7 Best Horse Feed for Weight Gain- Reviews & Buying Guide 2021
Putting weight on a horse is very dependent on the individual. Some horses are easy keepers and seem to stay fat on grass and air, while others will need twelve pounds of feed three times a day with all of the hay and grass they can get. Here are the best horse feeds for weight gain as well as some tips for maintaining weight over time.
What Forages are Necessary for a Horse?
Alfalfa is the best forage for putting weight on a horse. Alfalfa comes in a variety of forms from bales to pellets to cubes. It’s important to purchase alfalfa from a reputable dealer and to avoid certain states, like Texas, due to blister beetles. Blister beetles infest the fields and are deadly to horses. To ensure clean and beetle free alfalfa, you can also purchase the Standlee compressed bales, cubes or pellets. These products make it easy to know your horses are receiving the best alfalfa possible.
If alfalfa is not easily located or you’re not able to feed it free choice, you can also feed grass hay. Coastal and Timothy are two popular grass hays, but grass hay varies by region. It is recommended to feed horses hay with 24/7 access. Some grass hays are also available in pellets, such as Timothy hay. Alternatively, you can buy a combination of alfalfa and timothy hay pellets.
Keep in mind that some alfalfa products, like cubes and pellets, need to be soaked before feeding to horses. This is to prevent choking. Because they are dehydrated products, once they are chewed and mixed with saliva, they may ball up, causing a blockage in the horse’s throat. In some cases, this is a medical emergency.
Our 5 Favorite Horse Feeds for Weight Gain
Our Top 5 Feeds to Help Your Horse Gain Weight
There are many different feeds available on the market today. The first thing to consider when choosing a grain is the age of your horse and the second thing is their workload. Are they a performance horse that is worked with on a daily basis? Do they burn a lot of calories on a daily basis? Or are they lightly worked or not worked at all?
Another thing to consider is if the horse has any health or metabolic issues that should be taken into consideration. For instance, some horses are insulin-resistant and should not be fed a feed that is sweetened.
A performance horse is going to need a feed that is 14% protein and has enough calories to replenish and possibly exceed the calories that the horse burns on a daily basis to ensure they put on or keep their weight. A pleasure horse, on the other hand, may only need a 10-12% protein feed to maintain its weight. With underweight horses, protein is vital and essential for growth.
Protein comes from a variety of sources such as alfalfa meals, soybeans, legumes, cottonseeds, and more. Grain should always be fed by weight rather than by scoop, as each type of feed in the same scoop weighs differently than the next.
The majority of feeds on the market utilize starches and carbohydrates. These come from grains such as oats and barley. However, there are some horses that cannot consume grains due to a variety of health issues. If this is the case with your horse, look for a grain-free feed.
When trying to help a horse gain weight, you want to look for a feed that includes ingredients such as beet pulp and rice bran. These are great because they are super fibers and are high calorie and high fat but are still a forage. It is best to opt for a feed that is high-fat and high-fiber.
Oils also help with weight gain as they are pure fat. Flax oil is an excellent choice as it is anti-inflammatory while also being an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
You also want to look for a feed that includes prebiotics and probiotics. This ensures that the good bacteria in the horse’s hindgut stay happy and helps the horse gets the most out of their feed. Feeding a junior or senior feed is often recommended because they are designed for horses that are growing as well as horses that are aging. Both age groups have higher nutritional needs than a horse that simply needs maintenance.
#1) Bluebonnet Feeds Triple Crown Senior
Triple Crown Senior is a feed that is high fat, beet pulp-based and is designed for easy chewing. This is a complete feed, so it is ideal for horses who have digestive issues like ulcers, or teeth issues.
You can actually serve this feed by itself if the horse is unable to eat hay or pasture. It is also great for horses that have a hard time swallowing or are prone to choking.
Because this feed is designed for senior horses, it has concentrated nutrients and can be soaked to form a mash easily. It is also low in sugar, so is great for horses that are insulin resistant. The protein range is 13-15%.
- Easy-to-chew extruded pellet
- Complete feed that doesn’t require pasture or hay
- Great for horses with digestive issues or bad teeth
#2) Purina Mills Equine Senior Active 50 lb. Bag
Purina Equine Senior Active is the best Purina horse feed for weight gain and combines all of the important ingredients, including flaxseed, rice bran, and vegetable oil. It is a high fat, high fiber formula that is low in starch and sugar.
This feed is designed for the active senior horse versus the retired senior horse. It includes prebiotics and probiotics, as well as the Amplify high-fat nugget. This feed includes more calories from fat and less sugar.
Vitamin E helps to support the immune system. This feed is not a complete feed, like the original Purina Equine Senior, and is designed to be fed with hay and pasture.
- Includes multiple weight gain ingredients
- High fiber and high fat formula
- Low in starch and sugar
#3) Purina Animal Nutrition Purina Ultium Gastric Care 50
Purina Ultium Gastric Care is a feed developed to help horses who suffer from hindgut ulcers or are prone to them. This feed is ideal for high performance horses that travel frequently.
This feed was created with hardworking horses in mind and was designed to help them deal with stress. An underweight horse is often a stressed horse.
This feed also includes the Purina Outlast supplement, which buffers faster and to a higher pH during digestion. This feed is designed for mature horses that are working, so is not ideal for young horses that need to gain weight.
- Includes the Purina Amplify Supplement
- Includes prebiotic fiber designed for the hindgut
- Includes multiple fatty acids
#4) Kalmbach Feeds Tribute Kalm 'N Ez Pellets for Horse
Tribute Kalm N’ Ez Pellets is designed for horses that are insulin resistant, or have PPID or laminitis and can’t have any added sugars in their diet. This feed is low NSC, has no corn and no molasses.
This is a grain-free feed but provides proper nutrition and highly digestible fiber, resulting in performance horses that are calmer but still energetic.
It also includes organic minerals. This feed is appropriate for horses that are two years and older.
It is a complete feed, so it does not have to be fed with forage as long as you feed enough. This feed also includes joint support supplements including MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate.
- High fat with highly digestible fiber
- Includes amino acids and fatty acids
- Active dry yeast acts as a prebiotic and probiotic
#5) Manna Pro Cool Calories 100 Fat Supplement for Horses
Manna Pro Cool Calories 100 Equine Dry Fat Supplement is not a feed, but a supplement designed to be added to a quality feed. The Manna Pro brand has a longstanding reputation for providing quality weight gain supplements.
This supplement can be fed to hard keepers, underweight horses and performance horses.
If you already use a balanced feed that you’re happy with and you just need your horse to put on a few more pounds, this supplement is a great option.
- Easy to mix
- High in fat
- Highly palatable
#6) Manna Pro Max-E-Glo Pellets for Horse
Manna Pro Max-E-Glo Pellets is a rice bran supplement that can be added to a horse’s diet. This can be added to your horse’s daily feed or fed on its own to help put weight on a horse, as long as the horse receives ample daily forage. Some users report seeing a change in weight within two weeks of using the product.
Rice bran comes from the most nutritious part of the rice kernel but must be stabilized to keep it from becoming rancid. Max-E-Glow Pellets are guaranteed fresh for one year.
It is also available as a meal versus a pellet, so you can choose which one your horse prefers.
- Extruded pellet
- Stays fresh for one year
- Can be fed to horses of all ages from weanlings and up
#7) The Phoenix Renew Gold Supplement
Renew Gold is another rice bran supplement that is easy to feed. At just a cup per day, you will see results in your horse’s weight as well as their coat. One bag lasts a whole month.
Renew Gold is a combination of high-fat stabilized rice bran, Cool Stance coconut meal, and flax. It is Non-GMO and designed to eliminate high starch from diets, helping to make a healthy digestive system.
Renew Gold includes concentrated nutrition that is designed to replace a grain-based feed. It is also calcium/phosphorous balanced, so it can be fed with any type of hay.
- Feed one cup a day
- Small pellets that mix with feed easily
- Includes multiple ingredients ideal for weight gain
Things to Consider Before You Buy a Horse Feed for Weight Gain
- Check their teeth — In many cases, horses lose weight because of their teeth. Horses should have their teeth floated at least once a year to ensure that their teeth are level and that they don’t have any sharp points. Some horses drop feed as a sign that they are having difficulty eating. However, some horses are also just messy. Other signs that their teeth need floated is that the grass or hay may ball up in their cheek and they spit it out. This is called “quidding.” The teeth affect the horse’s body in many different ways, so whenever there is signs of trouble with a horse, teeth should always be checked first.
- Check for ulcers — A horse with ulcers will have a hard time putting on weight and will also show physical signs of pain in most cases. If a horse is sensitive around their belly, it’s a sign of ulcers. They will often bite at themselves or you while grooming or saddling. Some horses develop neurotic tendencies such as weaving or cribbing as well. There are two types of ulcers as well. The occur in the foregut and the hindgut. Hindgut ulcers are more difficult to treat and may require a special feeding regimen. Medication is required to treat ulcers and you will need to discuss this with your vet. Using a feed for weight gain that is ulcer- friendly is also important as is feeding alfalfa.
- Deworm your horse — While you’re working with your vet, it’s also important to get a fecal egg count for worms. Parasites like worms make it hard for your horse’s body to take advantage of all the nutrients it consumes. Creating a deworming program with your vet is vital to the health of your horse.
- How much should I feed my horse?
Every manufacturer has their suggest amounts to feed based on the products nutrients and ingredients. Some feeds are concentrated, so you will feed much less than other feeds. When determining how much to feed for weight gain, you will want to consider the age of the horse, the work that it does and how many pounds of forage per day they consume. Then you will want to get a kitchen scale, weigh your scoop and subtract that weight from your results when you weigh the scoop filled with feed. It is vital that you weigh your feed rather than go by scoop count.
- Does the feed I choose cover all of the horse’s vitamin and mineral needs?
Some of the products we listed above are supplements rather than feeds. They are designed to be combined with an actual feed product. You cannot feed them alone and expect your horse to receive all of the vitamins and nutrients it needs. It is also recommended that you provide a free choice salt or mineral block to horses as well.
- Do I still have to feed hay?
There are rare cases in which a horse is simply unable to eat grass or hay. In this case, choose a complete feed. Complete feeds include forage in them, so you don’t have to feed hay with the feed, but you do have to feed more of the feed following the manufacturers guidelines. If a horse is capable of eating hay, it is recommended to provide free choice hay as horses need to be able to graze throughout the day for their digestion as well as their mental health.
- How much forage does my horse need?
Horses need to consume 1% of their bodyweight in forage per day. This means that a 1000-pound horse needs at least 10 pounds of hay per day.
- My horse has bad teeth — how can I make sure he can eat his grain?
In senior horses that have bad teeth or very few teeth, it is recommended to choose a feed that has an extruded pellet and will break apart easily. You can also soak your grain of choice in water and make it soft and easier to eat. Some horses require very soupy grain servings to get the most out of their feed.
- Should I exercise my horse while trying to put weight on?
Exercise is important because many underweight horses are also under-muscled. Walking is the best way to put muscle on a horse. Just be sure that the exercise your horse receives is balanced out with the amount of feed required to put on weight as well.
- What horse feed is best for weight gain?
As mentioned, it is important to take into consideration weight, age, and exercise level. For older horses, a senior feed will provide them with the nutrients they need, but it may not help them gain weight. A junior feed, however, is designed for growing horses and will provide an underweight senior horse with the extra boost it needs. Some horses simply need a couple hundred more pounds, so a stabilized rice bran supplement that is added to the feed you already use could also do wonders for their weight.
- My horse is a starvation case — what should I do?
For horses that are severely underweight, it’s very important to follow the UC Davis refeeding plan. This plan is designed to prevent a condition called Refeeding Syndrome, which can be deadly to starving horses. This plan is based on feeding alfalfa and then eventually working in a grain that is designed for weight gain.
- How many times per day should I feed my horse?
Multiple small meals per day is ideal for horses. Horses are able to better utilize their feed if their total daily intake is split into three or more small meals per day. However, many horse owners are not able to feed their horses three or more times per day. In this case, it is recommended you feed twice per day.
- Why did you not include more weight gain supplements in your list?
When it comes to underweight horses, you have to be certain that their forage and nutritional needs are met first. Most supplements are single ingredients or a combination of a few ingredients that are designed to help increase weight gain, however they cannot be fed alone. Additionally, some weight gain supplements are the human equivalent of eating junk food. While this has shifted somewhat in the market over time, it’s still important to ensure you aren’t feeding your horse a bunch of calories without the rest of the nutrition they need to actually put on weight and muscle.
Finally, once you get weight on a horse, you want to keep it. You may be able to lower the amount of feed you give your horse on a daily basis but watch them closely. Also ensure that they always have access to fresh water at all times.
You also want to make sure the horse isn’t burning calories where it isn’t necessary. In the summer, flies cause horses to stomp all day. Help relieve their misery with a quality fly sheet and fly spray. Even fly boots may be necessary for some horses. It depends on the individual.
In the winter, older horses or underweight horses should be blanketed in cold temperatures so that their body can use their feed to keep weight on rather than burn it to stay warm.
As always, access to hay or green pasture at all times is essential. You can also help boost your horse’s weight by practicing good pasture maintenance and fertilizing it every so often. Your county extension agent can test your pasture and help you determine what nutrients your grass may be lacking. For stalled horses with minimal turnout, access to high quality forage at all times is essential. A slow feed hay net may help you make the most of your hay and reduce waste as well.
Remember that nothing is fast with horses! It takes time and effort to put weight on a horse and to keep them at a healthy weight. Thank you for reading our review.