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Weight Gain by the Numbers

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If your senior horse needs to put on a few, first determine the number of pounds using the standard body condition score system (review the process at Then, use that score to determine how much to increase his feed. For example, for every condition score below 5 (can’t see ribs but can easily feel them with your hand), a 1,100-pound horse needs to gain about 45 to 50 pounds. Each 1-pound gain requires about 8,000 to 9,000 kcals over the calories needed for maintenance.


So, if your horse needs to go from, say, a 4 to a 5, he needs to gain about 45 pounds, requiring a total of approximately 380,000 additional kcals. To add that amount safely over 90 days, you’d want him to gain about a half a pound a day. To achieve that, you’d increase his feed by about 4,500 kcals per day—which could be accomplished by adding about 2 pounds of alfalfa hay and 2 pounds of a commercial feed. (Build up to that change gradually to reduce the risks of digestive upsets; learn more at