Feeding your horse for Winter weight gain

One of the most common questions asked on the Dengie feedline in the winter months is “how to put weight on without making the horse fizzy?” The first step is to try and identify the cause of the problem.

What causes weight loss?

If your horse is generally well, has had their teeth checked and been wormed regularly, the most common reason for winter weight loss is simply the deterioration in the quality and quantity of grass combined with the horse using more energy to keep warm.

How do I promote weight gain?

Put simply, to gain weight a horse needs to consume more energy or calories than they expend. Underfeeding is a common problem, as horse owners often don’t weigh their feed. Evaluating what and how much you currently feed is a good place to start as it will help you to asses if this is appropriate for your horse’s bodyweight and workload. Simply feeding more may be all that is required to achieve some weight gain.

If you are feeding a lower calorie product or a combination of several feeds and your horse needs to gain weight, rather than increasing the quantities it is better to change to a higher calorie feed. Keeping meal sizes small is much better for promoting efficient digestion thereby allowing the horse to get more out of what you feed.

How to feed for weight gain without the fizz?

One of the main concerns for many people when feeding for weight gain is that their horse may become more excitable. It is important to be realistic over the winter months as other factors can contribute to fizzy behaviour. A variable workload and increased stable time may well result in your horse being a little fresher the next time you ride. However, there are ways in which you can reduce the risk of over-excitable behaviour.

Firstly, when introducing a higher energy or calorie feed it is important to do so gradually. If you suddenly provide your horse with lots more energy in their diet it will increase the likelihood of them becoming more over-exuberant. Secondly, the type of energy source provided is important. Feeds based on ‘slow-release’ energy sources such as fibre and oil release energy gradually and are less likely to promote over-exuberant behaviour compared to sources of ‘quick-release’ energy such as starch from cereal grains.

Dengie feeds for weight gain

Dengie’s highest calorie fibre based feeds are Dengie Alfa-A Oil, Alfa-A Molasses Free and Alfa-Beet and they are ideal for promoting condition without the fizz this winter.

Alfa-A Oil combines alfalfa with a rape seed oil coating and at 12.5MJ/kg has a calorie level comparable to a Conditioning Mix/Cube, but without the starch. Alfa-A Oil is suitable for horses and ponies in hard work or those in low levels of work that need to gain weight.

Alfa-A Molasses Free combines chopped and pelleted alfalfa with a rape seed oil coating and the added herbs mint and fenugreek for added interest. At 11.5MJ/kg digestible energy Alfa-A Molasses Free is also useful for condition without the fizz and is ideal for fussy horses and ponies due to the added pellets and herbs. Alfa-A Molasses Free is approved by The Laminitis Trust

Alfa-Beet combines alfalfa and unmolassed sugar beet with a convenient two hour cold soak or 15 minute hot soak time. At 10.5MJ/kg digestible energy Dengie Alfa-Beet provides a source of highly digestible fibre and can be fed alongside any Dengie fibre product to provide addition calories for weight gain.

Alfa-A Oil, Alfa-A Molasses Free and Alfa-Beet are all naturally low sugar and starch feeds and are therefore suitable for a wide range of horses and ponies that need to gain weight and yet require a low sugar and starch ration such as those prone to laminitis, those with Cushing’s, and those prone to over-exuberant behaviour.

Alfa-A Oil, Alfa-A Molasses Free and Alfa-Beet do not contain any added vitamins and minerals, so if feeding a fibre only ration, they should be fed alongside a broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement from the Dengie Vits & Mins range or a Dengie Balancer. For individual winter feeding advice please contact the Dengie Feedline on 01621 841188.