Improving your horse's weight this winter

Poor doer? Winter can be a tough season to navigate! We're here to help.

Q What is a poor doer?

A A horse who has a tendency to lose weight easily, irrelevant of breed, type or size

Q Why does my horse lose weight over the winter?

A If you have a poor doer, this could be for a variety of reasons, initially make sure you are catering to their individual needs. Are they older, with compromised dentition? This can negatively affect the absorption of calories and healthy digestion. Do they have an anxious personality? Maybe a calming supplement could help (over and above a well balanced diet with good calorie provision). Are they fussy? Maybe you struggle to feed the calories your horse needs? Are they being fed relative to their workload? Are they being kept warm enough when temperatures drop? Do they have access to ad-lib forage in their diet? Do they get regular turnout with friendly field companions? Consider whether daily management improvements could also help your horse additional to feeding changes.

Q What should I feed my poor doer?

A Focus on feeding forage first, the best quality you can source - Good doers should receive a minimum of 1.5% of their bodyweight in forage daily, e.g. a 500kg good doer would be fed 7.5kg dry forage/day. Poorer doers can be fed more, ideally ad-lib where possible. This should be supported by a balanced diet, before looking for supporting conditioning feeds. Feed balancers alone provide limited calories, and as such calorie content for weight gain will come from supporting options.

When looking at supporting conditioning options, search for the MJ DE/kg value. This is megajoules of digestible energy per kg, the energy/calorie content of the feed. The higher the value the more calorie dense the feed.

Make sure your horse's diet is balanced, containing fibre, carbohydrates, high quality protein such as alfalfa and soya (and essential amino acids), fats from natural oils such as linseed, vitamins and minerals suitable for your horses needs, electrolytes for muscle function and water.

Top tips for managing poor doers in the winter

  • Keep your horse well rugged to avoid calories being used for generation of warmth

  • Feed ad-lib hay/haylage whether your horse is stabled or in the field

  • Feed the best quality forage you can, and have hay/haylage tested for nutritional content where possible, as hay can be as good a source of calories as haylage

  • For older horses who may struggle to chew long stem forage, look for short stem forage alternatives that can be bucket fed

  • Both the forage itself and the saliva created by chewing help to settle the stomach and reduce feelings of stress, particularly useful if your horse is stabled in winter or has an anxious temperament

  • Alfalfa is a preferred chaff option (if suitable) due to higher calorie and protein content

  • You can add oil separately to the diet, make sure the diet contains anti-oxidants and vitamin E (in all Blue Chip balancers)

  • Look for feed balancers which support top line development with highly digestible protein, at least 16%

  • Feed a balancer to ensure your horse continues to receive the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, quality protein and probiotics they need to maintain long term good health. Look for feed balancers which support top line development with highly digestible protein, at least 16%

  • Keep meal sizes as small as possible, and feed more often. Large meal sizes can hamper digestion, missing the opportunity to absorb calories and nutrients, and can also increase the risk of colic

Blue Chip Original contains 18% protein, 6% natural oils and fats and best quality probiotics

Back to blog