Question: I'm looking for advice on an APHA gelding who generally lacks any energy, despite being in impeccable condition otherwise. Is there a top dress supplement that I can give to make him more energetic? He is fed a 14/6/12½ pellet with soaked alfalfa pellets, a prebiotic/probiotic, and red cell currently. He is turned out 24/7 in a very small laid back herd and has full access to salt/mineral blocks which he does use regularly. Especially at shows, he just wants to sleep all the time and I feel like I have nothing under me when riding. HELP!


Dr. Kellon: From your description, this is unlikely to be a diet related problem. There is often a strong genetic influence on personality and this breed prides itself on producing horses with easy going personalities, so at least some of this may simply be the way he is.
On the physical end there are two major causes of this type of behavior. Being overweight is a major one. Some people have difficulty judging this in a breed that is supposed to be broad and heavily muscled, but if you cannot easily feel the horses ribs with light pressure he is carrying too much weight.


Pain, especially a low level bilateral lameness, may also make the horse act like this.  The most common scenario is pain in both front feet. This can be easy to miss because with pain in both feet you do not see limping or head bobbing.  Signs may include low head carriage with loss of the normal up and down head movement at the walk, short shuffling walk, reluctance to make sharp turns, reluctance to move from walk to trot. The horse may also seek soft ground and resist going up or down hills depending on exactly what the problem is.  The best way to rule out bilateral hoof pain is by nerve blocks.


If no explanation can be found, try a mild adaptogen like Jiaogulan. This herb strengthens resistance to stress, improves alertness and apparent sense of well-being.  Try 1 to 2 teaspoons in the feed twice daily.