Senior Horse Care Tips

I tested my hay and it came back not only low in sugar but also 14.5% protein - 2nd cut orchardgrass. Then had a goal of getting them off soy (Enrich Plus) so moved to soaking hay pellets and feeding soft food. Then put my 14 yo on the same soaked pellets. How isn’t that better than dry pellets?

Also started them both on Microbiome (butyric acid), Flax and Magnesium and darn if I’m not seeing cresty neck reducing noticeably, needed weight loss, AND looking shinier. Win win win.

And we are walking 30 min/day.

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Keep declining vision and/or hearing in mind when handling an old-timer.

My old guy has a cataract in one eye, for example, so is more likely to spook when something appears on that side. I also have to call extra-loud when it’s dinner time, since his hearing isn’t what it was.

Poor old geezer. :upside_down_face:


I posted above about my old lady large pony. I’m going to add, since you posted that your old guy recently choked, that I lost her to choke.

Which sounds ridiculous, but it was surgical, and at 35 I wasn’t putting her through that. She had eaten a little hard green apple off the ground.

Quality of life is something that I prioritize over all else. It was a hard decision to make, but I knew that the hospitalization, surgery, recovery, etc., was all going to be very hard on her. I also did not have the financial means at the time, but even taking that out of the equation, I knew it was time for her.

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I’m sorry to hear about your girl! Choke is so scary.

I board retired horses. I have 3 right now with few teeth. They get soaked TC Sr and lots of soaked timothy alfalfa cubes. They are out 24/7. I feed the soaked cubes in large Coleman coolers on wheels, which makes it easy to wheel a full cooler out to their run in. The cooler allows me to feed so much that they pretty much always have it in front of them, and it keeps them from freezing in winter (and cool in summer).


The wheeled cooler idea is genius! I have an old pony that is eating lots of soaked Timothy cubes, and I have been worried about how to feed them when the weather warms up. This sounds like the perfect solution.

What a neat idea!

Thanks! I posted hoping my trick would help someone.

I have two questions for anyone who is able to answer:

  1. My senior is starting to have issues with diarrhea caused by the long stem hay. Has anyone seen this? I’m having a hard time with his weight because of this.

  2. On the getting back up, how do you monitor this? I watched my old guy do this tonight when I pulled in the feed him. He absolutely got up on his own, but it definitely seemed like there was a pause while his back legs worked.

I’m always wondering at what point I’m no longer doing him any favors. It was easy for a long time. He’s out 24/7 with a friend and I really didn’t have the issue with his weight when I first brought him home. I fed him TC senior and plenty of hay and he just looked good. Last winter and this winter I have really fought this diarrhea. He does have Cushings disease and is medicated for that.

Casey09, I have an older horse with winter diarrhea. It is a bear to deal with - worse this year than ever before. I have found that feeding Timothy pellets helps. Supposedly the addition of the short and soft stems of the pellets absorbs some of the liquid in the gut and cushions the bowel from the long stem fiber. I do add water before feeding but I add just enough to soften them but not make them soupy.

One of these days my boy may need to come off hay completely, as I have heard that this is sort of the last stand of winter diarrhea. Since I already have a pony that can’t eat hay I am hoping not to take this next step until I absolutely have to.

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Have you tried any probiotics for the diarrhea? Otherwise, I’d talk to the vet. There are so many products to help with that. Perhaps a course of Flagyl? I know I’ve heard a product called Biosponge is a life saver but I’ve never used it so I don’t know the details- how long it can be used, etc.

As for the getting back up, I basically just pause and watch when I can. A lot of the older guys take a moment to get up, even ones that are still in work. It’s when you have ones that struggle to get their hind legs underneath them that it becomes a problem. I’ve had two that had that issue. My OTTB struggled more when he had a bout cellulitis. His hind legs wouldn’t bend right to get the right leverage. He could still get up, but it would take him sometimes like 10/15 minutes. If he wasn’t struggling with active cellulitis he was totally fine. We let him go when the cellulitis came back in the late fall. I didn’t want him to be stuck down for any length of time on hard frozen ground or in the snow. Another one I had that struggled to get up just had terrible arthritis and there was no amount of bute or joint supplements in the world to fix it. Sometimes it would take her up to 30 minutes to get up. It was often positional, and about where she choice to lay down. The footing, the slant of the ground, etc. But ultimately, that’s why we had to put her to sleep. When you see them spinning on their hindquarters and can’t get those legs underneath themselves, then you know there’s a problem.

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At the beginning of my old guys tooth issues (losing the grinding surface), adding a few lbs of soaked pellets to his feed helped the digestive issues. Beet pulp and senior feed did not help.


Have you tried feeding chopped hay? If your horse responds well, it may be worthwhile buying a chipper/mulcher and send your hay through the leaf side. I found doing this 2 times with my 3rd cutting hay made it about the same length as the chopped hay you can purchase. It took me around 45 mins to chop 35 lbs of hay.

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What a great idea!

Thank you! I will try some pellets and see what happens and if that helps at all. My vet definitely told me that sometimes you can’t feed hay at all. This horse has always kind of preferred hay to grain so it’s just hard for me to get that much senior feed in him. Sometimes they just do not cooperate!
I will also give the probiotics a try. When I think about it he used to be on smart pak and I think he was on a probiotic supplement. When I started the medication for the Cushings I stopped with that because appetite was an issue. He’s eating ok now and I bet he would eat a probiotic again. I did use that BioSponge once after a colic surgery (on a different horse). That might be an option to ask the vet about as well.

My Paint gelding is 26 and I’ve had him on Blue Seal Sentinel Performance LS for five years. His teeth are still in pretty good shape. The Sentinel line is extruded so digestibility is the same for each formula. The LS has high fat and fiber and low carbs. He gets the nutrition he needs in a smaller serving than senior provides. I moved to a new barn 6 weeks ago and brought 3 bags which I was not about to leave at the prior barn. The new BO wanted to switch him to Purina Senior. When I compared both of Purina’s senior formulas with Blue Seal there were some nutritional differences. Nothing drastic but I decided to stick with the LS because I know what the ingredients are…

It bothered me that I could not find Purina’s ingredients on their website. Their explanation for a fixed formula is somewhat misleading. They say that horses need guaranteed nutrition but not guaranteed ingredients. They criticize “least cost” formulas because it involves shopping around for ingredients based on cost. Purina is similar but they shop around for ingredients for nutritional value. That’s not how I understand “fixed formulas.” Purina implies that nutrition varies between bags of other brands and can’t be guaranteed because the ingredients don’t change. The nutritional profile of both brands is close. Many nutrients have minimum values. Both companies guarantee nutrition. Some horses are sensitive to changes, some have allergies. The LS is consistent from bag to bag. Same ingredients, same nutritional profile guaranteed. If they change the recipe they change it on the bag and the website before they manufacture and sell it.

Blue Seal has been around for 150 years and is a New England company. I’m a New Englander, currently in Maine. Blue Seal is manufactured in Vermont, sometimes upstate New York. They have contracted to manufacture Triple Crown products a few times.

I never soaked his grain. He chews with his mouth open and looks around. Empties the tub, then nibbles every last nugget. He won’t leave the stall (pasture boarded) until he checks both sides of the sill. If he had to wait for me he licked the bottom surface of the stall grill. New BO wanted to soak it and add timothy pellets. That’s fine. They finally got it sloppy enough. He’s a licker and has a very weird routine that involves licking the grill, the stall wall, and the door while he laps up the goop. It looks like all the right hormones are running around and he is in heaven. The barn is impeccably clean except his stall with gobs of stuff building up. They don’t care, he is so entertaining it’s good for a few laughs.

He hates stalls, but he is in a 12x12 with a “gossip window” in the grill and a backdoor to a large run out. They never close the barn except for ridiculous weather. This barn is perfect for both of us. We love it for different reasons.

I agree with everyone else… One additional thing, for horses that can be ridden lightly or maybe hand walked, is walk work on varied terrain, not just in an arena. My vet says this will help them keep their sense of where their feet are. I’m lucky to have good trails access, so my mare and I go out of the arena more than we are in it. Winter trails are harder without trailering out, but the barn property itself has slopes and different surfaces.

(Actually, every vet I’ve worked with has recommended work on varied terrain for horses of any age. I don’t know how strong the correlation is, but in the various barns I have boarded at, the horses that only go in the arena have more soft tissue injuries.)

24/7 turnout is great as long as the horse isn’t frail or nervous enough to be scared at night. In a herd helps. My mare is happier having a stall and ~7 hours turnout in a 1/4 acre paddock than she was with 24/7 individual turnout. But I’d go for 24/7 in the right setting.

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@Casey09 My old guy gets winter diarrhea and this is the first year I’ve gotten it under control! I added a bucket of TC chopped alfalfa to his PM feeding, and he gets a daily probiotic. Within a week of adding these things to his diet, his diarrhea completely stopped. So, definitely look into chopped hay and a probiotic!

Our older guy developed both poor appetite and eventually diarrhea from pergolide. I stopped it as a trial and both resolved in a few days. Did fine on every other day for a while but ultimately I had to stop it altogether, choosing happy over risk of untreated Cushings.

I’d like to add in that Triple Crown has a chopped forage in a bag. Not the safe starch stuff but just regualr chopped timothy and orchard grass. If your horse isn’t allergic to either hay, that’s a good option to just always have around. You don’t need to switch to a “complete feed” as others have said. Until recently I fed mine TC Senior, rice bran, timothy pellets, chopped hay, half a flake of orchard for something to chew on, and supplements. I switched him to the Cavalor senior feed and fiberforce. He’s more interested in it and his poop has been better since switching.

Also, avoid inflammatory things like flaxseed in excess. As others have said, keep them moving. Mine does best when he does poles and lateral work to keep his muscles. Supplements help a ton. Limit sugars wherever possible. It also never hurts to get a blood test and check their levels. I found out my guy was too high in potassium and low in zinc so he gets a human zinc supplement and I took him off wheat bran.