Best Way To Put Weight on a Horse: Feeding for Weight Gain

The best way to put weight on a horse depends on several factors. For some horses, it could be the food they eat, while for others, it can be timely diagnosis of bad teeth or oral hygiene. When it comes to increasing your horse’s weight, nothing trumps an immediate gain than sticking with a healthy routine. 

If your horse has not gone through a fecal examination recently, you might want to opt for it. Internal parasites can be damaging to the digestive tract and steal nutrition from your horse’s tummy. A veterinary visit can help you rule out any medical conditions that could be obstructing their weight gain. Once that is done, you can look at the food they are having. 

Health Checks: The First Step in Putting Weight on a Horse

Learning how to make a horse gain weight and muscle is a long process but one that improves your horse’s health. Before feeding for weight gain, it’s best to look at any health conditions that could be preventing it. 

Pay Attention to Any Health Issues

An illness or a health problem can cause a rapid decrease in your horse’s weight. No matter how small the problem, if it is enough to make your horse skinny, it is definitely worth the effort to diagnose early on. 

There are times when you should ring up the vet to get a corrective treatment for your horse’s condition. Poor dental conditions alongside internal parasites could be harmless initially but, given enough time, can eat up all of your horse’s energy. If your horse is exhibiting symptoms of pain or discomfort, it could be a massive indicator of any underlying health issues. 

Examine Your Horse’s Mouth

You might believe that your horse is a shy eater. After all, some horses are prone to shy away from food bites or are messy eaters in general. Dropping lumps of food or chewed edges in the water bowl is famously known as quidding. 

Apart from inherent shyness, quidding also happens when your horse has tooth problems. Most horses would rather cut back on eating correctly to avoid the pain in their mouth. Especially with age, they develop hooks, points, or waves in the lower and upper teeth. This can stop them from chewing properly or getting an adequate intake of nutrients. 

If your horse’s teeth need to be checked, it is a good idea to have them examined. Horse teeth continue to grow until their mid-twenties and hence require yearly checkups. 

Look for Any Worms

A complete egg count on your horse’s feces examination can identify the type of parasites. For instance, a large number of strongyles in your horse’s samples indicate stomach aches due to gut inflammation. To put it simply, prolonged gut inflammation can interrupt an optimal digestive system, leading to a loss in weight. 

Once the parasite is revealed, you can carry on with a suitable deworming procedure over a few months or weeks. Deworming your horse will help get rid of any developing eggs and larvae as well. 

Go for a Complete Blood Test

While a complete blood test can be big on your pocket, it is a sure-shot way of knowing what your horse lacks in vitamins. An adequate amount of nutrients and minerals are needed for your horse to function correctly. 

Apart from that, respiratory problems, gastric ulcers, and chronic diarrhea can cause behavioral problems that lead to minimal eating. Behavioral issues such as crib-biting or wind sucking are also responsible for weight loss. 

Differential behaviors can allow a horse to suck in a vast amount of air which causes bloating in horses. A complete horse care routine includes ensuring that your horse is not full of air and is regularly finishing his meals. 

Avoid the Antibiotics 

The adverse effects of antibiotics for horses can hinder their optimal eating routines. If you are learning how to make a horse gain weight quickly, it is best to skip preventive antibiotics. Antibiotics are known to treat a range of infections in horses. Some traditional antibiotics used have also been shown to decrease a horse’s health drastically. 

The side effects of antibiotics include an interruption in the healthy functioning of the stomach that can cause diarrhea, seizures, or colitis. The administrative route for giving antibiotics needs to be validated by a vet in all cases. This includes knowing the dosage and frequency of administering antibiotics. 

Address the Outlying Variables

The older a horse will get, the more difficult it becomes to give it a weight gain feed. As their internal digestive process becomes inefficient, it is best to keep them on horse weight gain supplements. An increase in the intake of protein can withhold their body structure to keep them in good shape. 

Similarly, a stressed horse that has been overworked can exhibit tantrums or rages when eating. Although most horse owners write it off as bad behavior, those who know, understand that these are clear signs of stress. Horses do not deliberately set out to be complicated or defensive. They may be bullied in the paddock or abused in ways that you might not be susceptible to.

On the contrary, rebellious behavior can also be a sign of low vitamins like thiamine and magnesium. A balanced mix of supplements supports an ideal growth of fat and muscles for your horse. Not having enough or having too much can cause them to act out by having problems with their feed. 

One of the most hidden causes for weight loss in horses is a low grade of pain that often goes undetected. A prolonged episode of pain can reflect in a horse’s eating habits. A professional can help you rule out if there are any possibilities of physical pain in your horse. 

Depending on your horse’s current condition, their weight gain journey can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. It is a slow process, and putting weight on a horse quickly is anything but a scam.

Horse’s Nutritional Needs for Weight Gain

Our natural inclination for feeding for weight gain can lead us to believe that our horse needs more food. Before you binge on to provide them with the best feed for weight gain, you might want to consider several aspects. A noticeable lack of appetite for a horse can mean a lot of things. 

Primarily, it could be an underlying illness or a mild pain in their gums. While you are not privy to a horse’s health, an underlying cause for weight loss can also be the quality of hay you give. 


To have a balanced diet, horses need a good amount of fiber. Fiber can be a primary source of food for horses. It is commonly found in hay and grass and is the ultimate food to manage bowel movements. For horses, fiber can help them control blood sugar levels which aid in putting on a healthy weight. 

Surprisingly, not all horses can fully utilize the maximum benefits of fiber. Luckily, that is not an underlying issue as long as you can strategize meal plans. The microbes present in the digestive system of the horse break down the fiber with ease. 

What’s more? After consuming a high-fiber meal, it will allow a horse to access the stored energy when needed. An excellent example of fiber is the fresh green spring grass. The newer the grass, the more fiber your horse will be able to attain. Hence, one of the best horse weight gain tips is maintaining and paying particular attention to your pasture. 

When compared with hay that has been harvested for some time, high-quality hay will always have more fiber. Fiber being a fantastic source of strength for horses, makes it a must-have feed for horses looking to gain. 


Most horse owners would rather avoid giving fatty foods to their horses because of the typical stereotype associated with having more fats in their meals. While this remains a myth, most horse experts, on the contrary, encourage adding fats to a horse’s diet. 

Horses that race for competition go through strenuous activities that they would not have survived without a good amount of fats in their diet. Fats are commonly used as preferential muscle fuel and are exquisite in delaying the onset of fatigue. 

Horses that are carbohydrate-sensitive can use fats to maximize the utilization of the muscle-glycogen process. The rice bran is an excellent source of fats for horses. If bulking up your horse is a challenging task, a supple amount of rice bran in its diet could be monumental. 

When it comes to burning compounds, fats are the slowest to burn. Hence, making them an expert favorite. Horses that are fed a high-fat diet showcase endurance when it comes to strenuous activities. For some horses, adding more fats to their diet can also mean having more gastrointestinal problems. If this sounds like your horse, it is best to switch them to other forms of diet. 


Horses need a vast amount of energy for exercise, metabolism, growth, and other life functions. Starch being the highly digestible form of energy, it can fatten up your horse in no time. However, feeding your horse with an unusual amount of starch can be detrimental to their health. 

The amount of starch that a horse consumes at one point affects the digestion of starch in the small intestine. If the small intestine is unable to digest the starch, it ferments in the large intestine. When the large intestine is loaded with excess starch, it can cause serious health problems for your horse. 

Undigested starch is known to be a prime cause of diseases such as laminitis and colic. To prevent the development of intestinal issues, it is advised to feed your horse with small grains in minimal amounts.

An excellent way to reduce the fermentation of starch is to feed your horse with processed grains. Apart from that, cracking, grinding, crushing, or crimping can increase the digestibility of starch. Although not much is known about the amount of starch you should give to your horse, we see that it varies individually. One of the best feeding practices is to provide your horse with small amounts of starch throughout the day. 

Feeding an Underweight Horse

Most horses do well on hay or grass. For some horses, a longer duration of grazing is all they will need to put on more weight. For others, you will need to provide more than what hay or grass can provide. 

Horses under heavy training sessions, pregnant, growing up, old, or sick will need more calories. In this case, legume hays and alfalfa need to be gradually introduced to skinny horses as hay alone will not be sufficient for their growth. 

Additionally, beet pulp is excellent for horses looking to gain weight. It is high in fiber which can help a horse use it for extra energy. Pelleted food is another example of an energy booster for horses. Not only is pellet food more digestible, but it is also apt for older horses.

Horses that are sick can only chew on small pellets. In this case, rice bran and flax seeds make for an excellent alternative for sick/old horses. Apart from that, certain oils like flax, bran, rice, and corn are also excellent immunity boosters. Some horse owners believe they can also put a shine on the horse’s coat. 

Be careful to introduce it over time whenever you switch to a new feed or introduce a fresh meal. A rapid change in a horse’s diet is also responsible for less eating and lower weight. 

Why Do Horses Lose Weight?

Horses can lose weight for several reasons, both physical and psychological. But of course, you might encounter a horse that is genetically predisposed to gain less weight. During the cold weather, horses burn more energy to stay warm. On the contrary, hot spells can also cause them to lose interest in eating. 

Generally, environmental conditions do tend to lessen their appetite. Under extreme weather conditions, it is best to have added blankets, access to a shelter, and a well-ventilated barn. Summers are notorious for pests like horseflies. Some horses use a tremendous amount of energy just swatting away, stomping, or shaking from the flies. 

To protect the area from biting fleas, you can use traps, sheets, or sprays to help your horse focus more on grazing. 

Additionally, young or old horses could be chased away from the feeders by strong and more bulky horses. Socially, horses tend to form hierarchies. At times, this could mean that your horse is at the bottom of the pecking order. 

To ensure that your horse is eating correctly, they will need a quiet location or multiple feeders to gain weight. You can also keep an eye to see if your horse is being bullied away from food or water. 

Best Feed Practices for Skinny Horses

Ideally, horses need free access to pasture forages or hay alongside the water. Research found that horses who are given good quality forage do not require additional supplements to gain more weight. Horse owners that feed more than fifty percent of dry food in the form of starch can increase the risk of laminitis or colic in their horses. 

Healthy adult horses can also deteriorate in weight over time if fed with a lot of sugar content. One of the best feed practices for horses is to provide them starch not greater than 0.5% of their body weight.

Some roughages, grains, and concentrates are more susceptible to mold and may contain more toxins if left unattended. With regular mowing, you can ensure that the pastures are free of weeds and hence, more nutritious for your horses. 

Besides, if hay is harvested late, it is likely to lose its protein content and thus not help your horse attain its weight gain goals. If you are looking to find a grass/hay mix for your horse, rest assured legume/grass mixtures contain more nutrients. 

FAQs Related to Feeding Horses for Weight Gain 

If you have a quick question about putting weight on a horse quickly, you might find your answer here. We have compiled the most frequently asked questions in this section. 

How do I make my horse gain weight fast?

Because every gram of fat supplies 2.25 times more calories than an identical weight of carbohydrate or protein, fat sources are an excellent way to gain additional calories. A couple of pounds of rice bran combined with beet pulp is often enough to put weight on horses.

What do you feed an underweight horse?

For an underweight horse, the best nourishment is good-quality hay or pasture grass. Give him free choice hay unless there is a medical reason, such as metabolic syndrome, laminitis, or Cushing’s illness. You can also gradually introduce horses to grass to avoid the danger of founder, colic, or diarrhea.
The majority of horses thrive on grass or hay on their own. It may only need more hay in its feeder or more grazing time to gain weight. However, grass hay and pasture grasses are generally sufficient for weight gain. Alfalfa and other legumes aid in increasing the hay and pasture richness.

How long does it take a thin horse to gain weight?

Weight gain is a lengthy process that can take many weeks, depending on the horse’s starting condition. It’s best to add weight to a horse gradually. Therefore let’s use 90 days as an example. Forty-five pounds gained in 90 days is 1/2 pound every day, which is a reasonable target. Adding about 4500 kcal per day to the typical amount consumed should result in a half-pound increase every day.

Does beet pulp help horses in weight gain?

Beet pulp, which has about 1,000 calories per pound, can be used to assist underweight horses in gaining weight (a quart of dried beet shreds is approximately 0.5-0.6 pounds in weight). Beet pulp is an excellent supplement to an equine’s diet if they need to expend many calories or gain weight. 
As beet pulp is readily digested, the horse has much less gut fill and may take a little more every day, allowing for increased feed and calorie consumption, which supports the weight gain idea that many horse owners look forward to.

Should horses have hay all the time?

Horses should always have access to good quality hay, but they can consume too much. If your horse becomes bored or greedy, he is free to eat whatever is available until it is gone. Equines can become stalled if they overeat grass or hay. But if your goal is to acquire weight, it’s ideal for offering free access.

Where do horses gain weight first?

They gain weight in a predictable pattern. A slender horse’s spine will protrude, and a ridge will run down his back. This is where you’ll initially see weight increase or loss. Then you should be able to feel a healthy horse’s ribs but not see them. In a horse that is gaining weight, the trailhead is easily seen.


When increasing the feed for your horse’s weight gain, it is crucial to do so gradually. Changing the number of concentrates suddenly can adversely affect their health. On the downside, it can also lead to developing serious health problems. 

Apart from that, make sure that you are using a weight tape to measure any changes in weight after a dietary change. It is an excellent practice to put these numbers on record to identify the feed that is helping your horse put on more weight. 

Finally, if you cannot see the expected changes within two weeks or in a month, it is best to call an equine nutritionist for a consultation.