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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. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Horse can't gain weight

Hi Dr. Getty,

I have a horse that is 4 years old. He has been wormed with the best wormer I could find. He shows no signs of worms. He is almost impossible to keep weight on him. He has always been that way. We feed him twice daily( 10% sweet feed) all the bermuda hay he can eat. Could it be his metabolism is that high. I am considering 16% feed to get his weight up. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.



Re: Horse can't gain weight

Hi Ron,

Underweight can be caused by many factors, so let me give you a list and see if you relate to any of these:

1. Tapeworms – you mentioned that you have him on a worming program. Do you rotate worming chemicals? And, do you provide praziquantel once a year?

2. Ulcers – Ulcers are very common in horses who are stalled for long periods of time, who experience a large amount of stress (due to being without companions, trailering, excessive work, etc.), and from going without food for many hours.

3. Poor bacterial flora in the hindgut – this can be caused by excessive intake of starch (which, when fermented by the bacteria in the hind gut, kills these bacteria). This can also be caused by overall malnutrition. A probiotic is very helpful in these cases.

4. High metabolism – young horses have higher caloric needs than older ones. So, they do need to eat more.

5. Poor quality protein – grass hay is very low in the amino acid called “Lysine,” which is necessary for the production of body proteins (e.g., muscle, enzymes, antibodies, red blood cells, etc.). So, it is important to make sure that the diet contains a mixture of forages to supply a complete amino acid profile.

So, to address the issue of what to feed:
1. Add a legume hay – alfalfa, clover, peanut – either as a hay or as cubes or pellets.

2. Avoid sweet feeds since they are high in sugar and this can cause problems with the bacteria living in the hind gut.

3. Yes, feed a higher protein mixture.

4. Add a high fat top dressing to his feed (such as Weight Builder, or a Flaxseed Meal preparation), or choose a complete feed that is higher in fat.

All the best,

Dr. Getty