How to feed for weight gain in the Competition horse
Every competition horse owner struggles with that fine balance of increasing and maintaining their horse’s condition without the ‘heating up’ effect. Some horses are naturally ‘good doers’ and will put on weight from just a blade of grass, but there are others that can struggle to maintain condition no matter what you feed them. The first thing that needs to be ruled out in such instances is whether there are contributing factors such as ulcers. Ulcers in horses will always put a dampener on any weight gain feeding programme so they need to be healed and prevented with ongoing dietary management.
Weight gain should always be a gradual process to be healthy so feeding your horse every ‘weight gain’ feed under the sun may speed up the process but isn’t going to be good for his health in the long run. Horses are routine animals and their digestive system isn’t suited to cope with rapid changes, and any changes or increases to your horse’s diet should occur over a period of at least a couple of weeks.
To help increase your horse’s condition you need pay attention to the number of calories he consumes, not necessarily the actual amount he is eating. Of course, making sure the horse is getting his 2% of bodyweight in dry matter per day is a requisite, but within that 2% we can look at the type of calories being ingested such as feeding higher calorie feestuffs or by increasing the digestibility of the current feed ration.
High oil/fat feeds
These are an easy way to increase calorie intake to help improve condition.
Fats contain 2.25 times more energy than carbohydrates making them a concentrated but ‘cool’ source of energy.
Fats are slow release energy sources and unlike high starch feeds won’t rapidly increase your horse’s blood sugar which can lead to fizzy behaviour. High fat feeds such as linseed meal and vegetable oil found in Fibregenix Feed Balancers can provide an ideal boost in calories.
Oils are also key in supplying the essential fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6 which contain beneficial anti-inflammatory properties and help support immune function as well as providing a energy. All oils contain the same amount of energy but it’s their ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 which separates them.
It is important to remember that any changes whatsoever to the diet should be made gradually over a period of 1-2 weeks and some horses may have less tolerance to increased levels of oil in the diet than others. Eg ponies and donkeys have a lower tolerance for high levels of oils. Horses have small stomachs so smaller, nutrient dense, regular feeds are much more beneficial than 2 large meals a day.
Probiotics & Nucleotides
High potency live yeast probiotics are also a great way to help increase your horse’s condition as they can help improve fibre digestion by up to 100% allowing your horse to get twice as many calories out of the same amount of fibre.
A high quality probiotic helps to support gut health enabling your horse to efficiently absorb nutrients essential for optimal health. Fibregenix Prime Original and Fibregenix Platinum Pro are formulated with the highest quality equine approved live yeast probiotic combined with nucleotides to help improve fibre digestion which in turn helps increase your horse’s condition without needing to increase the feed intake – this also helps to keep your feed bill low.
Weight gain is not always a simple science and it’s important to be patient when it comes to increasing your horse’s condition – in many cases changes in condition will not be visible for up to 8 weeks, but when feeding a Fibregenix feed balancer you should expect to see a change before you finish your first bag.
Recommended diet for weight gain – 8 year old Competition Horse in medium work weighing 500kg*
- 500g Fibregenix Prime Original
- 2.0kg chaff or 1kg beet pulp
- Cold pressed Linseed Oil (as per manufacturer’s recommended amount)
- So long as there is no ulcer problem in the horse there is the option to additionally feed either oats or micronized barley at appropriate levels for the work being done if necessary,. and at no more than 100g per 100kg of bodyweight in starch per meal to avoid starch overload in the digestive system. Avoid starch meals for horses with ulcers and provide energy from fats/oils and increased quality fibre instead.
- Ad lib quality hay or haylage
*split between 2-3 feeds daily. Please note a minimum of 2% of total dry feed of your horses’ body weight should be fed daily, that’s 10kg for a 500kg horse.