Horse Life

Speak to Me of Equine Nutrition

Awhile ago, Emma from Fraidy Cat Eventing did a great post on her TBs nutrition plan and how it’s evolved since restarting him. Since I board, I’ve never really given too much in-depth thought to P’s nutrition beyond what I can control (supplements, meds), because otherwise I’d drive myself crazy with research. Then we went through the whole ulcer thing and I had to make some decisions.

Always a string bean. P when I bought him as an almost-4 year old

For the last 2 years at the H/J barn, P has been fed SafeChoice Original + free choice fescue hay. He lost some weight when I moved him there in 2015, so the barn initially put him on half SafeChoice Original and half SafeChoice Perform. He didn’t take too kindly to the Perform (aka ROCKET FUEL), so we nixed that and only fed him the Original. While his spookiness/hotness leveled off somewhat, he was still a bit ribby so I added SmartPaks of the FatCat supplement in for 2 months and he looked great again.


October 2015



March 2016



October 2016


Then when I got him back from the sale barn at the end of April he had lost a lot of topline and was back to being thin and ribby.


April 2017


He gained back weight and some muscle, but then I had to face the music and deal with ulcers. In July he was scoped and ulcers were confirmed, so I added U-Shield to his feed, and then with the vet’s blessing, switched from SafeChoice to Triple Crown Senior. SafeChoice is pretty high in NSCs (non-structural carbs) and therefore is not ideal for ulcer-prone horses.

He definitely lost weight when we switched, so the barn increased his intake from 1 scoop 2x/day to 2 scoops 2x/day (8.5Lbs total per day), and I added the FatCat in back in. It’s barely making a dent- P’s weight loss has stalled, it seems, but he’s lost just about all of his topline and his withers and flanks are sunken in. Especially untacked and in the right sunlight…yikes.

When Trainer J came out on Monday morning for our lesson, we talked about feed for a bit as perhaps one of the causes for his more recent pokiness. She doesn’t like TC Senior because it’s higher in fiber than in fat, and is concerned that he’s burning through muscle now rather than through fat sources because of it.

So….what to do? The options at the barn I’m at are:

  • Southern States Carb Care Balancer-
  • Triple Crown Low-Starch
  • Triple Crown Complete
  • Triple Crown Senior
  • There’s an option for Other as well, but that obviously depends on availability/cost.
  • For an additional fee, you can add in either rice bran or beet pulp, I don’t have any experience with rice bran, but TC Sr is already beet pulp based.

But then I did a feed comparison and…it kind of makes no sense. TC Sr has more fat than SC Original, the protein is the same and the fiber is only slightly higher. So how is he losing fat when there’s more fat in his diet than before?


I’m kind of at a loss. He’s been on the TC Sr + FatCat for about a month now, and it’s just not working for him. Plus, riding has been sporadic. Now that we’re at a barn where we can do us, the riding will be more intense and I’m concerned that he’ll drop even more weight.

Recent fecal was negative and he gets free choice hay still, in addition to pasture. The pasture at the H/J barn wasn’t ideal- it was pretty small and the grass was almost non-existent due to overgrazing. They did have round bales, but my horse and his pasture mate opted to poop and sleep in it, rather than to eat it. The pasture he’s in now is FAR larger and has tons of grass, plus they still throw hay in addition to that. So forage-wise, it doesn’t get much better than where he’s at now.

My only semi-plan so far is to replace the FatCat with Cool Calories. FatCat is a protein-based weight gainer vs Cool Calories, which is more fat. Or maybe ADD the Cool Calories onto the SmartPak along with the FatCat to cover all bases.C2


I posed the question on COTH and got some sound answers, albeit ones that I don’t really want to do:

“Be patient and see how he does at the new barn.” BORING

And some unhelpful ones:

“He has ulcers again.” HE DOES NOT.

“Try (xyz feed that barn does not offer) because Senior is terrible and weight gainers don’t work.” I BOARD, READ THE ORIGINAL POST.

The biggest concern, aside from bringing back the ulcers of course, is lighting him up. While he may be a little TOO quiet lately, rides have been so much more pleasant than the ones where he tears around like a bat out of hell.

Sooooo much fun to ride. NOT.

So I’d love to hear how others manage their horses’ nutrition. All the horses at the new barn are fat and shiny, so while I’ll give him a few weeks to adjust before switching up anything, I’m interested in hearing what has/hasn’t worked for other horses as well.

Some body pictures taken last night because I went through hundreds of pictures from the last 3 years for this post and I have ZERO. Plus some cute ones because, well, that’s what he is.


New stall guard
Can finally reach the feed he flung out the door while eating
Those hips aren’t lying
All that topline work…for naught
And the hint of a rib or two or three
Stop looking at me and GO EAT ALL THAT GRASS


And for the love of God, the million dollar question: why can’t I lose weight like my horse?


35 thoughts on “Speak to Me of Equine Nutrition”

  1. Man I wish I could lose weight like a tb can! Alas….. Phoebe is a fairly easy keeper, she gets about 3.5-4 flakes of Timothy and 1lb oats/barley and 1lb alfalfa pellets split between am and pm and she’s at a great weight. I have had success with adding in rice bran pellets with my old gelding for fattening up though! And since my climate is so temperate I could get away with the unstablized stuff which made it about $14 a bag. It did a good job packing on some lbs while not making Joey hot.


  2. i really cant help you with the nutrition since my guy is usually an easy keeper but i think most vets would think P looks okay. I mean he can use a bit of weight but he doesn’t look bad and if he doesn’t lose anymore maybe the better grass etc will start to help. Not that helps you at all LOL But just saying it takes a while for a new place to start the weight to come back on. Good luck. I love seeing all the older photos of P through the ages and I went back and read some of your older blogs cause of them 🙂


    1. You’re right- it’s not like he’s emaciated or anything. He’s just lost a lot of the muscling he used to have. I love Baby P pictures, it’s crazy how different he looks! I wish I could go back about a year and freeze frame him like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My boy is one one who drops weight and his topline – especially toward the end of winter. For him I have found that adding oil to his grain helps, as well as soaked alfalfa cubes. As far as supplements I had the most luck with Super14. It really is an experiment to find what works for your horse though. Frustrating!

  4. i honestly don’t really know a lot about comprehensive nutrition plans – what i know, i’ve learned from feeding at a variety of barns (from very basic corn-based sweet feeds 4 er’rybody to the most overly complicated feedrooms that were basically like mini pharmacies) and from trial and error with izzy and charlie.

    for charlie, a real difference maker was adding alfalfa pellets (a great source of protein, tho some horses react to it like it’s crack cocaine so it should be introduced with… care lol) to his regular meals. understanding that you board tho, this does complicate things a little bit. charlie gets 2lbs of this a day, split between two meals, so he goes through a 50lb bag in just about exactly 4wks. the bags really aren’t that expensive either. if it’s a possibility, you might consider whether you can get a bag added to the barn’s standing delivery that you pay for and they feed? whatever you decide to try, good luck and let us know how it goes! (and omg yes i have asked myself more than once why i can’t just do a fat transfer from my ass to charlie’s….. hahasigh)


    1. should have mentioned, i added alfalfa flakes to izzy’s regular diet too — specifically bc she was prone to gastric distress and getting ulcery. neither she nor charlie have been too “lit” from alfalfa, but again that’s a very horse-by-horse thing, i think


    2. Thanks! The vet mentioned alfalfa pellets as well, but also cautioned that not every horse reacts well to them. If he’s not picking weight up, I may try them AFTER the horse trials!


  5. People tend to overfeed for everything – go back to basics. More fibre and roughage. Add beet pulp or plain ol Masterfeed roughage chunks and I guarantee your horse gains weight within weeks. You don’t really need to analyze all the bits unless your horse is in high level regular work.

    Quality hay and pasture
    Fresh clean water
    Lots of roughage and fibre
    Loose salt

    I’m a certified equine nutritionist, if you want a more detailed plan feel free to email me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The minimum suggested feeding amount on the TC Senior is 6lbs per day, so he really isn’t getting a whole lot more than the minimum. I think the max listed is 12lbs? Something like that. Mine gets 6lbs and he’s an absolute toad. For me personally I’ve never had luck with fat supplements or any of that stuff. The key has always been 24/7 access to good quality hay, as much as they will eat. Beyond that, just making sure that they’re getting an adequate amount of feed for their body condition and their workload. You JUST moved, so I would give it a few more weeks for the better pasture and better hay to kick in before I started changing too many things around. How long ago was he scoped and confirmed to be clear of ulcers? Was he on Ulcergard during the move?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like alfalfa for ulcer prevention as well as weight gain. Our horses also get a wheat hay that they LOVE and is fattening. The mule doesn’t get any bc she’s a fatty. I love HorseGuard’s Super Weight Gain. We will do a bag or 2 to regain weight, then quit. Ours are always on actual oil. Like we buy gallons of vegetable oil at Target and give them that in their beet pulp. It’s great. Good luck.


  8. I agree with adding in the beet pulp, just make sure it doesn’t have molasses:) I feel like you’re already feeding him the best option of the ones you listed. I’ve used cool calories with some success on some of our OTTBs — I added cocosoya to my horse’s feed, which helped him blossom quite a bit. If you barn will top dress your feed with something you supply, I know DAC Bloom is awesome for weight gain and there’s a product called Topline Extreme that my trainer used on her RRP horse and he’s an absolute tank now (it’s specifically for horses in a moderately strenuous exercise program).


  9. Gem is a fatty so I don’t have much knowledge on the leaner type of horses. I personally love the TC line and have switched between the Senior and Complete for Gem depending on her work load. You can increase his intake of his base grain or try switching him to the complete if he does well with some oats. For Gem the senior just didn’t give her enough energy for our long endurance rides but became too much when we switched to eventing. I’d give him more time to adjust though.


  10. Ah Equine Nutrition: everyone has their own opinion and it’s a matter of finding what works for you. Since you’re asking I’ll add my 2 cents too hehehehe

    QUALITY Rougage Rougage Rougage. I do think you’ll start to see improvement with the pasture change but you’re also headed into winter… but your barn sounds like it’ll have decent grass until December ish. (Weather dependent) I don’t think the fiber in grain is high quality bc of how farming practices have changed. Unfortunately this puts more pressure on your hay and pasture to be of good quality in order to help a hard keeper out.

    Cool Calories- I used this once and it did nothing, so I’m not a fan

    What I have had success with in the past is Chia Seeds. You can get them economically priced at Costco. They also sell them online for a very reasonable price. I think it’s called US Chia? My mom’s old guy bloomed on Chia Seeds and lasted a few more years (he made it to 28 with all sorts of digestive problems) I’ve also have Chimi on them in the past and he looked amazing. Here’s an article that has more info on them

    My OTTB Marley has notoriously been difficult to keep fat over winter and this past winter I think I found success with Cool Stance and lots and lots of good hay. It’s a coconut based feed that you can get as a “grain” or as a highly concentrated powder so it’s more like a supplement (which would probably be easier for you😊) It doesn’t work for all horses and have been hit or miss but it worked for Marley.

    And going back to hay. You might need to supplement P’s hay with a higher quality Timothy or orchard grass. Unfortunately fescue is on the lower side of nutrition levels so high octane horses don’t always do as well on it. You could buy compressed Timothy and give that to him when he’s in his stall and feed the fescue when he’s out. Some ideas 🙂

    Good luck on the search for fattening up P! And for what it’s worth I do think he looks good weight wise. He’s an Eventer so he’s not supposed to be a fat hunter horse 😁 His Top line will come and I think you’ll start to see a difference just with the move.


    1. Looking closer at the hay, I don’t think it’s fescue at all. It looks nothing like they hay the old barn fed so I’ve got to ask what it is. I had brought a bale with me, so they transitioned him slowly, but the stuff in his stall looks nothing like fescue. Will look at the Chia seeds also. I put them in my own food- maybe if I stop using them, my own weight will drop? Wishful thinking!


  11. I know 2 things about nutrition and they might not help at all:
    1. Performance horses tend to be insulin resistant. That requires a very low starch diet to gain weight.
    2. Sometimes in order to gain weight and get the equine system to use calories it’s being fed the horse needs to be exercised regularly.
    I had an issue getting my mare to gain weight when she was 3-4 and standing around in a pen. Now that she’s 4-5 and working 5 days a week she’s not just in good weight, she’s fat.
    Boarding makes it hard when you are limited to what you can feed. I happen to like TC Senior. Perhaps a probiotic? Ulcers totally strip good bacteria from the gut and ulcer meds actually reduce nutritional absorption quite a bit.
    The last two bits of personal nutrition experience I can give is that flax seed oil/rice bran helped put on weight like crazy and using some kind of hay pellet is also great because it has a guaranteed analysis of what’s in the pellets versus straight hay/grass of varying quality.
    I see a lot of people offering alfalfa as an option. Just to throw my two cents out there: my mare is fat off Bermuda grass. No alfalfa required.
    Hope it helps. Feeding to bulk can be so difficult. I hope you find something that works for you.


    1. That makes sense that going through all the ulcer meds might require a probiotic. And I’ll look into the rice bran- I’ve just heard differing opinions on whether or not they make a horse “hot” or not. I’m not familiar with hay pellets either, but will look into those as well. Now that I finally have room to ride he will hopefully rebuild all the muscle he lost.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmmm. I haven’t personally experienced hotness from rice bran but I totally have from alfalfa! Although oils are a nice condensed dressing that makes the coat look fabulous.

        If I had to pick only one item to feed my horse besides roughage I would pick probiotics. Any time I do anything to the gut (wormer/psyllium/bute) I give probiotics afterward. At the very least it can’t hurt. 🙂

        And yay for having room to ride! I’m sure that will help loads.


  12. Avid blog follower, but never comments type person here! I currently work for a commercial feed company and have some tidbits for nutrition advice.

    As stated before,

    1. Everything starts with forage. Personally I’ve had my horse have ridiculous weight issues at 2 different farms simply due to this. His concentrate feeding program never changed, only the amount and quality of the forage he was being fed. Have hay analyzed and look at the nutrient contents. If different hay isn’t an option, supplementing with alfalfa cubes/pellets is always an option.

    2. I can try to break down some of your confusion with the potential reasons for change in your horse going from the SafeChoice Original to the TC Senior. While the percentages of nutrients (ie fat, protein, fiber, etc.) are extremely important, the actual energy breakdown is what is going to affect body condition the most. Simply put, calories in vs. calories out. So if you notice the SafeChoice Original has over 20% NSC (sugars and starch) and the TC Senior has practically 10% less. Fat is going to be the most energy dense of all the nutrients, however the amount you are feeding probably isn’t supplying enough fat to make up for the energy loss in the NSCs. If you want to get super nerdy, look up Digestible Energy calculations. Not saying that this is the basis for the changes, but it’s possible! Hard to say without complete information and calculations.

    3. There are feeding directions purposefully on the bag, so please consult those as well. Not only for simply body conditioning, but those are calculated for the vitamins and mineral portions of your horse’s nutritional needs. If one chooses to feed less than the recommended feed rate, the horse should be supplemented with some type of additional mineral/vitamin to make up the difference. This is also why there are ration balancers made, so that a horse can get all the necessary vitamins/minerals without the added calories.

    4. Some horses are different than others. Lol. While I fully support a low NSC/high fat diet for digestive health, not all horses can function well on a super low NSC diet. Remember sugars and starches are needed for glycogen muscle storage, which is depleted when being worked. As everyone knows, not all horses are alike and need to be fed individually. It’s possible he just needs a different balance between fat and NSC for his energy sources. Possible something in between with 15-20% NSC and a 10%+ fat.

    Woof that was long. I really like nutrition if you couldn’t tell.

    Good luck!


    1. Oh my goodness, thank you for all that! All I was thinking was to lower the NSCs but it may be that he needs a bit more. That makes total sense. I really appreciate all the information!


  13. I’ve had a lot of luck with Tri Amino–helps with general filling out more than weight gain, but might be something to look into just as something to add to all the food. I know a lot of other bloggers have had success with it too, and it’s pretty cheap!


  14. Your horse looks identical to ours, is name is Denali Holy Bull Gray Dapple Throughbred also. I saw pictures of yours and went omg!


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