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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

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 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Weight loss

Dear Juliet,

I came across your website by chance today & I do have a question to ask.

Hope you might be able to forward me some advice on the very bothering matter.

I have a rising 4 yr old gelding who is in flat-racing.

He comes from a decent race-winning family & all foals of his dams are race multiple winners.

By the way, he is the 3rd foal of the dam.

My question is this :

His weight is around 430kg & the trainer feels that he is simply too light & small framed to further continue racing.

He only had one race start & started to drop in body weight.

Before the run he was weighing about 450kg & within 3 weeks after the run, he has lost almost 20kg - which is a very worrying matter.

We all know that he has ability but the trainer feels that by letting him run again, he might stand to lose another 10-20kg & that worried the trainer.

Would greatly appreciate your views on theabove matter, including any suggestions that you might have for me - in terms of a change of diet or some extra supplements to feed.

Plse also note that the horse is generally a very poor eater, who does not finish his feed.

Plse advice.

Thank you.


Re: Weight loss

Hello Vincent,
Thank you for writing.
I agree that the amount of weight your gelding has lost is troublesome. Losing nearly 5% of his body weight in such a short period of time is definitely cause for concern.
Before manipulating his diet, I would rule out any medical problem. I expect he is already receiving the finest medical care. However, if it has been a few months since his recent checkup, I would inquire about the possibility of worm infestation. Fecal checks are not always accurate, so a blood test, especially to check for tapeworm larvae, would be something I'd recommend.
I would also have his teeth checked to see if there is anything interfering with his feeding. Some horses require their teeth floated as much as every 6 months. Or there may be a gum problem that is causing discomfort.
If he is in good health, examining his diet is the next step. Certainly, if he is not eating enough food, and is highly physically active, he is going to lose weight. So, since your goal is to continue racing him, we have to find a way to help him consume more calorie-dense food. To do this, a high fat supplement is a good idea. I prefer the use of flaxseed meal. It is quite palatable, contains high quality protein, and mostly Omega 3 fatty acids, which promote healing of inflammed tissues (incurred during intense activity). I do not recommend the use of soybean or corn oil additives because the Omega 6 fatty acids that they contain actually do the opposite - they promote inflammation.
Flaxseed oil and even canola oil, are also good choices.
Since I do not know what else you are feeding, I cannot tell you how many calories he is consuming. If you'd like to do the math, you want him to have approximately 33 Mcal per day while he's racing. To help you put this into perspective, a kg of oats has 2.85 Mcal; a kg of corn grain has 3.38 Mcal; a kg of Brome hay has between 1.5 to 1.9 Mcal depending on how fresh it is. The more mature it is, the less water it has, and therefore, has more Mcals. Legume hay, such as alfalfa, has approximately 2.0 Mcal/kg.
Regarding the flaxseed meal, you can start by adding .5 pounds (approximately 220 grams) each day and build up to 900 grams a day. Watch for any loose stools.
Another energy rich food is Beet Pulp ( I recommend soaking it - do not feed dry). However, he may not be inclined to eat this, since you say he doesn't finish his feed. Adding molasses will make it more tasty.
I hope this is helpful. I would like to post your question on my website's forum, if you'd be agreeable, so that others can benefit.
Please keep me informed as to his progress.
All the best,
Dr. Getty

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.
Equine Nutritionist
Getty Equine Nutrition