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Is Your Senior Horse's Diet Coming Up Short? Your Questions Answered!

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Is you senior horse receiving the nutrition he needs? Dr. Rob McCoy Ph.D., P.A.S., Vice President of Animal Nutrition here at Manna Pro, answers some of the most commonly asked questions about feeding older horses.


Gabby: "When is a horse considered a senior?"

Dr. McCoy: "Although there is no hard and fast rule for when a horse becomes a senior, many suggest this classification beginning at 16 to 18 years of age. Horses are individuals and they age differently based on many factors, including genetics, activity, and care received over their lifetime."

Gabby: "What things must be considered when feeding older horses?"

Dr. McCoy: “Good quality forage is the foundation to most feeding programs. Have your older horse’s teeth checked to assure he can chew hay adequately. Calories are a big consideration; thin horses need more and fat horses need fewer. Fats have more calories than grains and grains have more calories than forages. Don’t forget that senior horses need good quality proteins, minerals, and vitamins in their diet, too.”

Gabby: "Which nutrients are most important to include in a senior horse’s diet?"

Dr. McCoy: "All nutrients are important, but water is the most critical. After that, although calories aren’t a true nutrient, a deficient or excessive intake of calories will show up next. Again, for optimal health and well being, it’s important to provide appropriate quantities of ALL nutrients."

Gabby: "What should you feed a very thin or a fat senior horse?"

Dr. McCoy: “In addition to a balanced diet of protein, minerals, and vitamins, thin horses need to take in more calories to gain weight. Adding supplements high in fat, such as vegetable oils and rice bran, are an effective way to do this. However, it’s best to take a balanced approach including forage and grains, in addition to fats. Thin horses didn’t get thin overnight, so don’t try to get them back up to weight too quickly. Gradual is best.

Fat horses need to be fed a forage-based diet, with little or no added grains or fats. However, mineral and vitamin intake is still important. Manna Pro’s Sho-Glo is a comprehensive mineral and vitamin supplement that would work well in this and many other feeding programs.”

Gabby: "What feed ingredients are highly and easily digestible?"

Dr. McCoy: "Good quality fats are highly digestible, grains are intermediate, and forages are the least digestible of ingredients commonly fed to horses."

Gabby: "What type of forage should I feed my senior horse?"

Dr. McCoy: "Good quality grass hay or pasture is hard to beat. With hay, avoid bales with excessive dust or any evidence of mold. Good quality alfalfa hay is also a good choice, especially for thinner horses; it typically contains more calories than grass hays."

Gabby: "What do you do if your horse cannot chew hay?"

Dr. McCoy: “Consider chopped hay, moistened hay cubes, or feeds with built-in fiber such as Manna Senior. If at all possible, even a pound of long-stem hay is a nice addition to the diet.”

Gabby: "Should you feed a textured or pelleted feed?"

Dr. McCoy: "Either is suitable. Horses may prefer one form over another, so don’t ignore that. In warm weather, textured feeds tend to dry out and can draw flies. The ingredients in pellets have a smaller particle, which can improve overall digestion compared to more coarsely ground feeds. Additionally, pelleted feeds may be easier for horses with teeth problems to chew."

Gabby: "How often should you feed a senior horse?"

Dr. McCoy: “If you’re feeding grain, at least two evenly-spaced meals daily. A good rule of thumb is no more than 0.5% of a horse’s body weight (5 pounds per 1000 pound horse) at any one feeding. Generally, allow horses free-access to good quality hay at all times.”

Gabby: "How should you feed a senior horse in the summer vs. winter?"

Dr. McCoy: "In cold weather, horses expend more calories keeping themselves warm. While this depends on several factors, they could need up to 25% more feed just to maintain their current body weight. Never lose sight of the importance of water. While it is especially important in the summer, provide plenty of fresh, clean water to horses all year round."

Have you been looking for a wholesome and tasty treat for your senior horse? Look no further! Senior Snax is formulated with the senior horse in mind!

  • Contains a natural source of Glucosamine
  • Provides Omega-3 fatty acids for a vibrant coat
  • Supports healthy hooves with added Biotin
  • Easy-to-chew!
Senior Snax
Gabby Gufler

Gabby Gufler

Gabby Gufler graduated from Truman State University in 2013 with a BS in Animal Science & Nutrition and a minor in Equine Science. Gabby currently works on Manna Pro’s marketing team, and enjoys competing regularly with her six horses.

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