How to Keep Weight on a Senior Horse

by Caitlyn Andrews November 30, 2015

How to Keep Weight on Old Horses

Keeping weight on a senior horse can be difficult. There is no cookie-cutter solution to feeding an older horse. It can be a matter of trial and error to find out what will keep your senior horse at a healthy weight.

When Is A Horse Considered Old?

There is no set age where a horse is considered "old". Horses age at different rates. You should pay attention to when your horse can no longer eat its normal diet to maintain body weight. If your senior is losing weight you should try to get to the root of the cause.

Step 1: Talk To Your Vet

If you are having trouble keeping weight on your aging horse then the first thing you should do is consult with your veterinarian. Your vet can determine if there is an underlying problem that is keeping your horse from gaining weight. Senior horses are prone to dental problems, poor digestion and diseases such as Cushing's disease that can all affect weight gain.

Your vet will not only help you find the cause of your horse's weight loss but can also recommend a feeding program that would best fit your horse.

Step 2: Change Your Horse's Diet

Unless your vet has advised you otherwise, if your senior is losing weight then you may need to change his diet. There are several ways to help your senior gain weight. An older horse will need more feed, but it needs to contain all nutrient requirements. You can't just add grain to increase calories. Your senior will need a concentrate with less grain but higher levels of soluble fiber and fat.

As always, seek your vet's advice first on what to feed your horse.

Here are a few suggestions for feeding your senior horse:
  1. Add a nutritionally balanced Senior Horse supplement, such as Futurity Precise Senior Combo 
  2. Switch to a Senior Horse Feed. If you switch to a senior horse feed you need to feed the entire recommended amount. Most senior feeds are intended to be replacements for hay and grain, not supplements.
  3. Try adding beet pulp. Beet pulp is easily chewed and digested by seniors with dental issues. This is a great fiber source.
  4. Chopped hay and hay cubes can help a horse with poor teeth still get the nutritional benefits of forage. Try soaking cubes in warm water to make a mush.
  5. Supplement fat in the diet. Adding vegetable oil (such as corn or soy) to your older horse's feed is a cost effective way to add fat. You could also add either rice bran or black oil sunflower seeds.

Step 3: Assess Your Horse's Living Situation

If your horse is still dropping weight after a vet check and diet change, then you could be missing something. An often overlooked problem with older horses is their turn out situation. Older horses can't always fend for themselves like they did in their younger years and may have fallen in the pecking order. Problems that come with age, such as sore joints and arthritis, could be keeping your older horse from defending himself when the herd is eating. Make sure your horse isn't being run off of his hay or feed in the pasture. If his pasture mates aren't allowing him to eat then you need to reevaluate his living situation.

Winter is just around the corner.

Have your vet check your horse's teeth and evaluate his health. It's likely that you'll notice senior weight loss now as grass becomes less available. Making necessary changes to your horse's diet now can help prevent drastic weight loss this winter.

Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews


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