It can be difficult to keep the weight on some Thoroughbreds, especially during the winter when it gets a lot colder. This can lead to weight and condition loss, thus resulting in poor performance from the horse, whether that is racing or a new discipline that they are being retrained to do. Therefore, you need to think about what horse feed is best for the racehorse or Thoroughbred to maintain their weight. We have put a short guide together on ways to feed the ex-racehorse during the colder months, below.
What To Think About
It’s important that you take time to work out the horse feed you want to give your ex-racehorse. This is because the diet of a racehorse is typically much lower in forage than competition and leisure horses and this can have a lasting impact on the health of their digestive systems. During the winter your horse needs an increase in forage to keep them warm, but if they aren’t used to eating it, it can be tough to get them to consume sufficient. Using horse feed that can be used as a partial hay replacer might be helpful – feeding it in a bucket may be more familiar to the ex-racehorse.
Thoroughbreds are known for being fussy feeders so they may take a few weeks or months to get used to the new diet. They will do better on a forage that is highly digestible and so select one that was cut early and is soft and leafy rather than coarse and stalky.
Preventing Weight Loss In The Winter
So, what can you do to try and prevent weight loss in the winter for your ex-racehorse? You can take the following steps:
- Assess them daily to get a good view of their topline and flanks – catching weight loss early will help you avoid a potentially serious issue
- Try to ensure your horse enters the winter season carrying extra condition so they can “afford” to lose a bit over winter. Don’t start the winter already underweight as it is much harder to promote weight gain when it is cold.
- Rug your horse correctly – you don’t want your horse to sweat or shiver, so you need to make sure that you don’t over or under-rug your ex-racehorse this winter.
- Offer a cafeteria of horse feed – providing a selection of different feeds will help to appeal to those who are a bit picky
- If the horse doesn’t gain weight ask your vet about the potential for them to still have ulcers.
How do I know if my horse has EGUS?
Due to the high incidence of ulcers in racehorses it is important to be aware that a former racehorse may still be afflicted with ulcers. An endoscopic examination is the only way to definitively diagnose EGUS but the following symptoms may indicate EGUS and that you should probably be discussing the situation with your vet:
- Recurrent mild colic that seems to resolve without veterinary intervention
- Limited appetite
- Starts eating bucket feed and stops
- Poor condition and weight loss
- Starting or worsening of wind-sucking and/or cribbing
Hopefully these tips will help you to care and feed your ex-racehorse during the winter months. If you want to find out more, speak to an equine nutritionist, today.