Not eating well-need help

Miniature Horse Talk Forums

Help Support Miniature Horse Talk Forums:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-Known Member
Feb 1, 2013
Reaction score
This may be a bit long but I need to share the background info. I bought this gelding back in September and I was aware when I bought him that he was a slow and picky eater but he was pretty close to perfect for me otherwise. He refuses to eat powdered supplements and won't eat his food if dampened so I found and give him pelleted electrolytes and vitamins.I thought it might be ulcers and treated him, it seemed to work as while still a slow eater he ate it all and in a much more reasonable amount of time. A couple of hours vs all day. He was plump(not fat) heading into winter and doing well. Problem solved. Then he picked up a bad respiratory infection and didn't want to eat. By the time I got him well he had lost a lot of weight. He has been well for about a month and a half now. He started eating but was back to not finishing his grain but was gaining some weight. I have treated for ulcers again as he was given banamine while he was sick. It has done nothing. He has actually about stopped eating his grain at all again and is getting thiner. He is eating his coastal and alfalfa but will only eat so much. You give him too much whether grain or hay and its as if he is overwhelmed. He had his teeth done a couple of weeks ago so it is not that. The vet has been out and examined him and gave him a shot of vitamins mainly b-12 and tossed a couple of others in to see if we could get him eating and that didn't work. I wormed him last week and again no difference. I know it s not good for him but I am getting desparate and drizzled a little molasses on his grain. That only worked for a couple of days and then the novelty wore off. I have tried giving him a little light exercise the last couple of weeks to see if that would maybe cause him to work up an appetite and that hasn't worked either. He acts normal and has plenty of energy he just doesn't want to eat much grain and endless hay doesn't work as he will only eat a set amount. Since he has never liked to eat huge amounts he is being fed or attemping to be fed the nutrena safechoice performance as well as amplify. He is aspc/amhr so has a higher metabolism. It worked well for him before he was sick. What have I missed? I have tried everything I can think of and nothing has worked. I am concerned and starting to get frustrated as I need to get him eating again. HELP PLEASE!
Do you know any more about him other than you were told he is a slow and picky eater? Did you receive any Vet records when you purchased him, were you able to speak with his prior Vet.? could you now?

Can I ask, did your Vet do a complete blood workup? (that is the first thing I'd want my Vet to do) If not I'd recommend you have this done now. Not eating whether from pain or depression will effect his whole immune system so I hope you can figure this out.

Your post wasn't' long..There are so many variables it's hard to think of them all when asking for help.

I'm jut throwing out things I'd look for or try here.

How do you feed him? It is best to feed from the ground not a high feeder, also some horses don't like to eat from a deep feeder... don't like their eyes below the rim of the feeder and this is common with small horses eating out of big horse feed pans. Some of the nice deep over the fence feeders are too deep for minis...on the other hand the small ones so called made for minis are too small and shallow.

Sometimes horses lose their sense of smell or taste and will present as picky eaters. You can check to see if he has a good sense of smell.

Sometimes refusing to eat could point to irritation / inflammation of the esophagus.

Have you noticed anything off when he urinates?..... too little, too much, strong smell, off color? Does he drink a adequate amount, too much, or barely any?

Is he stalled / on pasture? Does he have a companion? and was either what he was used to before he came to you?

If his blood work is normal try giving him a warm watery bran mash with some syrup (corn syrup, honey, or molasses) and salt in it as well as some brewers yeast. Cut out the supplements. Give him some basic food -some corn or some oats. I'd keep hay in front of him all the time. Maybe others can think of some more questions for you. Good luck!
How did you treat his ulcers? What meds? How long?

What feed and how much are you giving him? [i know you stated coastal and alfalfa for hay.] Are other brands available to you? [Not all horses like the same thing.] While I don't necessarily think I'd go with corn, I would try oats on him (especially if you happen to have them on hand, so not buying a whole bag of something to find out he's not interested, perhaps even get some from a friend, if you have to), some horses love them (I have one that doesn't) and might get him eating other feeds. Have you tried soaked beet pulp? While not all horses like it, some relish it and really enjoy eating their soaked beet pulp mush (or soup, depending on how much water he likes added). Can you get grass hay other than coastal? Have you tried soaked hay cubes? [straight alfalfa or alfalfa/timothy blend.] What about hay pellets (I've fed them both wet and dry)?

How old? How tall?

How many times per day can you offer him a meal? Some horses do better with several tiny meals rather than a couple big ones.
I'm with Chandab on ulcer treatment. Most often a horse with ulcers will quit grain first. Some treatments are better than others.

Yes, some hay is more desirable to an animal -- their taste. Alfalfa will help stomach. Sometimes a little Red Cell will encourage an appetite. Yes, if he's used to a stable mate and now has none, depression can occur.

What's his age? Nutrition absorption changes with age. Probiotics may help. You said he had infection and the antibiotics may have killed off some flora in his gut -- plus deworming. Just another thought.

A little thing that helped my stallion once was a low dose of valium for a few days......seems you get the munchies then. Worked, anyway. Of course he was getting yansy with breeding season, something you don't have in this case.

So many great pieces of advice already, now you have a lot more to consider to piece together why he has chosen to not eat well.
Of course, fresh grass is often one of the best cures. This time of year makes it hard, even in TX. BUT......any around?
This is probably not encouraging - but start checking for weird stuff. Treat for ulcers if your vet feels it is a concern only. Giving the wrong meds can upset his belly.

Have you done a blood panel? I'd check a white cell count on a horse with a recent infection. Are you sure the respiratory infection did not do permanent damage? Could he have just dropped a lot of weight with the pneumonia?

I had a kind of similar experience with a colt - he was just 3 yrs old. Turns out he had spinal and liver cancer. That is sooooo obscure I'm sure it is something I will never see again in my lifetime and severely doubt it's what's your guy has - but when my fatty turned into a hard keeper all the sudden - I totally should have thought more than 'well it's super cold out.'
I second the suggestion to get a full blood work up done. Do you have an equine hospital near you? I spent 2 full years trying to figure out what was wrong with my picky eater. We tried so many things: every food you can think of, every type of hay available in our area, ulcer meds, fat supplements of every stripe, straight oil, molasses, and on and on. We tested for a bunch of things and all came back negative. One thing we did see that was puzzling was every time, her protein levels were very low. Despite the fact she was eating high protein grain and supplements.

In the spring of 2012, she "crashed" after receiving her spring vaccinations. She dropped weight drastically over the course of the next 6 weeks...20lbs which was 10% of her body weight.

Ultimately, I took her to the New Bolton Veterinary Hospital. It was there they focused on the low protein (after seeing that physically, nothing was keeping her from eating) and proceeded to do an ultrasound on her digestive tract. What we discovered was that the lining of her tract was inflammed/swollen. This kept her from absorbing the food she ate. As she got worse, and ate even less, she became lethargic.

The end result was that we did a month long course of steroids in an effort to reduce the swelling. We were very lucky that it had the positive effect we had hoped for. The vet at the hospital, along with my own vet, were actually surprised it worked as well as it did. They both believe she wouldn't make it to see that winter. We did alternating months of these shots for the next year.

I'm not saying this is what is going on with your horse, but I'm offering up our experience as a reminder that sometimes we have to dig further in order to find answers. I was really apprehensive at the idea of going to a equine hospital because of the potential costs. I was pleasantly surprised at how willing the staff at the hospital was to work with me and my budget constraints. They bent over backwards to work with me. I spent nearly an hour on the phone before I even took her there.

The thing is, they have a much greater ability to do diagnostic work and get answers quickly. I wished I had started pulling blood sooner than what we did. Would it have changed the outcome of our situation? I'll never know. Good luck and please keep letting us know how things are going.

Latest posts