Feeding a weak horse to support muscle development

Auslander

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Not going to say what I'm currently feeding him, because I'm interested in completely unskewed views. The horse was in very poor condition when he arrived, not thin, but so weak that he couldn't carry a rider properly. Any underlying problems were ruled out by an experienced equine vet - he was just really really weak, and has poor conformation over his back.

6 month on, after a lot of remedial work, in hand and ridden - he is looking a lot better, and working very nicely within the constraints of his conformation/musculature. He has filled out, and gained muscle, but is still a bit weak, and lacking topline. He is a sharp little horse, with a sense of humour, and any starch/sugar heavy feeds find their way straight to his heels!

I have been feeding him a good (imo) diet, high in protein, and easy on the starch/sugar - which combined with his work, is helping move him in the right direction, steadily. He is a good weight, neither fat, nor thin, and is jolly, but not completely bonkers.

Had a new bodyworker out the other day, and she said I needed to feed him more/better, and he needed more protein to support muscle development. I am a bit miffed, as I thought I was doing pretty well with him, and to be told I could do better was somewhat galling.

So - my question is...What would you feed for muscle development, without sending the horse off its rocker on starch/sugar?
 

SEL

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Straight amino acids! [bulk powders] or just lysine as that's sometimes the limiting factor even in high protein feeds.

For instance Copra is considered high protein, but is low in lysine which potentially restricts the horse's ability to utilise the protein in the copra.

Tbh - if he's moving in the right direction then it may well just be time rather than any change in the diet that is needed........
 

milliepops

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Tbh - if he's moving in the right direction then it may well just be time rather than any change in the diet that is needed........
as it's a new person that's come to see him, and he's progressing... this would be uppermost in my mind -she presumably doesn't know where he started from? Not poo-pooing the idea but context is usually important when making decisions ;)
 

Auslander

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as it's a new person that's come to see him, and he's progressing... this would be uppermost in my mind -she presumably doesn't know where he started from? Not poo-pooing the idea but context is usually important when making decisions ;)

This is her second visit, and she said he looked a lot better, but then said that about his feed! I'l just keep on doing what I'm doing, and if he stops improving, I'll have a rethink
 

Auslander

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Straight amino acids! [bulk powders] or just lysine as that's sometimes the limiting factor even in high protein feeds.

For instance Copra is considered high protein, but is low in lysine which potentially restricts the horse's ability to utilise the protein in the copra.

Tbh - if he's moving in the right direction then it may well just be time rather than any change in the diet that is needed........
That last comment reflects how I feel about him - he's a very different horse from the little runt who arrived here!
 

milliepops

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This is her second visit, and she said he looked a lot better, but then said that about his feed! I'l just keep on doing what I'm doing, and if he stops improving, I'll have a rethink
you could throw all kinds of stuff at him, drive yourself nuts with it and spend a fortune, and find that he's just one of those slow ones that takes a while to come together.
 

Auslander

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you could throw all kinds of stuff at him, drive yourself nuts with it and spend a fortune, and find that he's just one of those slow ones that takes a while to come together.
Oh yes!

He's essentially got a disconnection between front and back ends, and, unless his rider is very tuned into him, he uses his shoulders for everything - balance, braking, accelerating, while the back end swings around in the breeze a bit like a lightweight trailer on a quad bike. It's been an interesting challenge getting him this far, and suspect that a lot more work is needed to get him working properly, consistently.
 

ycbm

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Sounds just like one of my horses with PSSM.

I'd feed alcar and vitamin E for three months and see if it changed anything.
 

milliepops

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Sounds just like one of my horses with PSSM.

I'd feed alcar and vitamin E for three months and see if it changed anything.
would you expect to not have seen an improvement in the last 6 months if he had something fundamentally wrong with him though?
 

spacefaer

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I have one that sounds quite similar - he can't cope with conventional mixes/nuts etc.

He is on Spillers Conditioning Fibre and Outshine. He is thriving on it -he is rideable, workable - I can now put my leg on without him turning into a croquet hoop underneath me!

His osteopath saw him on Monday for the first time in 4 months and commented how impressed she was how much he had filled out and how much stronger he was. She observed that his back muscle now had elastic tension in it, rather than knots of tension!

She suggested I worked him in reverse draw reins, to get his hind quarters engaging. (I was just going to tie a tail bandage around his quarters, girth to girth, for a similar effect on improving proprioreception)
 

ycbm

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would you expect to not have seen an improvement in the last 6 months if he had something fundamentally wrong with him though?
Not with PSSM necessarily. Regular work can really help them. They may well improve, just not enough. The report is of a horse who has improved, but not as much as he was expected to. That is fairly typical, I think, of a horse with low grade PSSM. And since the diet is harmless, except to the wallet, it's what I'd try.
 

milliepops

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fair enough, though I think it's easy to see a problem sometimes when there may not be one, as it was described as in a very poor condition just 6 months ago, with poor conformation, and it sounds like not in a lot of work (though I am reading between the lines which is always dangerous ;) ) and checked by a vet.

kept by an experienced horse owner, moved house, into a new work regime, (so lots of change there) and improving to the satisfaction of the person who sees the horse daily.
A person who has seen the horse twice remarks that it has improved "a lot" since last visit and then an out of the blue thing about changing feed... dunno. Not sure I'd be unduly concerned *unless there was another symptom that all was not well*. Common things are common.... weak under developed horses are common particularly if they aren't put together well.
 

Auslander

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Sounds just like one of my horses with PSSM.
Which bits? I'd not thought of PSSM, as he is vastly improved from the runt who arrived here, and other than still being weak behind the saddle, he's progressing exactly as I'd expect from a horse with somewhat unique conformation.
 

Auslander

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The report is of a horse who has improved, but not as much as he was expected to
I didn't say that! He's progressed exactly as I expected him to, and I'm delighted with how far he's come, bearing in mind that he wasn't even strong enough to carry a rider when he got here.
 

ycbm

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fair enough, though I think it's easy to see a problem sometimes when there may not be one, as it was described as in a very poor condition just 6 months ago, with poor conformation, and it sounds like not in a lot of work (though I am reading between the lines which is always dangerous ;) ) and checked by a vet.

kept by an experienced horse owner, moved house, into a new work regime, (so lots of change there) and improving to the satisfaction of the person who sees the horse daily.
A person who has seen the horse twice remarks that it has improved "a lot" since last visit and then an out of the blue thing about changing feed... dunno. Not sure I'd be unduly concerned *unless there was another symptom that all was not well*. Common things are common.... weak under developed horses are common particularly if they aren't put together well.
Well I agree with you completely, but we were asked for ideas, so I gave mine.
 

ycbm

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I didn't say that! He's progressed exactly as I expected him to, and I'm delighted with how far he's come, bearing in mind that he wasn't even strong enough to carry a rider when he got here.


I misunderstood. I thought your bodyworker had indicated that they felt his progress was less than they would have expected. If you're perfectly happy I don't understand why you posted. I'm sorry if I have wasted your time.
 
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Auslander

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fair enough, though I think it's easy to see a problem sometimes when there may not be one, as it was described as in a very poor condition just 6 months ago, with poor conformation, and it sounds like not in a lot of work (though I am reading between the lines which is always dangerous ;) ) and checked by a vet.

kept by an experienced horse owner, moved house, into a new work regime, (so lots of change there) and improving to the satisfaction of the person who sees the horse daily.
A person who has seen the horse twice remarks that it has improved "a lot" since last visit and then an out of the blue thing about changing feed... dunno. Not sure I'd be unduly concerned *unless there was another symptom that all was not well*. Common things are common.... weak under developed horses are common particularly if they aren't put together well.
He hadn't been worked in a long time when he got here - the odd light hack, but was basically completely unfit
 

be positive

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The last weak horse I had to build up, most are the opposite, did well on good grass 24/7 supplemented with grassnuts and linseed, it took at least 6 months for his topline to come up but once it did he continued to improve over the next 12 months on the same diet, if they have conformation holding them back it will take longer and may never be as good as we would like, as long as he is going in the right direction with not set backs I would be happy.
The mare here with mild with PSSM had some minor behavioural issues that were obviously caused by it when the penny dropped as to why she was how she was, to the eye she looked well enough although has improved considerably since starting on the supplements.
 

Auslander

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I misunderstood. If you're perfectly happy I don't understand why you posted. I'm sorry if I have wasted your time.
Sorry - obviously wasn't clear in my first post. I was really pleased with how he's coming on, so was miffed that the visiting bodyworker thought I wasn't feeding him well enough. I then asked what other people would feed in this situation, to see whether I was in fact doing something wrong.

Incidentally - he's on added Vit E and lysine - just not alcar.
 

AdorableAlice

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My first try with a horse like yours Auslander, if linseed wasn't quite doing the job would be to add a small cup of Equi Jewel to the ration, with a gentle increase in quantity if needed.

No doubt many will be aghast and say that stuff is just for sale and show prep, and of course it is used extensively for that, but it is also useful for hard working fit horses to help maintain stamina and muscle strength. I have used it on all sorts, from the hard working hunter whose skin and brain could not stand cereals to the TB X who was growing too fast for his joints but poor. The stuff has multi uses and should not be thought of just as 'fat feed'.
 

Auslander

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My first try with a horse like yours Auslander, if linseed wasn't quite doing the job would be to add a small cup of Equi Jewel to the ration, with a gentle increase in quantity if needed.

No doubt many will be aghast and say that stuff is just for sale and show prep, and of course it is used extensively for that, but it is also useful for hard working fit horses to help maintain stamina and muscle strength. I have used it on all sorts, from the hard working hunter whose skin and brain could not stand cereals to the TB X who was growing too fast for his joints but poor. The stuff has multi uses and should not be thought of just as 'fat feed'.
I like Equijewel - although hadn't thought about it as an option, so thanks! I've already got way too many different feedbins going on for my liking, but one more won't hurt! All last years intake lived on Fibre nuggets and a handful of linseed, but all the newbies have something different!!
 

The Fuzzy Furry

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My first try with a horse like yours Auslander, if linseed wasn't quite doing the job would be to add a small cup of Equi Jewel to the ration, with a gentle increase in quantity if needed.

No doubt many will be aghast and say that stuff is just for sale and show prep, and of course it is used extensively for that, but it is also useful for hard working fit horses to help maintain stamina and muscle strength. I have used it on all sorts, from the hard working hunter whose skin and brain could not stand cereals to the TB X who was growing too fast for his joints but poor. The stuff has multi uses and should not be thought of just as 'fat feed'.
Yes, I agree.
I'm not one for many additives but this is one I'd use for short term, that or Top Spec have both had a good effect over a month or so, worth a try Auslander?
 

SEL

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Interesting article from David Marlin below. I think if PSSM was a problem then you'd find more of a regular 'disconnect' instead of gradual but slow improvement. Is your horse really lacking topline though? I've had people remark on how well my mare's topline looks - its a crest and its all fat - and some of those people should really know better! She is long backed and with weak quarters so has a tendency to pull herself along by her front end. I've done a tonne of work on improving her core muscles because she was struggling with a rider's weight, but if she was her target weight rather than verging on obese then I have no doubt that her topline would be lacking too.

http://davidmarlin.co.uk/portfolio/the-science-of-equine-muscle-building-supplements/
 

Micky

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My 19yr old ppid horse struggles to gain muscle and had done for the last few years until I added whey protein isolate to his feed, it's made a huge difference, his muscle is developing nicely, he is on linseed too but it didn't really help with muscle development..just great coat and hooves
 
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