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Putting weight on senior horses...advice?
I have posted before that I have a 24 yo Appaloosa mare. Everyone who sees her, vets included, cannot believe that she's that old. My problem is getting her to gain weight. Her ribs still show above her belly. The vet said she'd like to see her gain enough weight to cover her ribs. She suggested switching her feed to a senior one, so I started her on Nutrena Senior Life Design (which she loves). She gets 2# morning and evening with 1 cup of alfalfa pellets and 1 scoop of Body Builder 4000 Powder with each meal. She also gets 2 flakes of hay in the evening. It sounds like alot of food to me, but still her ribs show. Does anyone have this type of problem with their seniors, and what do you do about it?
That dosn't sound like enough. That's only 4# Senior, 1/2# alfalfa pellets and about 6-8# hay. Even if she gets unlimited pasture, it's not offering much right now.
Free choice hay, tooth float, blood work, fat supplement.
Stabilized rice bran, soy hull based extruded feed, beet pulp and oil all come to mind.
Most of the "senior feeds" on the market are full of junk and you would be much further off with a high fat feed, oil and a balanced vit/min supplement (either in the feed or offered free choice). Free choice hay is the best place to start.
Senior feeds are generally made so they can be fed as the sole ration. Look at the label or the back of the bag and read what it recommends you to feed. If it has an amount for a 900 lb horse (or whatever weight she should be), I'd put her on it and let her have free choice grass hay, but only AFTER she eats the ration of Senior. If she weighs 800 lbs and you want her at 1000 lbs, then feed for the 1000 lbs or even for 1100 or 1200 to get the weight on her then cut back when she picks up. I believe Nutrena puts pre & Probiotics in the feed to aid with senior digestion too, that's frequently an issue with older horses because they a) can't chew as well as they need to and b) they can no longer digest as efficiently as the once did. 1 cup (if you are using a standard measuring cup, it won't even weigh out at 8 oz, or 1/2 lb), of alfalfa pellets is pretty useless and a waste of money IMO. I think you'd find if you just fed the senior plus hay for something to chew on, you could cut the other stuff out and she'd gain the weight. IF you feed according to the directions on the package. K.I.S.S. frequently works best for seniors.
This is from the Nutrena website.I cannot find the feeding guidelines online, so I will have to check the bag that I currently have in my trunk.
Life Design® Senior equine feed is a highly digestible and highly palatable multi-form product specially designed to meet the unique nutritional requirements of older horses. Enhanced with added amino acids, highly digestible fiber, and organic trace mineral complexes, Life Design® Senior equine feed is your surest way to show your older horse you care about their special needs.
So, is the general concensus that I should amp up her grain intake as well as the alfalfa pellets? The grain is measured using an empty 2# coffee container that my friend uses to measure with.
I don't care how much money I have to spend on feed, pellets, hay...whatever she needs is what I will give her. I just need help knowing what and how much. *Bet you can't tell that I'm a first-time-horsey-mom!* :)
The basic guideline for feeding horses is they require approximately 2% of their body weight in forage or forage + concentrates. Aged horses are less efficient with their feed so they tend to need even more or it needs to be provided in a form that is more easily chewed and digested (senior feeds). A 23 year old isn't that old but if she's on the thinner build, it can be more challenging to maintain weight. So feeding a 10 year old 4# of feed isn't the same as feeding a 23 year old 4#. Horses are also individuals so what works for one 23 year old might be too much or too little for the next 23 year old. What kind of shape is the pasture in? Are they just wandering around nibbling here and there or are they getting a good meal out of it? If you're tossing out hay, that tells me it's nothing more than turnout and not a food source.
Is her evening hay cleaned up? Upping her senior isn't going to help if she's not given the time to finish eating in the morning. (Seniors and thin horses eat slower just to aggrivate us) Feeding hay out in the pasture isn't helping either if the piles aren't spaced far enough apart and an extra pile or two are put out to discourage the one mare from hogging it. Piles need to be at least 20 feets apart to help eliminate one horse from controlling all of it. The first thing I would do is to up her evening hay. Keep adding a flake until she just leaves a few crumbs. If you live somewhere that gets real winters, that might be as much as 1/2 a small square on cold nights. You can double hay net her evening hay to keep her from wasting any and ensuring she has some to last through the night.
If you decide to go the fat supplement route with her, I recommend Cool Calories. It's been helping my 18 year old TB mare (who is a tough keeper in the winter) increase/maintain her weight so far this fall.
A few of my friends use it on their hard keepers as well - great results all around :)
Has the vet checked her teeth recently? What about a fecal egg check for worms? After that, get your horse on a high fiber and fat diet, not a high sugar diet, such as sweet feed. I would recommend feeding around 10 lbs of hay, and a couple lbs of beet pulp and rice bran.
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