How much feed can safely give?

Please excuse any errors, as I’m posting this from my phone. I’m new to this forum, and looking for some advice for a friend. She has a 28-32 year old mare who needs to put some weight on. She’s a retired pasture pet, GREAT teeth that were just floated, and until this winter a fairly active easy keeper. We’re having a very harsh winter with lots of snow and more below zero days than we are used to. She gets good quality grass hay twice daily. We have senior feed and alfalfa pellets to give her, but because of scheduling and water access, we are only able to supplement her once daily. How much can we give her at one time? She’s a very slow eater, so I’m not worried about her wolfing her food down. Any advice?

What do you mean water access?

I would have hay in front of her 24/7 if she has great teeth and can eat it. It will not only fuel her body to give warmth, it is better than loading her up with grain.

With an older horse like this I wouldn’t want to leave her unattended with a large volume of bagged feed in case she would choke. If you feed her when you are there, than 3 pounds per feeding shouldn’t take her too long to eat and it would split up the daily ration in 2 feedings.

You would have to " work up" to this amount if she is not currently getting grain right now.

She is pastured with two younger horses. She is dominant over one(her 16 yo daughter), so she gets plenty of the hay thrown, but the gelding won’t let her eat her grain if they are unattended. There is only one automatic waterer out there that is heated, and a tank would freeze 4 inches in a few hours at these temps, so they all have to be together. There is no way to get electric to a tank heater. That’s why we can only feed once daily. I can put her in the round pen to let her eat, then let her out.

Does the hay you throw last until you feed again? with 3 horses eating there is no way to know how much each one actually gets. I would feed more hay, especially when it gets below freezing and way, way more for frigid temps. They can lose weight at a frightening rate when it is below zero.

Is she blanketed?

If you can only feed her grain 1x daily I would really watch how much you give.

What do you mean by water access? ? Horses need hay available 24/7. I think 5lbs is max amount for one feeding. I sure hope the horses have water that’s not frozen available all the time. To put weight on you really need to feed more then once a day.

What do you mean by water access? ? Horses need hay available 24/7. I think 5lbs is max amount for one feeding. I sure hope the horses have water that’s not frozen available all the time. To put weight on you really need to feed more then once a day.[/QUOTE]

Yes, they have water at all times. There is only one heated automatic waterer though, so no way to pen her separately and still have water.

They get enough hay that they can eat until ~1 hour before the next feeding, if not right up until the next feeding. I know grain once daily isn’t ideal, but it’s what we capable of. Once is better than not at all right?

5-6 lbs is max.

Can you put a blanket on her so she’s burning fewer calories keeping herself warm?

Is it possible to set up a pen with panels or step in posts and hot tape where she can access the waterer but doesn’t limit access for the others? (What kind of waterer is it? A whole lot of them can be accessed by two fields of horses…) Then feed her a couple times a day and also supplement with alfalfa hay.

Similar to what Simkie said, I’ve heard no more than 4lbs concentrate at a time. But, you can feed her a high quality concentrate and then increase the fat content with oil or a dry fat supplement (Cool Calories, etc.).

Really check the quality of your hay - if it’s a poor quality hay, she’s not getting much nutrition from it. If you feed or can feed high quality grass or a grass/alfalfa mix, she’ll be getting more calories from that as well (as will the other horses, which might be an issue if they don’t need the calories).

Also, I have no issue feeding a horse grain once a day rather than twice. My horse only gets fed 1x per day in the summer when he’s out all the time.

5, mayyyyyybe 6lb of a concentrated feed at a time, which means there really needs to be a way to feed her 2x/day.

Or, blanket (more), so that even if she’s not actively cold, she’s not burning calories to stay warmer at those really low temperatures.

At her age, her teeth can’t be fantastic. They might be fantastic her for age, but between her teeth at her age, and her digestive system at her age, she’s not getting out of her feed what she used, to, especially her forage. So by default she needs a bit more than she did even 5 years ago.

Five pounds at a time. Purina Ultium is the highest calorie feed out there to give you the most bang for your buck.

Thank you everyone for your advice! Unfortunately we can only give grain once daily, but it will be better than nothing. We’ve got a blanket that needs some repairs, so we will look into that option. If she hasn’t shown any improvement within a month, we will have to pen her off by herself, but we’re hoping not to have to go that route. We don’t want to take away all of her companionship… We will start throwing extra hay too, especially when it’s cold. Amazingly, she’s only missing one tooth, and that one wasn’t age related! This is the first winter she’s had any kind of issue… She lived a fairly hard working life before my friend got her though. we’ll try to figure out something and get her grained twice a day, but that’s really not possible without making her live in a small pen without her herd. I guess it’s a lose/lose situation. She’s always been fat and happy, so I don’t think it will take her too long to put some weight back on once we get a few extra groceries into her. Just to clarify since some of you were worried, they do have access to a heated automatic waterer, and they get plenty of hay.

You may think she is eating her hay well enough, but the fact that she’s losing weight is evidence that she is NOT getting adequate nutrition under your current feeding plan–though regular attention from a dentist is critical for geriatric horses, the fact is that equine teeth have a finite lifespan, and this mare’s teeth are at the end of theirs. Old horses will chew hay but won’t be able to swallow much of it. They let these ‘cuds’ drop on the ground, and if in company, other horses will happily eat them (yuck, I know) but that is likely why you aren’t seeing any, not because her teeth are ‘fine.’

There comes a point when being kept in a group prevents a senior horse being able to get enough nutrition to stay in good shape–sounds like a change needs to be made to this horse’s living arrangements to keep her from losing more weight and be healthy.

Since she is losing weigh despite having access to hay, you have to assume that she is not getting enough nutrition from hay, and needs to get more nutrition from her grain ration. To answer your original question, approximately 5 lbs is all you can feed at any one time because that’s the capacity of the equine stomach.

But she surely requires more than 5 lbs of grain daily to supplement her diet to to the extent necessary to replace the roughage portion of her diet that she isn’t getting from hay.

This means you’ll need to choose a feed formulated to be a complete ration that supplies ALL the vitamins, minerals, and calories she needs to gain weight and keep it on (check the bag and/or consult the nutritionist at your local feed store to be sure). Then you’ll need to calculate how much feed you should supply her with (there will be a chart, with recommended amounts on your feed bag. From there, divide it into how ever many feedings she will need to get ALL the nutrition she needs, 5lbs at a time.

It might be two or three feedings per day…and if you can’t organize that in her present situation, it will be necessary to figure something else out.

I think the blanket will help her burn fewer calories, but make sure you look underneath it regularly to see how she’s doing.

Could she eat a second grain meal if the gelding wasn’t an issue? You could possibly feed her a smaller meal that she can eat in the time it takes the gelding to eat his own grain (or other special treat). I do that with mine in the mornings, since it’s 4 am and I have to get ready for work. I dump feed, then open their stall doors so they can go out. I don’t stick around until they’re done. I have one mare (#2 in the herd), who gets less in the morning than she does at night, because the #1 mare will finish whatever is still in 2’s bucket when she is finished with her own grain. I just adjusted it so that #2 is about finished when #1 is.

Remember that her need for adequate nutrition has nothing to do with your wish to keep her in a herd, or your inability to feed her more than once per day.

If you can’t remove her from the herd, AND feed her more often, time to look for a different management situation for her.

OP, you need to read the feeding instructions on your bag. It will usually tell you the limit of what can be fed at one feeding.

I would not recommend Ultium–it’s a performance horse concentrate, not labeled as a ‘complete’ feed for seniors. The danger in feeding a concentrate (as opposed to a ‘complete’) feed is that to supply a horse with enough calories to keep weight on, the horse will receive an excess of vitamins and minerals, which can be harmful (particularly selenium).

Senior feeds are formulated to be a complete ration if necessary:

Scroll down to the bottom of this page for the directions about how to calculate how much Purina Senior to feed as a complete ration (without hay).

UGH. I hate that we can’t ‘edit’ now…

Another point is that when horses can no longer chew well, even grain is hard to digest, so they need to have their meals soaked. Keeping old horses in good weight is labor intensive, no way around it…

How is the automatic waterer set up? Free standing in the middle of the field? Or along a fence line?

If along the fence line, the paddock can be divided perpendicular to the placement of the automatic waterer, and allow enough room for horses to access it either side. I don’t know how to describe it more clearly, but a single waterer can still be accessed by 2 pens if the fence line is set up properly.

I cringe over horses that only receive one grain meal a day. But if that’s your situation and the gelding chases her off, then I suggest splitting the paddocks in the way I’ve described above. She’ll still get social interaction with horses on the other side of the fence, still have access to water, but won’t get chased off her one grain meal.

I understand difficult management situations so I won’t comment on that. Sometimes you have to make due with what you have.

As far as feed, as others have said 5, maybe 6 pounds max per feeding. I will throw out the suggestion of ADM SeniorGlo. Highly concentrated for a senior feed; I cannot adequately put in to words how much I hate the complete senior feeds out there that are mostly hay. Some horses do need those, but if my senior horse can eat hay (and it sounds like she does), then I don’t want to pay $20 a bag for pelleted hay. So, SeniorGlo is a low feeding rate type feed that puts condition on quickly. My sister has a 30+ year old mare who has very little teeth on one side, and none on the other. Aside from her mushed up soaked hay cubes, she gets 6 pounds a day of SeniorGlo and couldn’t look better. Also have two other elderly mares who lost some condition for the first time this winter due to severe weather and they are putting weight back on with just 2 pounds a day.

Also for extra calories, someone mentioned Cool Calories. If the price is offensive to you, try checking out a local co-op or other feed mills for Performance Pak 100. It is Cool Calories but without the brand name, and in a 50 pound bag. I’ve been feeding it since before Cool Calories was a thing :smiley: