step 2. Look for recommendations before choosing a diet

Talk to the local farm animal food vendor. He must know the benefits of each type of food he has in stock. Describe your horse's condition so that the suggestion is appropriate for the type of problem he has. Remember not to offer too many grains as they are difficult to digest.

You can also ask other riders for help. Many can offer tips and tricks to improve your horse's condition

Fatten up a Horse Step 8

Step 3. Find out how much food your horse needs

If he's too thin, ask your vet what the recommended weight is for a horse your size. Then read the feed package and calculate how much he needs to eat each day. Measure each portion with a scale instead of a ladle, which can provide inaccurate measurements. Portions must be the exact weight. Also, it is important that the horse can graze freely.

  • An average horse needs to ingest 1.8~2% of its body weight daily (including supplements). Therefore, a medium weight horse in good condition needs 8~9 kg of feed per day.
  • For a gradual fattening diet, consider increasing the amount of feed to 2, 3~2, 5% of the horse's weight.
Fatten up a Horse Step 9

Step 4. Consider using concentrated, high-protein food

If the horse is much underweight, look for an extruded, high-calorie, protein-rich feed. Mix 500~700 g of feed for every 100 kg of horse weight to a portion of straw of equal volume. Or offer the same amount of a mixture of barley flakes and moistened rice bran.

Avoid increasing the amount of food suddenly. If you eat too fast, the horse can get diarrhea or colic. Calculate how much he needs to eat in a day to reach the desired weight and spread that amount over 3 or 4 meals a day

Fatten up a Horse Step 10

Step 5. Allow the horse access to grass

It should be the basis of your diet - without grass, the animal runs the risk of not ingesting enough fiber, which causes weight loss. It should be on the grass for 3 or 4 hours a day. But it's important not to leave it on pasture all day: in addition to spoiling the grass, it can develop laminitis and suffer from diarrhea or colic.

  • If possible, serve the horse with good quality hay before releasing it to the pasture so that it does not eat as much grass. Hay takes a long time to convert to energy and, like grass, helps regulate the bowel.
  • During springs, when the grass is fresher and more abundant, limit grazing time to 2 hours (1 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon). Because it is rich in carbohydrates, spring grass increases the risk of laminitis or diarrhea.
Fatten up a Horse Step 11

Step 6. Assess the need to include oils in the horse's diet

Mix 1/4 cup of oil a day with the food you serve; after a few days, double the amount. Add 1/4 cup until you reach 2 cups of oil a day. You can use vegetable, corn, peanut, or canola oil. The oil facilitates digestion and weight gain.

During the high-calorie diet, the horse needs to exercise a little. Thus, he gains weight as he gains muscle, improving his fitness


  • Since different parasites require different treatments, it is important for the veterinarian to find out what type of worm has infected the horse and choose a medication accordingly.
  • Don't give the horse supplements it doesn't need. Selenium and sulfur supplements, when used in large amounts, are poisonous. Do not use these substances unless your veterinarian prescribes an exact dose.
  • During fattening, buy the best quality food. They are more expensive, but you will be able to use them for less time as they are more effective and offer less risk.

    Old horse feed works very well on fattening diets, even for horses that are not old


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