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January 16, 2017

Feeding A Senior Horse

by DePaolo Equine Concepts

This question was written in to Dr. Mark and the answer is useful for anyone with a horse who has reached its golden years.

I have a senior mare that can no longer eat hay. I have been feeding her soaked Triple Crown senior and alfalfa pellets but am interested in getting her off the senior feed and giving her beet pulp, rice bran, and alfalfa pellets. I am not sure how much (how many pounds per day) of each she should be getting, though. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

If your mare can eat hay cubes, you should give her the same amount of Grass/Alfalfa Hay Cubes as she used to get in hay which should be around 2% of her body weight per day. A thousand pound horse would eat around 20 pounds of hay cubes daily, on a dry matter basis. If she can’t eat cubes then you should feed her that same amount in pelleted feed. Because both pellets and cubes are low on the glycemic index, you can feed as much as you need to maintain a good weight. It is basically the same as feeding hay. If she needs to gain weight, you can slowly introduce some fat into her diet by adding rice bran, flax or coconut meal a few times per day. Be careful not to feed more than 2 pounds of fat at any one feeding. Horses don’t have a gall bladder so they can’t store any digestive enzymes.  A good quality vitamin and mineral supplement is also essential for proper health.  If the supplement is pelleted, you can soak with the food.  If the supplement is a top dress powder, you can mix with a small amount of rice bran.

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