There are many factors to consider when trying to manage a horse’s weight or have them gain weight. To start with, the feed quality and source of calories within the feed is critical. We all know eating fat promotes gaining fat more than eating protein does. Did you know the quality of that fat affects the health of the cells throughout the body and that eating “bad” fats will decrease overall health and performance? A feed should be palatable, digestible, consistent, and made with high quality ingredients.
Next are the teeth. Proper dentition is needed to chew the feed, thereby increasing the surface area exposed for digestion (the “tip” for dental care is coming soon).
Then there is the stomach and intestinal tract where the feed is mixed with digestive enzymes and the microflora (bacteria and yeast) that are necessary to break down the food particles for absorption. A deficiency or imbalance of these enzymes, bacteria, and/or yeast, known as dysbiosis, can lead to poor digestion, malabsorption, and weight loss regardless of the feed quality or quantity given. Long term dysbiosis leads to leaky gut syndrome which creates a pro-inflammatory state within the body leading to a wide variety of problems varying from sore muscles and joints to laminitis and/or allergies.