“Too Fat,” “Too Skinny,” or “Just Right?” Feeding Your Horse for Peak Performance

“Too Fat,” “Too Skinny,” or “Just Right?” Feeding Your Horse for Peak Performance

In Part 1 of this three article series, you were introduced to evaluating your horse for body weight, body condition and topline. Knowing your horse's Body Condition Scoring (BCS) and Topline Evaluation Score (TES) can give you the tools to better manage their weight for your discipline. 

You are what you eat, and the same can be said for horses. Feeding is more than just a mealtime, it's a strategy for maximizing your horse's potential. Achieving and desirable weight and topline for your horse can be accomplished with the proper feeding program. Let's go through some examples feeding can be managed to suit three different disciplines. 

Horse Feeding Example #1

  • High Performance Show Hunter
  • 15.3h
  • 1,250 pounds
  • BCS 7

A BCS of 7 is higher than recommended by veterinarians. To reduce weight, we would want to adjust the feeding program to reduce BCS to a 6.0. If we use a value of 50 pounds as equivalent to one BCS unit, a reduction of 50 pounds will result in a BCS of 6.0 and target weight of 1,200 pounds.

Did you miss Part 1? Understand the tools you need to evaluate your horse's weight for his discipline. 

The current feeding program is ProElite Performance at 6 pounds per day and grass hay at 18 pounds daily. Turnout is two hours per day in a small paddock with no pasture. To reduce calories for weight loss, we change the feeding program from 6 pounds per day of ProElite Performance to 2 pounds/day of ProElite Grass Advantage Diet Balancer. By switching to a diet balancer with a lower feeding rate, calories can be reduced for weight loss but all nutrient requirements are still met. By feeding four pounds less per day there is a reduction of 6,000 kilocalories (kcal) of Digestible Energy (DE) per day and a 50-pound weight loss or a BCS change from 7.0 to 6.0 can occur in 60 days.

Horse Feeding Example #2: 

  • 2nd Level Dressage horse
  • 16 hands
  • 1,200 pounds
  • BCS is 5.0 
  • Topline evaluation score or TES is B

The owner wants more weight, or at least maintain weight, and increase topline as the training level will be increased. The current feeding program includes 15 pounds per day of grass hay, 6 pounds per day of ProElite Performance and turnout in a small pasture for 4 hours daily. Adding two more pounds per day of ProElite Performance, one pound/day of ProElite Omega Advantage and 16 ounces/day of ProElite Topline Advantage will provide more than 6,000 kcal of DE and should allow an increase one BCS unit increase in the next two months. The addition of ProElite Topline Advantage will also provide more amino acids and there should be an increased topline score of A to maximize athletic performance.

Horse Feeding Example #3: 

  • Intermediate Three-Day Eventer
  • 16.2 hands
  • 1,250 pounds
  • BCS is 4.0 
  • TES is Alo

Current feeding program is 6 pounds per day of ProElite Starch Wise and 16 pounds per day of mixed hay. Turn out is 4 hours per day in a 3-acre field and the amount of hay is increased when there is no pasture available. Recommendation is to change the feed to ProElite Performance (12% fat) from ProElite Starch Wise (6% fat) and increasing the feeding rate to 10 pounds per day. This will provide an adequate calorie increase for a BCS gain to a score of 5.0 in a few months.

Use these tools for evaluating your horse’s body weight, body condition and topline along with feeding recommendations for ProElite Horse Feeds to improve your horse’s performance. Go to proelitehorsefeed.com for more information on ProElite Horse Feeds and contact us if you would like a free on-farm consultation.

Want to manage your horse like a professional? Check out Max Corcoran’s Masterclass - Horse Care For All Four Seasons. 

Feature photo by Heather Fulbright. Inset photos by Alison Green, Shelby Allen and Yasmina Bello.