Underweight Horses

Some horses are known as poor doers, poor doers are especially prone to losing weight or struggling to put weight on and becoming underweight. Weight loss can occur when the calorie content in the horse’s diet is too low, however, this is not always the case, in some cases, it can be down to health problems. We recommend contacting a veterinary surgeon if you feel this might be a case. We also recommend contacting our equine nutrition team to check your horses’ diet and ensure they are getting everything they need.

How to tell if a horse is underweight

The best way to keep an eye on your horse’s weight is to weigh it regularly. However, most people haven’t got easy access to a weighbridge, so another good method of regularly keeping an eye on your horse’s weight is to combine a weigh tape with body condition scoring (BCS). BCS is a method used widely in research and consists of assessing common fat deposit areas and scoring them from 0-5 with an ideal score being 3.

The most important key is consistency - use it regularly, and get the same person to do it. By doing it regularly, it’s easy to tell when there’s a difference in fat deposits, rather than relying on visual changes alone. The same applies to using weigh tapes – although they’re not always accurate, they’re a great tool when used consistently (using the exact same weigh tape, and the same person using it), to notice any difference in weight before it becomes visible.

Top tips

Digestive Supplement - ensure your horse’s feed contains a digestibility supplement, this helps maximise the gains from the horse’s whole diet. All our balancers contain digestive supplements.

Good quality forage - horses often struggle to maintain and put weight on if the quality of their forage is poor. We recommend getting your grass and hay/haylage analysed. If you only have access to poor quality forage, we recommend feeding additional good-quality fibre such as alfalfa.

Ensure they are being fed little and often - horses are designed to eat little and often - giving them more feed in one feed will provide them with very little extra if over the feed is more than 50g per 100kg bodyweight (2.5kg per feed for a 500kg horse), as this is what most horses can effectively digest at once. Feeding them less in each feed, but more feeds per day, can be very beneficial for encouraging weight gain.

High protein – feeding a feed that is high in high-quality protein helps encourage weight gain and muscle development.

Include oil - adding oil to horses’ feed is a good way to help encourage weight gain without providing any unwanted fizziness. We recommend soya oil and linseed oil due to their beneficial Omega 3:Omega 6 ratios