Most of us have that one special senior horse – maybe he’s been with us for a long time, or maybe you’ve rescued him in his old age from a bad situation. Whatever the case, most people have had some experience with the special nutritional needs of geriatric horses. Senior feed usually fills this bill very well – soft pellets they can easily chew, lots of digestible fiber, a little extra protein to maintain muscle mass, and added fat for body condition. It may surprise you to know, however, that the majority of people who feed a senior ration are not feeding it correctly. One of the most common mistakes I see horse owners make is underfeeding their senior horse.
Senior horses can be categorized two ways – those that can eat hay and those that can’t. Because most senior feeds on the market today can be fed as a sole ration (ie 16-18 lbs. per day to a 1,200 lb. horse in light work) they have to be formulated in such a way that a horse eating this much of the feed won’t be overdoing the concentration of vitamins/minerals, etc. Therefore, even if your horse is able to eat hay along with the senior feed, you still need to feed the minimum amount (5-7.5 lbs. for a 1,000 lb. horse), to even begin to meet the fortification requirements that your horse has in advanced age. Below is a guideline for correct feeding amounts for senior horses.
TIP: Put away those coffee cans and get out your scale!!!
If your horse can eat hay, the minimum amount of senior feed he should have per day for maintenance is:
800 lb. horse: 4-6 lbs.
1000 lb. horse: 5 – 7.5 lbs.
1200 lb. horse: 6 – 9 lbs
If your horse depends solely on senior feed and cannot eat hay, the minimum about of senior feed he should have per day for maintenance is:
800 lb. horse: 10 -12 lbs.
1000 lb. horse: 12-14 lbs.
1200 lb. horse: 14 -16 lbs.