From AAEP’s Ask the Vet: Thoroughbred with No Appetite

I have a TB mare off the track, she is 16 yrs old now, and I’m having a difficult time keeping weight on her. She looked her best about 2 years ago. She could care less about food, it takes her all day to finish her breakfast, then it is time for dinner. She has been wormed and teeth floated and up to date on vaccinations. I tried SmartGain 4 and mare calm for about a year, and now she is on a different regimen. Still could use 100 lbs. – Pam

Dear Pam,

I’m going to give you the same advice I gave the other person with a thin, picky eater: invest in a HayGain Steamer! You’ve already tried a supplement with fenugreek in it to tempt her with a maple/vanilla aroma (the SmartGain 4). How about a weight gain supplement that’s purely fat, or a weight gain supplement that’s purely protein (amino acids)? I find that horses respond very individually to different brands within the same category (weight gain) so don’t hesitate to experiment with some other products.

Another suggestion is to play with her forage. Interestingly enough, turns out easy keepers LOSE weight with small hole hay nets while hard keepers, like yours, actually GAIN weight. There’s something about a constant source of forage trickling through their digestive system that seems to regulate or normalize horses’ weight. If you haven’t tried alfalfa hay, cubes, or pellets with her, they’re also a great way to increase appetite and add weight to horses.

As the previous question and answer mentioned, soaked beet pulp is another way to encourage horses to eat and to get calories into them. Beet pulp is a complex carbohydrate or fiber that is fermented by the good bugs in the hind gut or large intestine (cecum and colon) into readily available energy/calories.

Research suggests the fermentation process might be enhanced with the addition of active live yeast such as Saccharomyces cereviseae. That is, supporting her with a digestive supplement may help her get more nutrition out of the food she already consumes. Besides yeast, you’ll also find probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes and other ingredients in this particular category of supplement.

I rarely recommend adding grain or increasing the level you’re already feeding, but consider switching to a more calorie-dense product so the food she does take in has more “bang for the buck.”

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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4 comments on “From AAEP’s Ask the Vet: Thoroughbred with No Appetite
  1. bonnie kaiser says:

    Thanks i have a 34 year old mare pony with cushings. I will check with my vet re beet pulp and alpha. He recommeded increasing grain and add oil. She doesnt like oil! Eats grain slowly but does get it in. Im proving small portions often in day

  2. michelle says:

    i have a 16 yr old mustang gelding. he has always been an easy keeper but ever since he was treated for collic last year he seems to be not feeling well for one reason or onother. which leads me to my question; today i found him breathing heavy and all sweaty which lead him to want to lay down and roll alot. it was like we just came home frm a long ride. he is very gassie but he is still eating. he also seems slugish and not himself. what are your thoughts and please forward your recomendations on how to treat my poor guy. thank you

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Michelle, thanks for your comment. We’re sorry to hear that your horse isn’t feeling well! Our recommendation is to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible since he is exhibiting some of the signs of colic. Your vet will be able to recommend the best course of treatment. We hope he is feeling better soon!

  3. Mary says:

    I got my picky very underweight Oldenburg mare to eat by changing her grain to Triple Crown Complete, adding a cup of soaked beet pulp, and mixing in 2 quarts of warm water to make a nice warm mash. She LOVED it! She has since put on almost 200 LBS! She has filled out very nicely. I added other fats over a VERY slow time, like Hulleus oats, and rice bran. She loved the Hulleus oats, but wasn’t fond of the rice bran unless it was mixed in the hot mash. After she put on a good amount of weigh, I backed off the oats, and rice bran, and added Omega Max Triple Crown Golden Ground Flax. She LOVES to eat, and gets plenty of good fat Omega 3,and 6. The Omega Max is 34% fat, so be careful how much you give in a day. I give her 4 ounces Am, and PM. ( about 1/2 cup AM & PM). I since acquired a VERY thin TB mare who was very food aggressive and pretty much starved. I have over a 2 month time have done the same diet with her. She has put on 75 LBS! Her food aggression has subsided as she is becoming nutritionally complete. Both mares are also on a Pre/and Probiotic supplement. The TB mare had chronic digestive problems ( frequent cow pies) and was very cranky. Since adding the PRE/PROBIOTICS her digestive problems have greatly improved and she is very relaxed, happy and way less cranky. Also I only feed 3 1/2 lbs of grain to the 1250 lb Oldenburg, and 3 1/4 lbs to the TB AM & PM, and PLENTY of good quality hay! I prefer to only feed emough grain to get the right amount of vitamins, and minerals, rather than give large amounts of grain. I hope if you try these diet suggestions I mentioned works for your horse if you decide to try them! GOOD LUCK!

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