How to Put Weight on a Horse

Five Methods:Feeding the Young HorseFeeding the BreakerFeeding the Working HorseFeeding an Old HorseCalculating Feed Amounts

Putting weight on a horse can be easy or complicated depending on the horse in question. A variety of factors such as age, type, work and geographical location can have an influence on your horses condition.


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    Remember the golden rule of feeding, "Feed according to type, work, age, breed, condition, and season."
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    Assess your horse's overall body condition and work from there.

Method 1
Feeding the Young Horse

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    From the moment your little foal starts to eat solids, be careful of what you are feeding it.
    • Traditionally, food was pumped into youngsters in an effort to get them to mature quicker. However, this is proven to have a negative effect on the confirmation of a young horse.
    • A gradual increase in feed as the horse grows is more beneficial. Once weaned, a horse relies totally on your feeding to obtain the right nutrients.
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    Start off with a supply good quality forage. Grass is best and when this is not available, good quality hay or haylage (NOT silage) is essential. You may like a coarse mix (9-11%), since it is pretty palatable. Only try feeding this if the horse can be turned out, as it is usually high in molasses and may cause azoturia if the horse is locked up. Generally, feed this when grazing is poor during the colder months or when condition starts to drop. Try to up the levels of hay first, as this is usually cheaper and just as effective.

Method 2
Feeding the Breaker

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    Plan for the future. Everyone knows that you are most likely to play buckaroo with your horse during breaking.
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    Once breaking has commenced, it is important to not over feed your horse. A low protein diet is best and up the hay or grazing.
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    If at all possible, cut out the hard feed for max 2-3 days before backing, a nice feed after backing is a great reward for being a star pupil. Generally at this point, you could feed them "Speedi-Beet" and Barley, as this doesn't over heat the horse, but is still highly nutritious.

Method 3
Feeding the Working Horse

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    Take into consideration the lifestyle of your horse. Is he pulling a two week cart, or in a team pulling the Budweiser wagon? What you feed here depends on what it is you and your horse do.
    • If your horse is working hard 4-6 days a week, devise a feed chart.
    • Racehorses need high protein feeds which are less fattening. Reducing hay and increasing the hard feed is the norm, Race mix is the norm and is pre made but tends to be expensive. Traditional feeds such as beet pulp and oats are still common in the racing yard.
    • For the pleasure horse, feed simple coarse mix or beet pulp and barley. Increased amounts of feed is given after the horse has worked hard. Hard feed is cut out completely for the ponies in Spring as they tend to only look at grass and get fat.

Method 4
Feeding an Old Horse

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    Remember that the older horse's digestive system doesn't work as well and adaptations in feeding need to be made to prevent him becoming malnourished. 'Dr Green' aka grass is best! During the winter months, you could feed your Seniors beet pulp and rolled barley as it is easily digested and easier to chew. You could feed hay as a bulk, but give haylage for one meal every second day. You can now buy Senior mix from your co-op, which is specifically designed for the older horse.

Method 5
Calculating Feed Amounts

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    As a rule of thumb, remember that generally a horse needs 2-3% of its body weight in feed daily.
    • For a horse in Light work this should be 80% Hay to 20% hard feed.
    • Medium work is 70:30
    • Hard work is 60:40
    • Racing work 50:50
    • A horse weighing 500kg in Medium Work would need 10-15kg in feed per day, lets say 10kg, 7kg of this would be hay/haylage and the other 3kg would be your concentrate feed. This should be fed over 3 meals a day.
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    Know about non feeding factors for weight gain.
    • Worm them regularly.
    • Keep them snug in a rug.
    • Don't overwork.


  • It is important to remember to always feed for work DONE and not work that you intend to do on your horse.For horses in extremely hard work it is important to note that you must never feed more hard feed than forage as this can have serious ill effects on your horse. Always feed good quality forage that is free from mould. Create a worming plan and stick to it. Have your horses teeth checked at least twice a year. REMEMBER a fat horse is NOT a healthy horse and DO NOT over feed

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Categories: Horse Feeding