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There are numerous reasons why a horse needs weight gain supplements. Horses under a heavy workload or hose used for breeding are often fed supplements to round out their diet. Age and time of year, as well as dental health and stress levels can affect a horse's conditioning. Many horse owners are concerned with choosing the right weight gain supplement for their horse. Here are some tips how:

Why Horses Are Underweight
A survey conducted by animal rights organizations in California came to the conclusion that horses are often underweight due to owner ignorance. Unfortunately, many horse owners are unfamiliar with the body conditioning necessary for their horse to perform at its best. Horses are often underweight or too lean without their owners realizing.

Why Body Conditioning Is Important
Dr. Don Henneke developed the body condition scoring scale for horses while he was at Texas A&M University. The Body Condition Scoring System for Horses measures the amount of fat located where horses typically store body fat - the neck, withers, back, tailhead, loin and ribs. Scores range from 1-9, which 1 being malnourished and 9 being extremely overweight.

A horse's ideal body conditioning score is based on its age, workload, and training. Most experts suggest a body conditioning score of 5, which is ideal. This level of rating means the horse has small deposits of fat but is in no way fleshy. This is a good method for horse owners to judge if their horse is getting enough nutrients.

If Your Horse Needs Supplements
To determine if your horse needs supplements, you must first figure out what nutrients it is already getting. Take note of feed bags; nutrients, vitamins and minerals are listed. It will also help to know the quality of hay the horse is being fed. If a horse is feeding on grass most of the day, a soil sample is in order. All this will tell you if your horse’s diet is lacking any nutrients.

Think of supplements as just one element of your horse's diet. Feeding supplements will not make up for a horse's poor diet, but they will be valuable additions to a horse that already has nutritious eating habits. You will need to change the type of supplements you use throughout the year. For instance, a horse entering a heavy show season or one used for breeding will need to have more nutrients in its diet to perform optimally.

As with every other part of your equine care, please consult with your veterinarian.

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