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How To Care and Feed a Senior Horse

In Health by HorseMom MaryLeave a Comment

Generally any horse over 15 years old is considered a senior horse

BUT… The oldest horse on record is 51 and lived in the UK.
And was a strong, active, full of life “old boy” named Shayne.

A drinking horse in a meadow.

So being a senior does not mean that they can’t be active like a performance horse…

It just means that their bodies couldn’t withstand the physical rigors of an intensive training, conditioning and show schedule.

A well thought out wellness management program that includes exercise and a good nutrition plan is important to keeping the older horse healthy for a long time.

The Importance of Balanced Nutrition in the Old Horse

Here’s How You Can Prevent
Chronic Health Problems in
Your Senior Horse

So He Can Live A Happy, Healthy and Long Life!

The aging process in older horses affects their whole body; tissues, organs and systems.

    • They lose their ability to absorb nutrients fully
    • The ability to metabolize food (convert food into energy) decreases with age
    • There is a loss of organ reserve capacity,
      (loss of muscle mass and tone)
    • Bones and joints weaken
    • Output of their hearts decrease and can fatigue easily
    • The ability for older stallions to get mares’ pregnant decline
    • They have increased dental diseases
    • Older mares have a tougher time becoming pregnant and their ability to have trouble free deliveries decreases.
    • Their senses; hearing and smelling are sometimes dulled
    • Their immune system becomes less effective
      (diseases and infections have a greater effect on the older horse)

All of these health problems can be linked to deficiencies in the
horses’ diet or to metabolic disorders.

You can learn more about specific draft horse,
pony, miniature and standard horse health issues here.

Research has shown that older horses need a higher amount of quality protein, with more easily digestible fiber sources and more trace minerals and vitamins in their diet.

Supplementing the older horses
diet can help maintain their
health and vigor

      • They should get at least 12% to 14% protein
      • Limited calcium to avoid developing arthritic conditions.
      • Extra phosphorus as a daily maintenance is important.
      • Lysine to aid in muscle repair and recovery, alleviate stiffness and soreness.
      • Because of poor digestibility of the senior horse a complete vitamin and mineral supplement is needed to help metabolize fats, proteins and carbohydrates, for proper muscle and nerve function and strong bones to support their own weight.
      • Feeding a complete feed either by pelletizing or by extrusion with high quality hay is ideal.
      • Senior horses can also benefit from supplemented fat in their diet to help prevent them from losing condition and becoming ribby.
      • The condition of their teeth deteriorates and their digestion is less than efficient, fat is more easily digested for calories.
      • Based on veterinary research omega 3 oils are beneficial in preventing arthritis, laminitis, small airway disease associated with stabling and dermatitis.
      • All oils provide energy but only omega 3 oil reduces inflammation.
        (Omega 3, 6 & 9 oil has been shown to stabilize blood sugar, support immune function and improve hair coat.)
      • Probiotics aid in digestion and can improve gastrointestinal health of the senior horse. (They help reduce the risk of colic, diarrhea, bloating and ulcers.)
      • Joint nutrients and anti-inflammatories help reduce pain and inflammation and allow the joints to glide freely without friction.
      • Antioxidants offer protection against aging, stress, diseases and infections.

All tissue are susceptible to free radical damage, but body fat and proteins are particularly affected.

If you disrupt cell function it affects resistance to stress and disease.

Senior horses have
particular health issues
unique to their life stage so

1 Feeding the right supplement

2 At the right time

3 In the correct amounts

It’s critical to keeping your old friend happy and healthy for life.

(So instead of having to buy several products we suggest an all in one supplement)

We use “Natures Process” a 3 step process that will cleanse, restore and nourish your whole horse.

Because antioxidants can not be manufactured by the horse,
their only supply is through their diet and supplements.

It addresses all of the problems senior horses have and helps prevent future ones. It’s the only complete supplement your horse will ever need to help fight the effects of aging and make their life easier.

Hope that helps our old friends.


You can download this article in PDF form here (suitable for printing)


The Horse Nutrition Bible, Ruth Bishop
The Older Horse, Robert Holland DVM, PhD
Nutrient Requirements of Horses 6th revised edition,
National Research Council of The National Academies

Suggested Reading :

Baby, It’s Cold Outside
by Erica Larson, deals with feeding seniors in the winter

Finding Forever Homes for Equine Seniors in Need
by Erica Larson, wonderful comments under Erica’s story

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