Let me begin by saying that I have never owned a horse that was a hardkeeper. My horses have always been vacuum cleaners, air ferns, roly poly things that barely needed any grain no matter their level of activity and would eat as much hay I could stuff into their faces.
When I first met Snappy in 2012, she was eating fourteen pounds of sweet feed a day and I was mortified. But of course, I did not know her well at that point, she wasn't in my direct care, and while I would not have chosen a sweet feed, she was in heavy work (racing) and probably needed the high amount of calories.
A few months later when she suddenly became mine, I changed her feed to Triple Crown Complete. When I treated her ulcers later that winter, I switched her to Triple Crown Senior and Nutrena Boost, which is a rice bran pellet. I have always been happy with Triple Crown and while I cannot remember exactly how much grain she ate, I know it was MUCH less than fourteen pounds a day! I noticed quickly that she did not eat much hay, even when I had her teeth done.
The first year she maintained her weight fairly well, though she was always on the thin side to me. The second year she was out of work as I was pregnant, so she had no trouble maintaining her weight though she never got "fat" like Dreamy did. This year I still feel as though she was on the thin side, but she basically refused to eat hay outside (where she is for 12 hours of her day). Granted, she had plenty of grazing, but now the grazing is not great and she is picking at the hay I leave for her each morning. I do feed her hay in a haynet in her stall overnight, which is not ideal to me but it does seem to help her eat more.
So this morning I hung her outside hay in a haynet on the side of the barn. We shall see if she eats more during turnout. She is still on Triple Crown Senior and Nutrena Boost at the recommended level of feed, but I added in four pounds of beet pulp a day. I fed out three 40 pound bags before I decided I did not think it was doing much for her. And I am still not 100% sure I like the idea of feeding beet pulp anyway. This weekend I added in alfalfa pellets in place of the beet pulp (along with her regular grain ration of TCS and Boost). I think her weight is low not because she is not getting enough calories from her grain, but because she needs more fiber. The first thing I have always been taught to get a horse to gain weight, you add hay before you add grain. But man, this horse will barely eat more than three flakes (which is only 12 pounds give or take!!!) of hay a day! She stresses me! Of course, this was OK during the spring and summer because the grass was plentiful. The fall grazing is not as good!
Anyway, her teeth, her ulcers, everything is fine. The vet is coming in a few weeks for fall teeth floating anyway, so I will check with him then as well. She is just not a big eater and never has been. She just never has looked more than a 4.5 on the scale, which isn't bad necessarily but it also isn't great to me. Yes, she is fit but she doesn't have the bloom I want to see. Side note, I do have access to a livestock scale (the perks of being married to a cattle guy) so I know that she weighed 845 before I started the beet pulp in August and she gained about 2o pounds. But I do wish she would gain about another fifty or so. I just want her to be a strong 5 or even a 6. I want her to be a plumpy mare.
Uggggg, hardkeepers stress me out. Any ideas? Thoughts? I know different things work for different horses, but tell me what has worked for your picky eater to gain weight! :-)
ETA: I feed a high quality, second crop timothy/orchard grass mix, which is pretty much like horse crack, so the mare SHOULD be hoovering her hay LOL!! ;-)