Feeding Weanling Horses: Tips to Remember

Weanlings should grow steadily and moderately as rapid weight gain could put them at risk for developmental orthopedic diseases. Three experts share their tips for achieving appropriate growth via nutrition.

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feeding weanling horses
Monitoring growth rates to ensure weanlings are growing steadily and moderately. Rapid weight gain could put them at risk for developmental orthopedic diseases. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Answers from Pat Harris MA, VetMB, PhD, Dipl. ECVCN, VetMB , MRCVS, of WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition and MARS Horsecare, based in the U.K.; Peter Huntington, BVSc, MANZCVSc, director of nutrition at the Australasian branch of Kentucky Equine Research (KER), in Victoria, Australia; and Laurie Lawrence, PhD, professor of equine nutrition at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, given during a roundtable at the KER Conference 2018, held Oct. 29-30 in Lexington.

Lawrence: Nutrients are tied to the composition of weight gain. It’s a continuum, everyone must make a decision based on where their horses are along that continuum. If they have enough young horses, a manager would group them by age. In those cases you can be a little more strategic in how you feed them specifically.

We have good forage here in Central Kentucky in the fall, and the fall is usually mild, so the horses grow nicely. And then if we get a really severe winter, a lot of them will slow down, and then they oftentimes will take off growth-wise in the spring if they’ve gotten too far behind.

Nutritionists who consult in Central Kentucky say to be careful in times of very cold weather so young horses don’t get behind, because once they get behind, the next thing that will happen is they’ll have that compensatory growth

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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