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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep. 3, 2010

    Default What to feed older horse for weight gain

    I have an older mare (teeth are good, deworming is current),
    She used to stay barrel fat on a bucket of weeds......but,
    shes getting older and lately keeping weight on has started to
    become an issue.
    Im hearing Soooo many "try this" that Im confused!!!

    Did the "basics" of increasing hay.....she eats what she wants and pees on the rest, so I know shes getting all she "wants" and isnt hungry. Hay is decent quality grass and all the horses like it well enough. her grain has also been increased.

    grain is Safe Choice.

    Heres some of the advice Ive been getting:
    try Weight Builder.....saw no improvement
    try Cool Calories......did that, made her coat shiny but didnt really see much weight gain
    Switch to straight alfalfa load of hay coming will be next week so thinking of trying that since theyre now cutting hay in my area so "should" be able to get good quality
    try beet pulp....isnt that just a "filler"??? looks like paper, cant imagine it having any nutritional value to promote weight gain other than maybe water weight

    The multitude of weight gain supplements out there, I dont know how affecting any of them would be because its just a tiny little scoop of powder.

    She still gets trail ridden a bit, I asked the vet when do you "retire" a horse, vet said NEVER! as long as theyre sound
    and enjoying it, keep riding them.
    Which seems to be true because any horse I ever saw that got retired just because hes old.....seemed like they got REAL old and went downhill fast just standing in the field doing nothing.

    Shes not a "nervous" type of horse, so she doesnt "worry" the weight off. Her favorite speed is walk so shes not running around.

    She was doing half decent and recently we had a HEAT WAVE, for a week it was 90's and HUMID....that seemed to stress her or something because she dropped weight. I could always see her ribs a bit because her back is starting to sway and she normally has a big hay belly.....but, after the heat wave, I can see ribs more than normal and she doesnt have nearly as big of a belly, and she looks a bit sunken in the flanks now too. Water intake is normal, gave her electrolytes during heat wave just in case, doesnt appear dehydrated, sick or anything else.....just looking thin.

    Has anyone used anything that actually WORKED to put weight on an older horse?? something that also worked quickly....Im not expecting 100 pounds in a day, but I'd like to
    see "something" some sort of improvement so I know Im not just throwing money away on a supplment and 90 days later find out it didnt do crap, try something else for another 90 days and meanwhile the horse isnt benefiting.

    sorry for being so long......was trying to cover all the usual questions about teeth, deworming, general health, whats been tried, etc.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan. 3, 2008


    I changed to Nutrena Senior instead of Safe Choice. Works for my 28 yr old with poor teeth. He gets enough grass in the summer to stay OK, but I still feed him a total per day of 5 lb Senior in two feedings.
    Winter with poor grass I give him as much as a total per day of 9 lb and about 2 lb of alfalfa cubes soaked.
    He's not fat, but his ribs are covered.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb. 23, 2005
    Harrisburg, PA


    Have a boarder's horse with the same problem he is 27, I found Calf Manna really seems to help.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar. 8, 2004
    Baltimore, MD


    There is no one right way to feed any horse, there is trial and error involved to some degree with all of them. Senior feeds are created to be more easily digested so that might be a good place to start. Beet pulp is an easily eaten and digested source of fiber but is also a major ingredient in most senior feeds so it may or may not make sense to give that a try. My guy gets senior feed, a ration balancer and black oil sunflower seeds. I do throw him a flake of alfalfa here and there but for the most part he eats timothy.
    A pre and/or probiotic may help him utilize what he is eating.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb. 11, 2011


    Oil is 2000 cal a cup and always something to consider. I would but sunk on my hard keeper without it and he gets 2 cups a day.Beet pulp is higher calorie than you are giving it credit. But my horses tend to snub beet pulp.

    I make my own sr ration. Cheaper.... higher calorie and protein than bagged feeds. Plus you have the ability to tweek in the ration to fit the needs of the individual. Some horses simply need more calories, others need a form they do not have to chew, and others need higher protein rations.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct. 29, 1999


    The best thing is to switch to alfalfa, or a strong alfalfa mix. If not available, give soaked alfalfa hay cubes, or at he very least totally broken up to small "flakes". I have had to give as much as 15 to 20 lbs daily to an older horse that did not want to eat grass hay.

    Senior feeds are often intended for horses that are not in work, so have lower calorie needs, but more roughage. Cheaper to give that roughage by the bale, but you just need to make sure it is yummy enough hay to temp them to soend the time chewing. Try to find alfalfa 3rd cutting. First is too stemmy.

  7. #7


    Have no problems getign and keeping weight on seniors using either

    1) up to 12 lbs daily of Equine Senior and free choice grass hay - works for ones with good appetites anyway, but not so well for ones with low food desires
    2) free choice mix of chopped alfalfa or alfalfa pellets and beet pulp coupled with usual grain ration. Works for ones that will eat "wet" and if there is someone to frequently renew the mush bucket since in summer you can't just put out the days ration without it souring. Need multi vitamin mix too
    3) free choice custom senior mix of 2 parts alfalfa meal, 2 parts shredded beet pulp, 1 part wheat bran, and 1 part steam rolled oats. Can be fed dry or wet. If wet have the same issue with needed to feed in small meals to keep from souring in the heat.
    4) Free choice wheat hay - hard red wheat cut just before full head stage coupled with usual grain ration. Loved this for weight, but hard to find cut in the right stage.

    The "magic powder supplements" are generally not worth the money calorie wise. CoolCal is good if they will eat enough of it (need like 1/2 lb per meal). Oil is good (if they will eat enough - Canola NOT corn (bad omega 3 vs 6 ratio)!!!) Or Amplify (palm oil based) - not as dense calorie wise as cool cal, but slightly more palatable IMO. I've gotten some to eat as much as 1 lb per meal.

    Basically you just keep trying something until you find the magic mix for the particular horse.
    Aelfleah Farm, Scurry, Texas
    BLUE STAR Arabians and
    Arabian-influenced Sportponies

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr. 6, 2004


    I love Triple Crown Senior or Complete. I also use rice brand (I like the pellets better than the oil).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep. 3, 2010

    Default thanks!

    thanks everyone, some really good ideas to try and hopefully
    I'll find something that works.
    Most everyone seems to like, I will have to go and
    see what kind of good alf my hay guy has. Wish I wouldve been able to just "save" that super nice alfalfa I got before winter!!! but, "fresher" is probably better.

    calf manna?? really?? hmm

    rice bran.....I shouldve videotaped her face when THAT was
    added to her feed!!! she spit that out like tobacco and looked
    at me like I tried to POISON her..."how DARE you contaminate
    my precious grain!"

    didnt know beet pulp had a lot of calories in it, thanks for that info. I always thought it was just a "filler" or to help retain water in the gut to keep things moving.

    thanks again everyone, I really appreciate it!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan. 28, 2000
    Central Coast, CA


    See if you can find something called All in One. It's a chopped alfalfa and molasses feed. Essentially "Twinkies" for horses as it puts on the weight. It can make them a little silly because of all the sugar.

    Try rice bran pellets - very palatable, never seen a horse refuse those. Rice bran powder - I only met one horse who liked it. Everyone else spat it out. My own horse kicked over his bucket and let me know in no uncertain terms that he didn't care how much molasses I dumped in there, no way was that going in his head.

    If you can, buy a jug of molasses. Caloric and an appetite stimulant. Molasses makes everything (okay, NEARLY everything) edible. I get mine from a restaurant supply store for around $10 a gallon jug.

    Good luck! Gotta love those fussy old farty critters!
    "Cats aren't clean; they're covered with cat spit."
    - John S Nichols (1745-1846,writer/printer)

    Don't come for me - I didn't send for you.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan. 18, 2008
    land of the Canucks aka West Coast B.C.


    I really like Kentucky Equine Research Equi-jewel for putting weight on. They claim it out performs oil. Here in Oz, it is on the pricey side but would guess or hope it would be cheaper int he states.

    Other thing we use is barley or even soaked/boiled barley.

    Good luck!


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb. 11, 2011


    Another feed ingredient worthy of consideration is BOSS. 2500 cal per lb and you can feed up to 2 lbs daily. Some horse love them...some not so much. But if your horse is one that does enjoy their BOSS than that 2 lbs just landed you an additional 5000cal per day.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr. 11, 2007
    Middle Tennessee


    My 13.3H, 25 yo Arab dropped ~60# over the winter - eating the same amount of food he's always eaten. I rescued him 18+ years ago and he's always eaten more than my TWH's to keep him at a good weight.

    Vet did blood work, gave him a thorough physical and said "don't worry unless he loses more weight".

    I worried anyway -- this is what worked for him, amounts are divided into two feedings:

    1. 2# daily pelleted rice bran - all my horses love the pellets.
    2. 3# daily well soaked (4 molars missing) tim/alfalfa cubes.
    3. 1/4 cup soybean meal.
    4. 8# bermuda hay (can't eat anything stalky w/o molars)
    5. Pasture turnout 12 hours day.

    For this fella, it was the added protein, more than added fat calories.

    I have been able to cut Items 1, 2, 3, in half because he has 22 acres of pasture to roam on and has finally plumped up, since the grass came on.

    Good luck sorting it all out - lots of great advice and it's going to take some experimenting, as others have said

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep. 24, 2010
    Western NY


    My friend has a bunch on oldster lesson horses. She splits up her grain (I think it's Purina Senior) for 3 feedings with hay at each feeding. Her heart horse is 27 this year and is blooming since she started him on Hay Stretcher, he still does lessons and shows!

    So breakdown of her feeding of the 27 y/o:

    AM: 2 flakes first cut timothy mix hay
    2 lb Senior
    1/2 scoop (1/2 lb?) hay Stretcher
    PM1: 1 flake 2nd cut Alfalfa
    1 lb Senior
    1/2 scoop Hay Stretcher
    PM2: same as AM feed

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov. 1, 2005
    The Prairie


    Bit of a similar boat here. I have 24 yr old TB that I have done well with by adding about 3/4 gallon of soaked beet pulp w. 1/2 cup of canola oil to his twice daily feed of rolled oats.

    This has worked well for years but this spring it does not seem to be enough as I can see ribs (as opposed to just feeling them, which is where I like him) and he is getting sunken in the flanks. I am now switching over to Purina Life Design Senior (Cargill product) but I will be keeping the beet pulp going as well (he is not always the best drinker).

    I used to board a very senior horse at my place and he did well on this feed.

    Of the three senior feeds available to me (Buckeye, Cargill and Feedrite) this one has the highest fat and calorie content).

    I would like to be able to add a third feeding, apparently that helps a lot but that if I bring him in by himself to eat he won't, just weaves until I put him back out with the rest and I don't have time to bring everybody in so one horse can eat.

    Hopefully I see a difference with the senior feed. In your position I would compare labels of the senior feeds available to you and pick what has the most fat. Start with that and then add beetpulp w. oil if necessary.

    Good luck, these oldsters can be challenging to feed!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb. 14, 2008


    My OTTB was always a hard keeper. I switched barns and gave him the winter off. He kept his weight up all winter and even gained. We are now having trouble keeping the weight OFF!!

    His changes were feed and turnout. He is out a min of 12 hours and now eats Triple Crown Senior. I got rid of the beet pulp, since it has some in it already. He gets alf hay at night and a mixture of I think grass/tim/alf in the morning.

    My trainer and I are baffled. Even being back in regular work and getting less grain he is not losing an ounce!!!!

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jun. 8, 2010


    a cup of corn oil on top of her grain should help too-extra calories

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2002
    West Coast of Michigan


    Weight gain and weight loss are all about calories in or calories out.

    Best source of calories, pound for pound, is fat.

    Two ounces of these silly "Cool Calories" or "Fat Cat" products are a waste of money. Feed a pound a day of the stuff and you might be getting somewhere, but a two-ounce scoop of ANY product is not going to put weight on anything larger than a housecat. Ridiculously overpriced nonsense.

    A lot of times the trick is finding something palatable and calorie-dense that a horse will eat readily. I've always had good luck with Ultium both in the palatable department and in putting weight on. Although I must add that easy keepers are the norm in my world.

    The skinny-fretful broodmares I've had here the last 2 years all did really well on a 30% ration balancer plus rice bran, along with alfalfa pellets. That worked out to be cheaper than Ultium, pound for pound. But the one mare that didn't want to make the effort to eat the ration balancer snarfed the Ultium with gusto, so that's what she got.
    Click here before you buy.

  19. #19


    I tried everything too and she just wouldn't gain weight.

    Tested for cushings and bingo! Once she went on pergolide she gained a few 100 pounds.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug. 24, 2004
    where the truck's a Ford and the tractor's green


    My 22 year old mare eats Bluebonnet Xfactor looks like dog food, but it's amazing how much feed she doesn't drop in this form. It also turns to mush the second it gets slobbered on, which is a plus. She gets that and Nutrena's Empower supplement, the one in the red bag, I think it's Empower Boost. She gets 2 cups a day and it's done wonders. She also gets straight alfalfa, and she's hog fat

    1 members found this post helpful.

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