Adding Topline and Condition
The first thing to consider when aiming to add topline and condition to horses, is the possibility of any underlying conditions which could be impacting their ability to gain and maintain condition.
For example, ulcers, dental pain/pathology, low selenium, worms and musculoskeletal pain can all cause weight loss and make it difficult for horses to gain condition. Therefore, it’s hugely important to seek veterinary consultation in order to rule out any underlying conditions prior to making dietary changes.
Other simple things to consider are the horses’ paddock dynamic and environment. Are they being bossed away from their feed/hay by others? Is there something stressing the horse out which is reducing their appetite? Changes in this area can make a significant difference to the horse’s appetite and overall body condition.
However, some horses just do not hold weight as easily as others and once the aforementioned factors have been ruled out, increasing condition/ topline in horses is a very individualised process that involves a lot of personal preferences as some horses respond better to different feeding regimes than others. In essence, feeding horses to gain topline and condition involves increasing calories through good quality feed that contains digestible and usable macronutrients. Fat is also a hugely important energy source, and has the added advantage of not adding bulk to the diet if added in oil form. The importance of fibre in any horse’s diet, but particularly those who are underweight cannot be stressed enough. Total forage intake for horses should equal 2% of their bodyweight, and should not drop below this. Feeding energy dense sources of fibre, such as baleage, alongside a high fat/energy feed can be a great way to increase horses’ condition, particularly in the colder months when pasture quality is poor.