Common Reasons Why Your Horse May be Losing Weight

March 18, 2022

Common Reasons Why Your Horse May be Losing Weight

When it comes to horse health, there is a wide range of reasons your equine buddy may be losing condition. Some of these reasons include extreme external temperatures, workload, dental issues, age, parasites, or illness.

Horses have unique nutritional and living requirements that often change during their lives. But in a nutshell, weight loss generally indicates a health problem. If you notice weight changes in your horse, you need to deal with the matter as soon as possible.

Let's take a look at some horse tips that may help you find out why your horse is losing condition and what you can do to sort it out. 

1. Workload

The amount of work your horse does directly impact its weight. The more energy they are required to burn up during their training, the more they will need to be fed so that they maintain good condition. Some horses can get away with living on quality grass and hay if in light work, but the majority of horses need concentrate feed to maintain optimum condition.

These animals should not be overweight, but you should not be able to see ribs easily. The coat should also be shiny and healthy. 

If the work load increases due to extra competition training or such, then your horse will need more concentrates and quality hay to stay in good shape. The concentrate pellets or meal mixes are usually a combination of grains, high fiber components, proteins, fats or oils, vitamins, and other necessary minerals. If you give your horse a quality feed made by a recommended company, you should not have to add in any or many other supplements. However, this depends on the horse's age and specific requirements.

Larger, sporty horses like thoroughbreds should usually be on about 5kg of concentrate meal per day to maintain a good weight while in solid work. Sometimes they will need more than this, though. 

You can also make sure you do your horse grooming well after riding. An intensive grooming can help stimulate, create, and maintain good muscle tone.

2. High or Low Temperatures

Horses may also lose weight if the weather is very hot or very cold. The heat is uncomfortable for them, and there are typically more insects around in the hot months that your horse must swat away. Constantly fretting over pests burns up more energy. In the cold months, a horse burns up more energy just to keep warm. 

In both cases, you need to feed more hay and concentrate meals. However, be careful of over-feeding in winter, as, what with the cooler weather, you may have a frisky steed on your hands! Another of our horse tips is to also make sure your horse spends more time indoors away from the affront of the weather and the insects (in summer). 

It also helps to make sure you are doing good horse grooming so that your horse's coat is not too thick in summer, or caked with cold mud in winter. 

3. Dental Problems

Your horse could be dropping condition as well if he has a tooth problem. This can particularly be a horse health issue for older horses as their dental health declines with age. However, it can affect horses at any stage of their lives. Sometimes a tooth can crack right into the gum, even in younger horses, which is extremely painful. 

If the teeth are not in the best condition, your equine may end up battling to chew and spitting out a lot of his feed. If you notice clumps of chewed but not swallowed feed and lots of concentrate meal crumbs in your horse's paddock and stable, then he likely needs a dentist. You should get the dentist in for a routine check and file down every six months. 

4. Parasites

A horse will also lose weight if he has worm or other parasites like lice. His coat will also appear dull, and he will look a bit listless and lack energy. Parasite management is a key part of caring for a horse. 

One of the best horse tips is to make sure you deworm your equine friend every six months. A good dewormer will take care of all kinds of worms, and it should impact some other parasites as well. 

Also, make sure you employ good horse grooming practices to make sure lice does not become a problem at your yard. It can be quite a problem to eradicate. 

5. Hierarchical Issues

A horse may drop condition if he is being bullied or is playing too hard in the herd in his paddock. In all herds, even our smaller ones these days, there is a hierarchical order. There are the leaders and bullies, and then the less bold horses who submit to them. 

The ‘underdogs’ will usually get chased away from the best grass and any hay or other roughage you put in the paddock. Besides being shooed off the good feed, your horse may also be stressed out by having to constantly be on the look out for a bully attack. 

If your equine has lost condition and you're not sure why, spend some time observing the herd dynamics in his pasture. It could well explain what is going on. If your horse is being bullied, or alternatively constantly playing wit his best buddy so that he doesn't eat enough when out, then it may be time to move him to another paddock. 

6. Other Illness or Disease

Like with people and other animals, horses lose weight as a sign that something is wrong. Your horse could have an underlying illness if he is losing condition. You will need to take a careful look at horse health issues if the answer to why your horse is losing weight isn't immediately noticeable. 

Your vet will give you lots of horse tips as to what illness your horse may have. Common horse health reasons your horse may be losing weight include:

  • Gastric ulcers(especially in performance horses)
  • Cushing's Disease (common in older horses)
  • Mineral or vitamin deficiencies
  • EPM
  • Liver and kidney disorders
  • Cancer

Any of these issues could be the underlying reason for weight loss. So, it is essential to get your vet in to check your equine friend if you notice changes in his condition and appetite. 

7. Age

As horses age, their bodies do not process food as effectively as when they were younger. This could lead them to lose weight, even if you are feeding them a fair amount, and they are otherwise in good health. 

The body often cannot absorb all the feed at once, so you can try feeding four or five concentrate meals as opposed to three. This gives your horse's body more opportunity to absorb nutrition in smaller amounts. The method is often highly effective, though it can be a bit of a hassle. For the best horse health results for your older equine friend, it is well worth the effort, though. 

Performing good horse grooming can also help your older horse to maintain muscle tone better. 

Some Final Thoughts

Once you know what is causing your equine's weight loss, you can respond accordingly. It's best to get a horse health diagnosis done by a professional veterinarian, so you know exactly what the issue is. 

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