Senior Horse Care Tips

I’m looking for senior horse care tips- little (or big) things you’ve found to be beneficial to senior horses.

Can be general or specific.

Keep them exercising as much as they can handle.

5 Likes

Nilla wafers make great treats for oldies with not-so-hot teeth.

5 Likes

I agree that keeping them active is important, although remember that they can have heart attacks too - be consistent and moderate with the activity. Make sure they are blanketed in wet or chilly weather. They are more prone to colic due to erratic weather. Bring them warm water when it is cold out. My old guy still likes to play so I lease a young pony just to be a playmate. It’s great to see a 26 year old gelding playing and bucking!

2 Likes

As others have said…turnout. I like 24/7 turnout with access to shelter and an enclosed stall to bring them in when it’s particularly windy and/or wet. I also like to blanket the oldsters in quite cold or cold and windy conditions. I think it helps them conserve calories and keep their weight on. I’ve had a couple that benefit from MSM. I also soak their feed and provide plenty of warm, soaked alfalfa pellets for those who can’t chew well anymore. For all my horses, not just the old folks—but especially the old folks—a trough de-icer so that the water is always temperate. They drink significantly more from a heated trough than from an unheated trough, as I’ve discovered a few times over the years when a de-icer goes on the blink.

1 Like

Feed a senior feed. As they (and we) age, they don’t absorb/digest nutrients with the same efficiency as a younger horse.
As others have mentioned - blanketing, attention to teeth, exercise, joint health.
If they are in a herd, make sure they aren’t being bullied.
Even if teeth are in good shape, they may still do better on (fully wet) cubes and/or pellets. Pay attention to vitals too, know what’s normal and watch for anything ‘different’. And it can be subtle. Run your hands (bare hands) over them and get to know what lumps and bumps are normal.
If in a stall they may need more bedding in order to lay down comfortably. You might also want to bank it, or even just make a big pile in the center for them.
ETA: you may need to clip in the summer in case they don’t shed out all the way, or just to help them better manage the heat.

1 Like

In addition to what other posters said about senior feed, blankets, shelter and 24/7 turnout with appropriate friends. I really focus on helping to manage pain. My old retired OTTB is on daily Equioxx and ulcer meds to keep him comfortable.

1 Like

Mine is better without a blanket, unless it’s windy (he’s happy as a clam out in the rain, the snow, and the single digits as long as there is no wind), but he grows a good winter coat. He has an in/out stall with a large paddock on a gentle hill, so always has access to shelter.

And when he does have a blanket on, due to cold wind, he has taken to slipping out through the electric fencing, leaving it undamaged and himself only minimally zapped, and visiting friends in the neighboring paddocks, in the wee hours. “Senior” is just another word for “smarter” (except for the fact that he keeps getting caught in the other paddocks in the morning).

6 Likes

Here’s what I have learned over the last 20 years of caring for senior horses.

  1. Forage first! (this applies to all healthy horses). If they can chew hay effectively, there’s no reason to not feed them hay. Remember, you can always add cubes/pellets, but if they can chew, let them eat the hay.
  2. Switch to a senior formula feed, and feed at the recommended WEIGHT according to the manufacturers directions. Senior feeds are easier to digest and don’t require so much energy to break down.
  3. Have a DVM eval teeth every 6 months.
  4. SAFE turnout. The more the better.
  5. Forced exercise (IE riding, lunging, hand walking etc) do as much as they can comfortably handle.
  6. Don’t skimp on farrier care, keep them on schedule just like you’re working horses.
  7. Watch their weight. Too heavy is just as bad, if not worse than being too thin.
  8. Make sure they can lay down safely and get up on their own.
2 Likes

Test for metabolic issues even if you have no suspicion of them. The results may surprise you.

5 Likes

That’s funny! I give my old guy with missing teeth fig newtons…87 cents a bag at aldis, can’t beat that!

OP,
IMO as much turnout as possible and a consistent riding schedule are super beneficial. I have a friend with several horses in their late 20s and early 30s who are still going strong, they all live out 24/7 and they all hack out on trails five days a week, usually ponying another senior horse along with them!

1 Like

Excellent advice! Thank you everyone.

It seems my almost 21 y/o can no longer eat hay, so I’m in the process of transferring him to Triple Crown Senior Gold as a complete feed. My vet had always said he would “age in his mouth”, so we knew this day was imminent. Poor guy thinks I’m starving him because first I want to transition to his new feed then add a pound a day until he’s up to the reccomended amount.

SO this development got me thinking what else I can do to help my sweet boy out. He lives out and is still in regular work. Gets his chiro, massage and saddle fitting. I’m being more proactive with his blanketing too- since normally I’d give him a bunch of hay and I can’t do that anymore.

Great advice, keep it coming!

1 Like

Dr Getty has plenty of good advice on the subject too:

1 Like

Great suggestions from all above!

Just because your oldie cannot eat hay does not mean he should not have access to it. I have had several old horses who would eat hay, quid it up and spit it out.

Grass- A horse with no teeth can still eat grass. Especially if it is not taller than 8 inches.

I always had great luck with soaked grain of choice and the muck bucket full of soaked hay pellets/cubes, beet pulp and TSC hay stretcher. I had an early 20’s mare who had no teeth on one side due to bad accident. She lived 8 years on 3 lbs Senior and 5lbs of Timothy cubes, 2 lb dry beet pulp, and 2 lbs Hay Stretcher soaked to soup 2x daily. She stayed fat and sassy until the day we put her down from arthritis.

Taking care of oldies is a little more work, but so rewarding, I love my retirees!

2 Likes

I’ve nursed several through old age to the end. All have done well on TC Senior.

My old lady large pony did not have many molars left and quided hay badly. At the end she was eating the max amount of TC Senior that could be fed at one time (I think 5 lbs?) plus another 3 lbs of hay stretcher, all soaked in water, twice a day. I’d feed her on a mat, or on a snowy spot in winter, so when she inevitably knocked her bucket over and drooled everywhere she could still eat all that up. She stayed at a very good weight until the end. Even the vet said you wouldn’t know she was in her mid-30’s. She also got a token flake of hay at each feeding. If I was able to get nice soft second cutting, I’d give her more.

My OTTB, who had EOTRH, also did well on TC Senior and hay stretcher. His molars were fine, but he was down to I think 2 incisors by the time he died. Since he was still eating hay pretty well I kept him on 3 lbs of TC Senior and 2 lbs of hay stretcher, still all soaked, but he still got and ate his regular hay portion. He was also on bute for the last 10ish years of his life due to a chronic lameness condition.

I can’t remember if I had the pony on bute or not. She was quite the nimble little thing. When I put them out on summer pasture she was the one who would get all excited and run around and get everyone else all riled up, including the lame OTTB. If you’ve ever seen the movie Chicken Run, there’s this chicken in it that keeps asking “are we going on holiday?” That was kinda what the pony was like her last few years. A little confused but very happy.

3 Likes

The only other thing I’d say is you’re going to find feeding nothing but senior rather expensive. Continue to offer hay for him to have ‘chew time’ even if all he does is quid it.
So, with an eye towards cost, what I and lots of others do, is feed pellets and/or cubes (well soaked) in addition to our senior, and if not feeding enough senior we add a VM supplement.

I don’t know your locale, but where I am I have a product called Haystack Special Blend - it is alfalfa, beet pulp, timothy, rice bran, flax, canola oil. It’s fairly inexpensive, low sugar, soaks very quickly, and horses love it. I add to this Triple Crown Senior, and a VM supp because I’m only using maybe 2#/day of senior.
If I did not have access to this I would be using grass hay pellets/cubes along with alfalfa and adding some senior to that, possibly plain beet pulp but if you’re feeding enough hay product I don’t see the need.
Just my 2 cents!

1 Like

@Obsidian_Fire said, keeping costs reasonable while feeding a Senior is difficult.
Hay stretcher was a huge help as well as beet pulp. Both are inexpensive per pound. My local feed store sells 50 lb bags of unsweetened beet pulp for $15.00. Hay pellets/cubes can be pricey. I keep an eagle eye out deals and would buy a lot of bags if I could get a good price (luckily rodents do not seem to like hay pellets).

Feeding exclusively Senior is cost prohibitive and just does not give the time consuming bulk a horse needs to occupy their time while neighbors are grazing on hay. It takes my oldies a few hours to eat all the “soup”. Then the rest of the time they can quid hay, nap or nibble in the paddock.

I have used treat balls in winter to break up the winter boredom. I make some soft oatmeal carrot cookies that were a hit but I know there are some soft cookies on the market. For my old TB who was a peppermint hound, a few peppermint puffs in a treat ball with some cookies kept him busy all day, lol

2 Likes

My plan was to get him up to 10 pounds a day and then add the triple crown timothy/alfalfa cubes, all well soaked of course. We are in Louisiana, so we’re lucky to have access to Triple Crown!

Luckily his pasture is good enough in the summer that he doesn’t need hay. Although most of it is dead now, he still has something to munch on at least. I think he prefers pouting by the shed and waiting for his $$$ orchardgrass hay.

He had a minor choke incident for the first time ever this year (on a German horse muffin), so I’m ambivalent to put any out even for him to play with. I should also add that he had colic surgery for an illeal impaction 5 years ago, although that was largely attributed to coastal hay.

1 Like

It sounds like he has an owner that is doing everything they can to make his world the best it can be! Great job!

3 Likes

I’m trying my darndest! You know how horses can be though- always more to learn.

1 Like