When to Be Stingy With Food

When a malnourished horse comes into your care, the temptation is to immediately begin feeding him as much as he can tolerate. But overfeeding in this situation can actually cause the horse harm—or even death. 

Tips to follow:

• At first, calculate feed amounts based on the horse’s current low weight or, if he’s severely malnourished, even less than that for a day or two. This allows time for the horse’s gut flora and digestive enzymes to bounce back to normal functions.

• After a few days of minimal feeding, gradually increase the amount of feed over seven to 10 days until it meets requirements for the horse’s ideal body weight. (For help determining a horse’s ideal weight, type body condition score system into the search box at HorseandRider.com.)

• Feed only hay (or limited pasture) for the first few days, adding any concentrate feeds (pellets or grain) gradually after that, increasing amounts incrementally over time.

• Watch for diarrhea; mild cases are common in horses coming back from malnourishment and should resolve without treatment, but if you have concerns, consult your veterinarian.

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