Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roping Horse Can't Keep on Weight

Jeremy from Lubbock asked ”My 12 year old gelding is hard to keep weight on. I have been riding him a couple times a week but want to start roping again with my cousin but think the extra work will make him even skinnier. I have been feeding him three flakes of hay a day and he is barely keeping weight on. Have any suggestions?”

Hey Jeremy, right of you to think about your horse and I think you’re right that the additional work load of roping off him even once a week will require more feed. At 12 years old he should be a hard keeper. I don’t want to tell you how to feed your horse, cause I haven’t seen him for one reason, but some general considerations are:

At maintenance, that is just being penned up and no or very little work load, the average horse will require about 2% of his body weight in feed. I don’t know how much the flakes of hay you are feeding him weigh, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that each flake of hay weight 5 to 6 pounds as opposed to 8 to 10 pounds, therefore your horse would probably not be getting enough feed at 15 to 18 lbs per day. Two percent body weight for a 1,000 lbs horse is 20 lbs of hay. Other things to consider are quality of hay, and if you are also supplementing him with grain or processed feed.

The thing to do may be gradually increasing his feed until he is keeping good weight on. A lot of people feed nothing but alfalfa. However, I don’t like to do that so I feed both alfalfa and grass hay and provide a small amount of pelleted feed from ADM called Patriot. If you introduce grains or processed feed, then remember to start small and gradually increase.

If you think you are providing your horse adequate feed and he is still not keeping weight on, then a Vet check is in order and maybe some blood work and a fecal exam. A solid worming program, rotating wormers appropriate to the season, is a way to make sure parasites are not the problem. If you can check where you feed your horse and find half chewed bolts of feed that fell out of his mouth, he may need his teeth checked and floated if necessary. Some horses develop sharp points on their teeth that make it painful to eat and that may make it difficult to eat enough. If the Vet comes out to take a blood sample, I'd have him/her check your horse's teeth too.

Good luck and let me know if you resolve your roping horse's weight problem.


  1. 2%. Horses generally require 2% of their bodyweight in feed per day, which is 20 lbs for a 1000 lb horse. 20% is 200 lbs a day :)

  2. Thanks Funder. I have corrected the error. Safe Journey.