How to make a complete ration for a thin old horse

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How to make a complete ration for a thin old horse

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  • Horse nutrition / how to create a ration design
  • How to make sure old horses get hay rations

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    09-26-2013, 07:40 PM
Question How to make a complete ration for a thin old horse


I picked up a very cool old horse for my son to learn on. This guy is 17yr old and on the thin side, he's had a very hard life! (In need of some major TLC). I've always sold my horses before they got old because I didn't want to deal with the maintenance. Therefore, I'm not really sure how to feed him. I need to get some weight on him before winter, so I don't have long. I plan to get his teeth floated, although he doesn't drop much grain so they probably aren't too bad. So my questions-

1.) What kind of wormer is best for an old thin horse?

2.) What can I feed him? (not a complete pelleted feed)

Growing up we fed our old horses a senior feed with a cup of corn oil. However, I really don't want to feed a complete feed. What I would like to do is mix my own, I can't seem to find any example rations. I'm knowledgeable in ration developing for cattle but not horses. We feed cattle and mix our own rations daily. I have good Alfalfa, grass hay and pasture available. So, what can I supplement this old guy with to make him gain weight? Again, I don't want to use any complete feeds except maybe a COB sweet feed. I prefer to mix something out of what I have available. Alfalfa, oats, corn, barley, beet pulp, distillers grains, soy, peas, rice bran... I can top it with a fat of some kind, corn, soy or canola oil whatever is best. If there is anything else I didn't list I might be able to get it too. I can get what I listed above, that doesn't mean I need to feed it.

Suggestions please!! I just haven't found much online about designing a ration for horses. I know I can mix something for a fraction of what complete feed will cost.

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    09-26-2013, 07:56 PM
Green Broke
17 isn't that old. Tell my 25+ and 38 yr old mares they are old and they will probably run you over.

Honestly a complete low starch, high fiber and moderately high fat senior feed is ideal for them. That's why 17 yr old horses aren't old anymore.

Since you want to do it yourself...All the good grass hay he can eat with a little alfalfa until he's used to getting food. Corn is the hardest for horses to digest. Too much hot starch. Oats are the easiest. Most senior feeds have a high beet pulp content. You have feed it to them soaked or it's only a matter of time before they choke. Rice bran will add fat.

Make any changes slowly and if he's real thin let him gorge on grass hay for 2 weeks before adding any grains.

Many horses don't need grain if it's a light work load and the hay/grass are good.

Can you post a picture? I'd like to see how thin is thin before I give anything more specific.
    09-26-2013, 09:42 PM
This guy looks SO bad I didn't want to post a pic. If he wasn't registered and markings & brand match I wouldn't think he was 17. However, he's probably done more in a year than a lot of horses do in a lifetime. What better horse to teach a kid?
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    09-26-2013, 09:54 PM
Green Broke
Good regular meals and plenty of grass and hay will do the most. Has he seen a vet? Make sure it's just lack of groceries. Once he's eating regular and settled in a bit worm him.

He does look tired. Let him rest and gain.

Be aware there may be more spark to him once he's back in shape.
Water, hay, salt lick available at all times. Go easy introducing any grain.
    09-26-2013, 10:17 PM
Teen Forum Moderator
Poor guy, he does look tired and much older than he is. I think you can get him looking and feeling fantastic though with a well deserved break (not forever, maybe just a short work furlough? XD) and some good food. He's a handsome boy.

I'd go with the free-fed grass hay for starters, and in a week or so start adding in alfalfa. One medium to heavy (6-10lbs) flake should do the trick, and you can add more if he looks like he still needs it. If he doesn't start gaining on that, add in some beet pulp or rice bran. I've heard of people mixing the two together, but IMO its easier to just pick one. The beet pulp, as you may know, has to be soaked for a few hours in advance and if he has bad teeth it may be harder for him to chew it if it hasn't been soaked all night, rice bran is more expensive but easier for them to eat, takes less time to prepare, and you don't have to feed nearly as much of it (3/4-1 lb should be fine. When he's at a good weight, decrease it until he's just maintaining.)

No oats or corn; neither of those will do him any good IMO. Will he have access to grass? If not you might want some form of supplement to get the Omega 3 and 6 he's going to need, as well as the vitamins and minerals normally found in the processed grains.
    09-26-2013, 10:28 PM
Green Broke
17 is not that old. My main riding horses are 19 and 20. I still take them on 5+ hour trail rides in the mountains. I also have a three year old but have quickly decided having a young horse is overrated! The older guys are in their prime, in my opinion. All that training and experience is worth it's weight in gold.

Anyway, why not just add a meal or two a day of senior feed along with his hay? Then you don't have to worry about mixing anything, he still gets his hay, and his senior feed will supplement it.

I feed alfalfa. It has high quality protein and is just about the only quality/affordable hay in my area. But your area may be different.
    09-26-2013, 10:31 PM
Green Broke
PS. Ivermectin is always a good, all-around dewormer that kills just about everything (except tapeworms). To get tapeworms, there are a couple specific dewormers that include an extra ingredient to kill them. But ivermectin is a quality, safe dewormer and is a good place to start, in my opinion.
    09-27-2013, 10:38 AM
Thanks the info. He will have grass for a couple more weeks. We live pretty far north and have very harsh winters. It's dropping to the 30's at night already so the grass won't stay green long.

So how much Alfalfa per day and how much pulp? Should I feed rice bran and pulp together for extra gain? What about oil?

Originally, I was going to feed him senior feed and a cup of oil. However, I read that senior feed is not designed to be fed as a supplement. If you supplement a complete feed with a 12% P with hay the total pounds of P daily is too low for maintenance let alone weight gain. I read the reason senior feed doesn't work is because it needs to be fed at a rate of 2.5-3% of bodyweight, that's 25+ pounds of pellets per day! So at $18/50lb bag that's $9/day plus oil at $.45 I refuse to spend that! I can get 35 ton of wet beet pulp for $600.

I figure I have about 2 months to put weight on this guy before all his energy will go to keep warm.

I don't plan on using him until next spring, he will have plenty of time to rest.

Thanks for all the info so far!
    09-27-2013, 07:51 PM
Senior feeds don't need to be fed at that high of a rate, unless your horse is a very hard keeper and is also unable to eat hay.

If you don't want to feed senior, though, you can certainly do a beet pulp + rice bran mash. I'd also recommend feeding a ration balancer with it. That with free access grass hay and a flake of alfalfa would make a nice, well-rounded diet. You can increase the beet pulp/rice bran/alfalfa as needed if the horse doesn't start gaining weight.

ETA- if you can get dry (non-molassed) beet pulp, that would be healthier.
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    09-27-2013, 07:55 PM
Green Broke
That's not true about the senior feed. That feed rate is for a horse that can't eat hay. Even if he's a toothless wonder he should have some hay in front of him anyway.
You have to remember he's getting some nutrition from the hay as well. Add beet pulp and alfalfa and he's pretty close to getting all he needs. You could get a ration balancer type feed. At face value you are going to think it's expensive but it's super concentrated with all the protein, vitamins and minerals he needs. Your average horse only needs about a lb a day.

I think you are going to have to read the bags and tags on different feeds available to you out there.
Cheap isn't always better, watch the feed rates and watch lysine. Lysine is the one amino acid horses can't manufacture themselves from the various plant components.

I'm in a cold weather area too. Maybe worse because my snows are heavy wet affairs. Rarely powder, usually snowman making snow. Gets their coats wet and chills them. I keep mixed grass hay in front of them all the time once the grass goes totally dormant.

Purina has the feed rates and all the tag info online.
Purina Horse Feeds - EQUINE FAMILY

So is Nutrena's

Nutrena: Products - Horses - SafeChoiceŽ - SafeChoice Senior

Notice Nutrena included whether or not the horse can eat hay.

I have a truckload of sawdust about to be delivered. I'll elaborate more when I get it done. Only a little daylight left in NH.

balanced ration, mixing feed, thin horse

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