Senior Gelding has decided to stop eating grain...need advice

I have a 30 year old rocky gelding. (actually he is my DH’s horse) I have had him fat and looking great for the past 2 years on Purina senior and soaked beet pulp. Well this august he decided that he didn’t want the beet pulp anymore but he would still eat his wet Purina Senior. Started adding oil and some soaked alfalfa cubes and he was fine with that. He does better during the months that there is grass as he was quidding hay but still eating some. In September he decided he wasn’t going to eat any wet grain at all. So that ended the soaked alfalfa pellets Then he decided no oil so he is just getting his senior feed dry. Dentals are scheduled the middle of September. The dentist pulls his upper #4 molars on both sides as they we loose and had no roots. besides that his teeth were pretty good. After the dental he has been eating hay really well and I haven’t seen any balls that he is spitting out. I think this is great! Well shortly after the dental he decided that he doesn’t want grain at all and has developed a dry cough (no flem or crackling just a dry cough) I though it might be because his food wasn’t wet anymore but now that he really wasn’t eating grain I don’t think that was it. I started playing around with feeds, trying to find one he would eat. Right now he is getting the TC senior and is eating about half what he should be eating. He is in his stall for 3 hours AM and PM to make sure no one else gets his food but eventually he will just stand in the corner and snooze until I let him back out.

I had the vet out last week, we pulled bloodwork and he suggested a combo of Guaifenesin and Zyrtec for the cough. We are trying it for a week to see if it helps before we move on to something else.

Got a message on Friday about his blood work. He said everything looked normal except t\is blood protein was low and his cushings test was “a little high” which I expected at his age.

This weekend I decided that I would try offering him some alfalfa in his stall since he has been eating hay so well and that was a BIG hit.

I’m waiting for a callback from the vet this morning to discuss his blood work but I wanted to pick COTH’s mind about ideas on what else I can try with him to get his weight back up? I’m scared that he won’t make it through the winter if we keep at this rate.

A fellow here had two horses in his 30’s on a big square very nice quality alfalfa bale free choice, buckets of senior grain fed twice a day they ate when they wanted and they thrived on that for many years.
You may try alfalfa fed as much as he will eat from feed time to feed time when he can eat by himself.

What worked for our old gelding was a nose bag. He could no longer walk away from his grain and “forget” to eat.

We’ve had a couple oldies that became super picky. What we ended up doing was rotating through different grains every time they got bored with what they were eating. Not ideal of course to keep switching grain but they were old enough that we figured it was worth the risk and they did keep eating and did fine with the switching.


It’s not like he is forgetting to eat. I have a camera in his stall since it is my foaling stall and have actively watched him get a mouthful and spit it back out. Watching him eat has become my obsession. He did eat a significant amount of alfalfa this morning but DH said there was significant grain left in his feed bucket this morning. I have changed him from eating off a pan on the ground, as he has done for the past 20 years of his life, to eating out of a bucket mounted to the wall at chest level. He seems happier with that. I have a corner feeder on order and will be mounting it for him as soon as it comes in. I guess I will just offer free choice alfalfa while he is in his stall (roughly 7 hours a day) and also keep grain out and switch as he decides he isn’t going to eat it. At his age, I’m not so worried about the issues with switching his feed all the time as I am with him not eating. If anyone has more ideas I’m willing to try just about anything right now as I’m not sure my DH can deal with losing another pet as we just lost our 15 year old hound in October. He didn’t take that one very well.

I don’t have anything to offer beyond the advice you’ve already been given, but sending your virtual support and hugs. I also have a super senior who doesn’t eat hay particularly well and is starting to get picky with her grain. Thankfully, she is still pretty happy with her TCS, but is losing interest in alfalfa cubes, just like yours. I just added in some extra beet pulp to her TCS this morning and that seemed to be taken positively.

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Sentinel has a puffed senior feed that horses seem to have an easier time eating. It’s not as hard as regular feeds. It does also soak really well and easily. Maybe worth a try?

I have been through this a few times…since he is eating hay well I would consider moving the concentrate to more of a “junk food” diet. That irresistable, molasses filled sweet feed stuff I’d never in a million years consider feeding a horse generally. Anything to get calories in.


If your vet didn’t put a speculum in his mouth, get his teeth checked again. Sometimes pulling the first one will trigger a cascade of issues - or the root hole will get infected.


The Sentinel is one that I haven’t tried yet. in looking online they make a senior active that is higher in fat since I can’t add oil or anything to his feed. I will have to see if I can find it locally.

Oh he looked in his mouth. That was one of the first thing he did after listening to him breathe and before pulling blood.

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I’ve used IM vitamin B complex when my old guy was declining and it would really pick up his appetite. He was having all the same issues your guy is having ( normal blood work, stopped eating grain, 100% sound mouth to tail just OLD) Could be worth a try!


You could talk to your vet about Purina well gel. It’s only available from the vet and costs $250-ish a tub, which lasts about 2 months. I have had luck putting weight on using it, plus ultium gastric care and empower (rice bran). In searching for a link maybe you can buy it direct:

I’ve seen it at my local tractor supply. I think all elderly animals and people can struggle with appetite

Have you tried adding Calf Manna to his feed? My old guy has started being picky too, but I got a bag of Calf Manna and added to his regular feed (Proelite Senior/alfalfa pellets) and he acted like it was the best thing ever.

If he is on, or has been on pain relief meds (like maybe post dental?) then I’d be concerned with an unhappy belly causing his distrust of grain.

I’ve had good results (on someone else’s horses who didn’t want to spend $$ on actual meds) using 60cc of aloe vera gel syringed in by mouth a couple of times a day. One horse actually went from miserable git to quite a sweet boy in just a few days AND cleaning up his feed. Might be worth a try - a jug of Lily of the Desert aloe gel will only set you back about $30 or so. FWIW, I know a lot of people swear by aloe juice. I had pretty much zero noticeable changes in any horse I ever tried juice on. Gel is my go to.

At any rate, good luck with figuring out your antique’s feeding preferences!

Maybe ask your vet about trying a short course of banamine or previcox to see if that improves his appetite. It might be that he is just uncomfortable enough somewhere in his mouth/neck/jaw that it’s affecting his appetite. I had this happen with my old gelding, just stopped eating. Come to find out he has some arthritis in his TMJ. Now I hang his hay up and he’s happy. I also stopped feeding his pellets in a pan on the ground and feed them up higher.
He has a day every few months where I can see he’s eating a little slower and a small dose of banamine once or twice straightens him out.

what test was done, and what was the actual number? Did the vet mention the result in the context of the seasonal rise, which is coming to an end, but still here?

On the oil thing - my 32yo isn’t a fan either IF I pour it over his feed. The trick for him is to dump about 3c of water into his feed pan, add 1/2c oil (I use canola, some oils are tastier than others, consider trying CocoSoya), add 1/2lb of Triple Crown Rice Bran pellets, then add his Triple Crown Sr Gold and just let it sit like that for a few minutes. The rice bran soaks up the water, the bottom layers get coated with oil, and after 5 minutes or so, then I mix it all. So the majority of it isn’t actually soaked, just coated but also not all that oily either.

Triple Crown has a Safe Starch forage, and Tractor Supply has a new chaff hay, both of which I’ll be getting in the next week to supplement my guy’s hay as well, since he can still eat some, but he’s also quidding some. Chopped hay is a lot easier to process than regular hay if they don’t have ALL their teeth, but still have some.

Definitely offer as much leafy alfalfa as you can while he’s stalled, that can help a lot.

The problem with extruded (puffed) feed, is that they are quite lite, so it takes more volume to get the pounds you need. But if he loves it, and will eat more pounds of it unsoaked, that’s all that matters. My guy has a meal volume limit, so I have to pack calories into as small a volume as I can.

Plain soybean meal, available at most real feed stores, can be great for appetite, calories, and protein.

I had my gelding on Sentinel LS for years to give him more calories. He was on pasture board until we moved to another barn with a stall that opened to an large run out. He was 27. I switched him to the Active Senior. It has a different profile for esoteric ingredients like amino acids. We have a Blue Seal company store close by. The manager suggested the change because of his age. She has been there for a long time, knows the competition as well as Blue Seal.

What I like about Sentinel is that everything is extruded and easy to eat. Changing to a different formula is much easier because you can change the nutrition profile without making a big change in the base. The new barn was soaking it. He really liked it until someone poured way too much water. It was beyond soupy. He loved slurpng it up, 3 meals a day.

My picky eaters have always loved rice bran. The mare who would barely touch her grain and would then lick her feed pan. I’ve also had good success adding Purina Amplify to grain to encourage horses who need more fat but who don’t like oil.