QUESTION: We bought a horse of unknown breed about 3 years ago at an horse auction sale. We were told she was 9 years old when we bought her. She is so hard to keep weight on her. We tried deworming her but that didn't seem to help much. Her teeth seem okay. We feed her lots of hay and 1/2 bucket of oats/sweetfeed twice a day. Why do you think she is so skinny all the time? We don't ride her because she is so skinny.

ANSWER: (1) Some horses such as a few of the Thoroughbreds may appear very thin but are actually in good shape. They appear thin because of their pedigree, thus hereditary "Conformation". Some Arabians are the same way depending on that particular horses ancestry/pedigree. Have your horse checked by a Vet to determine how thin it is by the Vet scoring it on the Universal Scale of from One to Nine. With One being in severe distress (EMACIATED) to Nine which is extremely Overweight. NOTE: Some of the two breeds types mentioned here can also be very high strung and need additional feed as they burn calories quickly.

(2) Many horses of all ages need their teeth done once or even sometimes twice a year, every year to prevent problems with chewing and thus digesting their food. Your horse may be a lot older than you were told she is too? As some people are known to knock a few years off a horses age when selling them???
All older horses need their teeth done.
Check that her manure is normal and for excessive amounts of undigested feed present in it. Watch her eat to make sure her teeth are indeed in good shape. No dribbling grain, no "quidding" and no yawning while eating (yawning is opening the mouth wide because of tooth/jaw/mouth pain).

(3) Many horses must be dewormed every 6 weeks, all year long to keep the amount of internal parasites (worms) down. Deworming horses only once or twice a year just does not work for most horses. Switching types of dewormer is necessary as worms can become resistant to the same drug type in dewormers over time.

(4) Some horses can have a damaged gut from once having had an overload of internal parasites (worms). These horses do not and cannot digest their feed well. Chronic episodes of Diarrhoea is just one of many symptoms of a damaged gut from an overload of worms still present or in the past. Episodes of Colic may be common too.

(5) Some horses may be very high strung and nervous types who need extra calories just to keep weight on. Horses that are stressed included. NOTE: Since this person asking the Question stated they do not ride this horse, I will not go into what everyone should know anyway. Which is the harder the horse is being worked, the more feed it must have.

(6) Mares with Cystic Ovaries or an infected Uterus can be hard to keep weight on.

(7) Horses with certain ailments and/or diseases can be impossible to keep weight on them. Your Vet must diagnose the horse first, then set up an adequate feeding schedule for you and perhaps prescribe helpful medications.

There are some other reasons for problems with keeping weight on a horse also. I have listed only the main ones here.

I have not seen your horse, nor examined her teeth, nor know enough about her life history to be of to much further help. Perhaps your hay is very poor quality? It may not be dusty or mouldy but instead a type (such as slough grass) that has no food value to it hardly at all? Or it could have been cut and baled to late in the season to have much nutritional value. Top Quality Hay is even more important than grains, etc. So think about the quality of the hay or better, have it tested for nutritional value. Make sure she has hay free choice 24/7 and of course fresh water 24/7. And a salt block or a vitamin/mineral block that contains salt also.
Grains and other feeds should always be fed by "Weight", not "Volume". Meaning you need to be weighing her feed, not depending on the size of the bucket you use.

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