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Horses - Diet and Nutrition/Gaining Weight on a thoroughbred



I have a 12 year old, 17.2hh thoroughbred who finished racing in March 2012. I have owned him since April 2012 and since then I have been having a hard time trying to get him to gain weight. He has gained weight since I have had him, but I am now at a stage where he does not seem to be gaining any more weight.

I have had him on a range of different feeds to try and find the correct feed for him to gain weight.

The areas he is struggling to gain weight on is his hind quarters, topline and the area around his withers.

He is currently being fed:

300g Alfa A Oil
150g dry weight Speedi Beet
300g Blue Chip Original
400g topspec conditioning flakes

He is fed this twice a day. He lives out 24/7 and is given around 15kg of Haylage per day.

I have had him checked for worms and also his teeth and everything is fine.

He is now being lunged for 30 mintues per day, 6 days a week to try and build muscle and topline.

Any advice on what I could change/do to help him gain weight would be much appreciated. I am at my wits end on what to do with this horse, I have tried everything I can think of.

Thank you


Hi Robert,

Thank you for your question.  First and foremost I would suggest running a ration for your horse which will help determine if his weight issues are the result of a diet that is deficient in energy.  If you calculate the ration and technically it should be allowing your horse to gain weight but he isn't, then you would look for digestive or metabolic issues that are preventing weight gain.  In order to calculate a ration for you I would need a bit more information;  your horse's current body weight and an analysis of the haylage that you are feeding.  In instances like this where we have weight issues it is important to have an accurate analysis for the haylage and not just an estimation.  With the majority of your horses nutrients coming from the haylage (2.3kg supplements per day vs 15kg haylage), you really need to know its value.  

In order to build muscle an adult horse needs both exercise and enough dietary protein. Without BOTH, he will not build the muscle you are looking for.  Again, calculating a ration for your horse will let you know if you're meeting his protein requirements.

Without having all of the information, there are a few general recommendations I could make.  First, ensure that your horse has as much forage (in this case haylage) as he can eat during the day.  You would expect your horse to eat around 12kg of dry matter per day (depending on his body weight).  Knowing how wet your haylage is, you can roughly estimate if he is getting enough.  Secondly, consider feeding a quality prebiotic like Alltech's LifeForce Formula.  Many off the track thoroughbreds leave training with digestive disorders that LifeForce can help regulate.  

If you can, provide me with an accurate body weight for your horse and analyze your haylage  I can calculate a ration for you.

Thanks, Corlena

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Corlena Patterson


I can help with any of your horse nutrition questions and concerns. I have been involved with horses for closing on 40 years, with a B.Sc in Animal Science and currently working on an M.Sc in Equine Science with the University of Edinburgh. I have owned my own feed store, consulted professionally as an equine nutritionist, and lectured in the fields of equine and dairy nutrition at the University level for 5 years. I have developed and currently market 'Ration-X', a ration formulation program for horses...designed for the everyday horse owner. I am happy to help in any way I can.


Experienced in developing and implementing feed programs for horses of all disciplines, creating custom horse supplements and managing inter-disciplinary equine facilities. Specialize in equine nutrition consulting.

The American Society of Equine Appraisers

'Stable Management' Handbook, Equine Canada.

M.Sc (Equine Science-current), B.Sc(Agr) Animal Science, Equine Sports Massage Therapy Certification, Farrier Certification, Equine Consultant Certification, Certified Equine Appraiser, Certified in Emergency Equine Rescue.

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