Guideline for Feeding A Senior Horse

Feeding a Senior Horse

As horses age they usually require increased medical and dental care from your veterinarian. The best senior horse feeding program will improve the nutrient balance and increase the feed efficiency of the natural hay and pasture diet. Hay and pasture nutrient balancers furnish the deficient nutrients in hay and pasture, such as the amino acid lysine, thereby improving the feed efficiency.

When utilizing a nutrient balancer for hay and pasture diets do not feed a compounded bagged feed together with the nutrient balancer. Also, if the balancer contains minerals, provide free choice white salt rather than a mineral salt to help prevent over supplementation with minerals.


Senior horses often become underweight due to decreased digestive capacity. If your senior horse is underweight and requires a calorie source in addition to the calories provided by the hay and pasture, whole oats are an ideal calorie source because:


1) The starch is easily digested.
2) The horse will often masticate the oats to a greater degree than a compounded feed, therefore maintaining improved dental health and reducing dental spurs.
3) The chewing stimulates salivary production, enhancing digestion and reducing stomach ulcers.
4) Whole oats are highly palatable to the horse.


Your horse should not receive more than 0.5% of his body weight of a feedstuff at any meal. This would be no more than 5 lbs per feeding of a concentrated feed stuff for a 1000 lb. horse. Quantities above this level may allow starch to reach the hindgut and predispose a horse to colic and/or laminitis.


It is much better for a horse’s digestion, especially senior horses, if he or she is fed a concentrated feed stuff more than twice per day. The total daily feeding divided into three or more feedings per day results in improved feed efficiency. The automatic feeders that are now available will allow multiple feedings per day, and are of particular benefit for horses that have limited space or mobility.


Older horses that have reduced digestive capacity often require high calorie density feed. There are other calorie sources that you could feed your horse in addition to oats such as vegetable oil and/or sugar beet pulp.


Dental health is frequently a concern with the senior horse. Feeding steam rolled oats or another easily digested feed stuff to horses with bad or missing teeth is a good option. These types of feedstuffs that do not require chewing often lead to gulping of the feed. The automatic feeders as mentioned previously can benefit horses that eat too quickly, or placing smooth rocks about the size of your fist into the feeding trough will help overcome eating too quickly.


An excellent hay and pasture balancer is Barn Bag®. 85 grams of Barn Bag® is all you need to fulfill the daily nutrient requirement of an average 1,000 lb easy keeper.

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J. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS
Founder of Life Data Labs, Inc.
Developer of Farrier’s Formula®