Senior horse feed is a complete feed designed to replace some or all long-stemmed forage for horses that have trouble chewing or digesting hay. The equine senior feed contains fiber sources that help your senior horse that is struggling with poor dentition to maintain its physical condition.
Is your horse ready for equine senior feed?
There are several signs that could show that your horse is ready for senior feed. These signs could include weight loss, poor top-line condition, hoof & hair coat quality, dropping feed while eating, quidding (dropping partially chewed hay), and loose stools. Not all of these signs mean that your horse is read for senior feed, since it could be something like a physical or dental issue. Check with your veterinarian if your horse is showing these signs.
Senior horse feed is made for horses who are experiencing problems chewing or digesting their regular feed.
Some of these chewing issues may be a result of needed dental work or a physical issue. For example, a senior horse that is struggling to maintain its physical condition may be experiencing hock pain or dental problems. If there are no underlying issues with your horse and you are considering senior horse feed, check with your veterinarian or nutritionist before switching your senior horse’s diet.
Although we know a little, there has been a limited amount of information available about micro-nutrient requirements of senior horses.
Senior horses have decreased digestibility when compare to younger horses. Senior equines require highly digestible fiber in their diet. Crude fiber should be greater than 10%. Water intake is highly critical in senior horses to reduce the constipation and impaction problems that can be common in older horses.
Equine senior feeds are designed specifically for older horses. These senior horse feeds are easy to chew and are also highly digestible. Pelleted or extruded feeds are best for senior horse food because they are easier to chew and more digestible. Senior horses face an increased risk of choking, therefore soft pellets are safest.
In geriatric horses, pelleted or extruded feed mixes are shown to be most effective in maintaining body weight and condition. Senior horses may also have trouble with chewing, and as a result, they may not be able to chew regular feed. Pelleted and extruded feeds can be soaked and made into mash. Typically, senior horse feed mashes are made by adding ½ gallon of water per pound of senior horse feed.
How much senior horse feed is right for your horse?
There is no single standard. Typically, a horse should be on a foundation of forages and long-stem hay. Horses, including senior horses, should be fed a minimum of 1.5% their bodyweight in forage per day (15 lbs. forage for a 1,000 lb. horse).
For senior horses, feeding forages as their whole diet could be complicated by poor dentition and a reduced ability to be able to chew their forage. There are alternative fiber solutions available for senior horses that are experiencing problems chewing or digesting roughage- a vital part of their diet. Grass, for example, is easily chewed and digested. Hay is another alternative but be careful about feeding only hay to your senior horse. It could be a problem as their teeth may not be in condition to properly grind their forage.
What does equine senior feed contain?
Senior horse feed should contain low levels of soluble carbohydrates such as sugar and starch, and higher fiber contents.
Equine senior feeds are usually made of highly digestible fiber sources such as beet pulp, soybean hulls, and alfalfa meal. These senior horse feeds usually include moderate calories. High quality protein to help with muscle building, higher fiber content to counter dental issues, increased phosphorous to aid against the possible decline in an older horse’s ability to digest, and increased vitamins for immune support (such as Vitamin E and Vitamin C).
Equine senior feeds generally replace a portion of forage in the horse’s diet and should contain pelleted grains with a fiber percentage higher than 12%. Senior horse feed used as a partial replacement of forage should also include a protein percentage between 12 to 16% from a high-quality source such as soybean meal. Added fat (4-6%) helps build the energy value of senior horse feed.
Senior horse feed can be fed without other forage, but it is not ideal. Some equine horse feeds are not meant to be a standalone source of nutrition (make sure your read feeding instructions). Check with your veterinarian or nutritionist before switching a horse’s whole diet. A reason why a wholly senior horse feed diet may be recommended might include a horse not being able to chew other food.
Equine senior feeds should be fed in smaller portions several times a day (3 – 4 times daily). This is simply to guard against gastrointestinal issues.
Finding the best senior horse feed
Before shopping for the best equine senior feed, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian or nutritionist for their recommendations. Make sure the feed you select is highly digestible, has excellent protein quality (notice quality, protein quality is more important than quantity), high fiber, higher fat, and enhanced vitamin. Serving equine senior feed as mash can make it highly palatable and your horse may enjoy it more.
When should you start feeding equine senior feed to your horse?
There are numerous thoughts about when a horse is considered senior. There are three common methods used to determine when a horse is senior: chronologic (the number of years of life from birth), physiologic (relating to the decline of physiologic function), and demographic (relating to the survival of a sub-population relative to the entire population).
Age is not a fully sufficient method of labeling a horse as a senior. Horses are not classed as seniors by a simple age calculation (although a common thought is that a horse is senior at 15-20 years.) Just like humans, some horses wear out physically faster and begin to exhibit geriatric signs earlier. To properly calculate a horse’s seniority, take into account its chronological age, physiological status, and any physical signs of aging.
Signs your horse will give when its time to start feeding senior horse feed.
As we stated earlier there are numerous signs that could mean your horse is ready for equine senior feed. Keep in mind some of these may be a sign of another problem at play. For example, dropping feed while eating might be a sign of aging, or it could simply be a dental problem.
There are natural changes that occur with aging. Your veterinarian will be able to help you decide what to do when your horse is showing these signs. These signs could include loss of weight and decrease in body condition, loss of muscle mass, sway back, hollow grooves above the back, graying hair coat, dental diseases, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, Equine Cushing’s Disease, and kidney or liver dysfunction.
Senior horse feeds might not be just for senior horses. Equine senior feeds contain a number of ingredients that are helpful for horses that need lower levels of soluble carbohydrates. They are also great for horses that are prone to muscle conditions, horses that are nervous, have digestive issues, or are hard keepers or need to gain weight.
Checking into equine senior feed for your retiring horse?
If you are looking into retiring your senior horse, do some research on the best senior horse feed for your horse. Ask the retirement farm you choose what they use. If you veterinarian has been involved with your horse, they will be able to give great recommendations based on the physical condition of your horse.
There are many different brands of equine senior feed available. Some brands may be a complete diet, others may simply be a supplement to add to your horse’s diet.
The basic ingredients of a feeding program for your senior horse should include high quality forage, a commercial concentrate (aka equine senior feed), fresh clean water, and salt. If you are looking into a retirement horse farm for your senior horse, ask them what their feeding program is, or ask your nutritionist for their recommendations.