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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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All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Re: Underweight horse. Need sound advice on where to start

Hello Stacy,

Thank you for writing. I know how much he means to you, which is why you are looking for answers. But what I am going to suggest is not going to be comfortable for you to hear.

Horses are designed to graze -- all the time. The digestive system is designed to have forage flowing through it at all times.

If left with an empty stomach, the acid that is continuously flowing in the stomach will likely lead to an ulcer. Ulcerations along the digestive tract lead to weight loss (as well as a variety of more serious complications).

Furthermore, acid that trickles down to the hindgut (cecum and large colon) destroys the bacteria that live there. These guys are responsible for digesting forage. If their numbers are decreased, you can feed all the hay you want and your horse will not gain weight. They digest forage and therefore, provide your horse with calories.

So, the best advice I can offer is to give him hay, round the clock. If it costs more, it will cost a whole lot less than a series of vet bills. Plus you'll have a healthy horse.

In addition, give him a potent pre and probiotic to help the hindgut microbials. I recommend Synbiotic EQ at a double dose.

Also, give him alfalfa. He not only needs the extra calories, but this will buffer the stomach acid he is enduring. Ideally, he should have about 40% of his total hay ration as alfalfa.

Stacy, not only is he in physical pain when acid is bathing the unprotected lining of his stomach -- he is also experiencing mental stress (because this type of feeding goes against his natural instincts to nibble on hay all day and all night long). This can lead to further weight loss. And he could also colic, or have trouble with his feet (laminitis).

If your current barn manager will not cooperate, then I highly recommend finding another facility. Remember, he is your horse (not the barn manager's).

Please keep me posted.

All the best,

Dr. Getty
Author of Feed Your Horse Like A Horse

I bought an 11 year old QH/Arabian gelding in October. He was on the thinner side to begin with. (His ribs were visable). The person I bought him from had him on free choice low quality grass hay and 2 cups beet pulp soaked with 1 cup pellet food and 1 cup equipride 2xday. I moved him to a rough board stable that was NOT feeding enough hay for the amount of horses they had and they charged an outrageous amount to feed grain 2xday so I switched him (after about a month and a half) to a different stable but he has dropped weight since I've had him so his ribs are MORE visable and his tailbone is starting to stick out. We also have had some cold temps here lately. At the new stable he is now fed grass/alfalfa hay twice a day and is on 4 lbs. safechoice with a cup of veg. oil and 3 scoops cool calories a day (split into 2 feedings). Feeding more hay is not an option as he's being boarded. What is the best kind of diet to have him on at this point? He is being ridden in light work maybe once a week at the moment. I had his teeth done within the past few weeks but he is still dropping quite a bit of grain/eats slow. He seems to be in good spirits with a healthy appetite...just not gaining weight Have I not given it long enough, could he still be stressed out from the moves, or is he on a wrong diet altogether? PLEASE HELP!

Thank you

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO