In light of the many feed and supplement companies as well as information packed articles, trying to put and keep weight on the older horse is frustrating.
Please give your best advice or experience in keeping weight on your senior horse(s) especially TB's.
Naming specific products you have used would be most helpful!
Much thanks in advance...
I have used, separate and in combination:
Pennfield Fibergized, soaked in hot water
Beet Pulp, soaked in hot water
Free choice second cutting hay
I have tried various 'Senior Feeds' (Purina, Nutrena, TSC) and found the best results with the Fibergized. Pennfield is competative price wise with all the above companies, and they deliver to my farm for free if you get 10 or more bags of feed. I have no affiliation with Pennfield, other than satisfied customer.
Sometimes, it also helps to slow down his/her turnout group. I might take out an active horse, or one that keeps that horse moving too much, or ramped up to play. They also gain quite well on pasture, when the pasture is managed correctly.
The best thing you can do for a senior horse, or any horse really, is find high quality forage and feed it free choice. My picky TBs thrive on 2nd cutting orchard grass, it is one of the only hays I can get them to readily eat.
For concentrates I use a combination of Triple crown senior and alfalfa pellets. I love TC Senior because it's high fat and protein, not to mention a very high quality feed overall. I add in alfalfa pellets because my seniors seem to have sensitive stomachs and I think the high calcium content helps in that respect. Also, it adds calories but is technically a "forage".
I also have my seniors on 1 c. of whole flax a day. It keeps their coats shiny and dappled, I imagine it's helping on the inside too, with all those omega 3s.
I'm not big on the whole supplement thing but in addition to flax I usually add msm, it's cheap and I've convinced myself I see a difference when my horses are on it. I use a 20,000mg per day dosage.
For fat/weight supplements I've used Amplify, Cocosoya oil, Empower Boost, and Calf Manna. Amplify is my favorite, but it's expensive so I usually go with Empower for weight gain. I never saw a difference with calf manna and although I like Cocosoya for keeping weight ON, I never saw a ton of gain with it, and it is also on the expensive side.
I think it's really important to stay on top of routine vet/dentist/farrier visits so anything potentially wrong can be caught early. Taking routine FECs and worming accordingly is also recommended.
I have a very picky 29 year old that has a hard time with hay. He is on a beet pulp mash plus Triple Crown Senior and corn oil twice a day. He also gets a small bran mash every night which seems to help his appetite. I've tried alfalfa pellets and cubes and he isn't a big fan of either. He is not overweight by any means, but does okay all winter and once the grass is growing he looks really good.
I can't do supplements with him; he just turns up his nose at most anything.
Our 33 year old gets a complete feed with corn oil on top (which really makes her mad), straight alfalfa hay, and free choice grass hay/pasture seasonally. At times she's had alfalfa pellets and a senior feed but that alfalfa hay did more good than all of them. Her teeth are good.
I was slow to try the corn oil but now that I have I'm a believer-she picked up from her late winter scrubbiness quickly and she's shiny and filling out nicely.
I board a 27, and 30 year old. The 30 yr old was in poor shape when he came last July, and I'm just now noticing some weight gain. They both get Triple Crown sr., beet pulp (both soaked), and Purina chopped, bagged alfalfa. The younger mare was in great shape when she came, but a couple of months ago she got very sick and dropped a bunch of weight. We've now doubled her feed, and hay, and she gets flax, and calf manna. It's just amazing how fast they lose weight, and how long it takes to put it back on!
Oh, and they get feed 3/day.
I know a lot of people supplement with oil, but it's difficult to deal with here because of the heat.
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There is no one way that works for all seniors as I am sure you know. If you want an overview I can give you my opinion or you could tell us what you have tried that either did or didn't work and we can attempt to tailor something for your individual horse.
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I've had good success with soaked beet pulp (I use pellets as they are more economical), rolled oats, Nutrena Senior, rice bran and probiotics along side 3rd cutting alfalfa and 2nd cutting orchard grass, fed 3 x day. Good tooth care, as you know, is essential even in the older horses who lack tooth quality. My ancient TB boarder was visited twice a year to have gentle, conservative floating to keep his weird hooks in check and manage the remaining teeth, which really helped with his "quidding".
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As I have already mentioned I have to come up with a rather simple action plan because I board my mare.
The feed that is purchased in bulk, is from a local co-op and is very similar to Nutrena Stock And Stable. The grain is 14% Protein/3% Fat/9% Fiber.
Not the best, would not be my choice, but that's what I have to "build" upon.
The mare is given grain at "lunchtime" I have Nutrena Safe Choice Original (14% Protein/7% fat /15% fiber) available for her, it has helped but she could do better. I know that she is not getting this consistently.
I think giving her free choice hay inside could be easily done, but I need to add something to the regular grain (noted above) that she would be getting to make it easiest for the barn help. No one is going to soak beet pulp or anything like that for me...
Are you willing to purchase your own grain or are we stuck with theirs? I like Nutrena, I HATE Safe Choice! My guy is 25 and still has good teeth. He has no problem eating hay which obviously helps. He has absolutely blossomed on Nutrena Pro Senior. He loves it! He also gets this http://www.rrvp.com/nutri-celllabs/u...l.htm?moreinfo daily when he is eating well and a few days of the "pop rocks" when he isn't. I give him a scoop of alfalfa timothy pellets on nights I am at the barn as a snack. Prebiotics/probiotics are very important as they help him make the most out of what he does eat.
Honestly, to get the most bang for your buck calorie wise, fat is best. If you just want to add to their current grain (which you're right about, not the best), I would add a dry fat supplement like Nutrena Empower Boost, Purina Amplify, or pelleted rice bran. You'd likely need to feed at least a pound or two of this per day.
I also get the easy part. I board my 19 year old mare, and subscribe to the KISS (keep it simple) rule as well, so for ease of the BO, that rules out soaking beet pulp, hay cubes, and oils.
If you want to switch grain, I've found it very easy to just keep two medium sized aluminum trash cans full of my grain mixture of choice. It changes depending on season. Right now (we're still on winter grain combo), she eats (per day) 4-5 lbs of Tribute Kalm N Easy (just switched to this from TC Senior), 1 lb rice bran, and 1 lb alfalfa pellets. And lots of timothy hay and pasture. She looks pretty good weight wise for coming out of winter.
Soaked Fibrebeet or Speedibeet from Emerald Valley Equine plus.....mine get Progressive Nutritions Pro Advantage Grass Diet Balancer and Envision Classic ....Tribute Kalm Ultra is wonderful along with their Right Choice 12(textured) and Essential K...the picky eaters seem to really like it....Triple Crown Senior or Complete...Pennfields Fibergized also good quality ....
Most importantly .....top quality free choice hay!24/7....I do a second cutting Timothy orchard alfalfa mix...as much turnout or 24/7 turnout as possible
Also .....a good digestion supplement ....Hands down Smart Digest Ultra is wonderful for stimulating the appetite and putting weight on
Regular dentals / deworming
You could try adding alfalfa pellets or Blue Seal Hay Stretcher Pellets to her grain...most horses love them...also pelleted stabilized rice bran works too...you could try something like Legends Rice Bran Pellets, or Buckeye Ultimate Finish
I board my mare so "action plan" I come up should be somewhat simple.
Part of the reason they're called "hard keepers" is because it takes more effort to keep them at a good body condition. I'm a boarder too, and I completely understand the difficulties of having to work within a boarding situation, but you may have to put up with some inconvenience for yourself to find the best option for your horse. For example, for a period of time I mixed my horse's meals myself and kept them in plastic bags in a box in the feed room. The barn feeders just had to grab a premixed bag and dump for my guy at mealtime. It was a PITA for me, but it worked for my boarding situation and he got exactly what he needed each meal.
From an actual feedstuffs standpoint, what worked for me was a low-NSC, high-fat fortified feed (TC Senior is my personal preference, but there are several other very good options out there), soaked beet pulp, free choice grass hay, rice bran oil, a pre- & probiotic supplement, and U-gard. Also, don't forget the exercise! TBs are generally hard-wired to work, and many of them need daily exercise; otherwise they "worry" the weight off through stable vices, fence walking, etc.
Where am I and what am I doing in this handbasket?
The best way I have found to work with a hard keeper (young or old) is to give them the most calorie dense ration possible (via both calories and a high TDN) - the idea isn't just to give them more calories, but to give them more calories in the smallest amount of grain possible. If their stomach isn't full of low cal and/or low TDN grain, they will spend more time eating the high calorie forage (grass/legume top quality hay) you can leave in front of them 24/7 or at least when they are in the stall.
For my old guy (21 years of hard keeping!) that means Seminole Senior wellness + 1 cup oil/day and all the orchard/alfalfa he will eat. And if the O/A gets too grassy (usually that last batch before the spring cuts come in) I'll switch to straight alfalfa. In the winter I add a half scoop of beet pulp, but that is about 80% so he gets more water and 20% to add a few more calories (a very few) instead of upping the grain.
But just my transition from all day t/o to all night t/o manages the hay and therefore caloric intake changes in winter to summer. When they are in from 5PM to 9AM in the winter, that is a lot more opportunity to eat high quality hay (between the cold and the lack of pasture, he needs the extra munch time/calories). When they are out 14+ hours a day in the warm months, the pasture is supplementing more and there are less demands for additional energy due to cold - at that time of year they are only in the stall for 6-10 hours, so less time to eat legume based hay, but less is needed.
When he's turned out (and the pastures are weak) he gets orchard/fescue to nibble on, but that decision is driven by the fact he's turned out with his metabolic opposite, when it was just him he got O/A inside and out (and he was also in work, so it all balanced out). My two horses run both ends of the spectrum and nothing in the middle. If you need advice on how to make a teeny tiny bit of grain and a medium amount of grass hay feel like a real meal to an obviously starving, abused (borderline obese) horse, I got ideas for that too.
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Toothless old Arabian stallion (so "just feed forage" didn't cut it): free fed equal volumes beet pulp shreds (yes, dry), "alfalfa-molasses meal" (chopped hay with molasses), hay pellets. After another horse choked on those same hay pellets, my vet pointed out hay pellets are very large and hard compared to senior feed, so I swapped those out for LMF Senior. He looked good until I lost him at 29.5.
Edited to add: even though our CA winters are very mild and I'm not a blanketing proponent, this one needed it in the winter. Just a medium weight turnout kept more of the calories in.
Originally Posted by HuntrJumpr
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