Increasing condition – what to feed and why?

Feeding Advice – March 2016 – Everything Horse Magazine 

Increasing condition – what to feed and why?

Increasing condition, advice from Equerry Horse Feeds Senior Nutritionist, Louise Jones.

Before changing your horse’s feeding regime it’s important to assess whether they are underweight or have poorly developed muscle tone, or a combination of both. If your horse is the correct weight you should be able to feel, but not see, their ribs, spine and pelvis.  When evaluating your horse’s topline it’s essential to differentiate between fat and muscle. Fat will feel soft and spongy, whereas toned muscles will feel firm. The one exception to this is when fat builds up and hardens (e.g. on the crest of the neck) giving the allusion of a well-muscled topline.

Louise Jones

Rule out underlying issues

If your horse is underweight it’s crucial to first rule out any underlying issues such as dental problems or a high internal parasite burden, both of which can lead to ill-thrift. It’s also a good idea to eliminate musculoskeletal problems and/or ill-fitting tack as the root cause of poor or uneven muscle development.  Provided your horse is healthy and in appropriate work, the most likely explanation for their condition is that their diet simply isn’t providing the correct levels of calories and/or high-quality protein necessary to support weight gain and muscle development.

Keep an eye on grazing quality

Good quality grazing can certainly help a horse to gain condition.  However, if your pastures have become over-grazed then you will need to provide a source of supplementary forage.   In these cases, or if your horse is stabled, feeding a highly digestible preserved forage such as an early-cut hay or haylage is ideal. Other useful fiber-based sources of calories and quality protein include alfalfa and grass chops.

Good quality grazing can certainly help a horse to gain condition.  However, if your pastures have become over-grazed then you will need to provide a source of supplementary forage.  

Bucket Feed

The next thing to consider is your horse’s bucket feed.  Specialist conditioning feeds such as Equerry Conditioning Cubes/Mix have been specifically formulated to provide a rich source of calories and high quality protein to promote weight gain and muscle development.

Feeding Suggestion – Equerry Conditioning Cubes/Mix contain a blend of highly digestible cereals, plus high levels of oil to promote condition. They are also packed full of essential vitamins and minerals, including B-vitamins, which are needed for energy metabolism and appetite stimulation.  Another useful ingredient included in Conditioning Cubes/Mix is yeast. Feeding yeast has been shown to improve overall digestive efficiency; meaning that your horse will gain much more benefit from both their forage and hard feed.

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Size does matter!

Meal size is another important aspect to consider when feeding for condition.  Large feeds are counterproductive and will reduce digestive efficiency and increase the risk of hind-gut acidosis.  To prevent this, meal size should not exceed 400g/ 100kg bodyweight (i.e. no more than 1 Stubbs scoop of Equerry Conditioning Cubes for a 500kg horse). Depending on the quantity of feed your horse needs this may mean that you will need to feed 2 or more meals per day.

Final thought

Gaining weight and developing topline on your horse won’t happen overnight.  However, a well-balanced diet, coupled with an appropriate exercise regime, should mean that you start to see a difference within 2-4 weeks.


For more information please contact the Equerry Nutrition Team on 01845 565640 or visit

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