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Older Pony Stops Eating During Summer? Causes & Feed Options?

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  • Older Pony Stops Eating During Summer? Causes & Feed Options?

    Hello - I'm new! Looking for some advice here... I have an approx 16 year old Shetland (although with not the best mouth, and has been guessed to be much older by several vets/dentists in the past). I've had her for 3 years. Always healthy as can be until last summer - she dropped weight out of nowhere. At the time, she was free-fed bermuda hay and given large quantities of quality alfalfa hay, in a group of 2-3 other horses. I had the dentist out for teeth - didn't need to be done yet. Had the vet out and pulled blood because she has cushings - everything looked good. We put her in a stall because although we never saw her bullied or pushed off food, we thought maybe that was happening. Nope, but we did see that she wasn't eating hay. At all.

    We switched her to pellets then, which she ate half-heartedly. A friend recommended a nutrena Senior grain, which she ate wholeheartedly and in 30 days went from a BCS 2.5 to a BCS 4. That was around August 2018. She maintained weight since then - even getting fat sometimes and needing to be cut back. She has been fed alfalfa pellets and the senior grain only since then, because she wouldn't eat anything else.

    Well.... Here we are with the heat picking up again. It's not even HOT yet, just beautiful spring time. She was body clipped in February (and will get it again in June or July), doesn't seem itchy or bothered. But the first time we hit a 90-degree temp (I'm in AZ- that's not hot for us), she instantly backed off her feed again for the first time since last summer. I'm concerned this is happening again. It was only 90-92 for two days, then dropped back into the 70s-80s but she hasn't picked up the eating much still. We did notice she seemed interested in bermuda hay so we are now giving her that again on top of her regular feed - which she is barely eating - but she is eating about 6 pounds of bermuda a day right now. I do feel she is beginning to drop weight though, as today I could see a little rib beginning to show.

    I'm so concerned for her! Our vet and dentist (separate people) both believe it is not related to teeth, cushings, or health. She is in a fully covered stall with good ventilation, and I can put up a fan. I don't know what else to insure she eats throughout the summer? Any recommendations on feeds that are safe for ponies, won't make her hot (she's a kid's pony), and will maintain weight/appetite? Maybe a dressing to put on her current feed? This didn't happen the previous summers with her, so I don't know if this is age related or not. So perplexed!! I did call and leave a voicemail with my vet today, letting him know I'd like him to evaluate her again to be sure and discuss options for her health. Thank you all!

  • #2
    Have you tried soaking the mix of alfalfa and senior? Not necessarily a soup, but let it sit in water, completely expand and it makes a nice mash.
    ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


    • #3
      we have a much older pony, he is about 40. Last year he pulled this stop eating deal also. He is on senior feed and alfalfa hay ..well really the leafs of the hay.... I got him some iced oat meal cookies... three with each feeding

      worked for him
      Not responsible for typographical errors.


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by 4LeafCloverFarm View Post
        Have you tried soaking the mix of alfalfa and senior? Not necessarily a soup, but let it sit in water, completely expand and it makes a nice mash.
        I used to soak the pellets, she didn't enjoy it. Maybe I will try again though. Or maybe an actual bran mash?


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by clanter View Post
          we have a much older pony, he is about 40. Last year he pulled this stop eating deal also. He is on senior feed and alfalfa hay ..well really the leafs of the hay.... I got him some iced oat meal cookies... three with each feeding

          worked for him
          Wow! That's a great age. I feel she's "young" but every time I tell someone she's 16, they think she's ancient... geeze. Although it is possible she's more in her early 20's, but even then, I don't feel she's 'old'.

          Do you make iced oatmeal cookies? Or bought them somewhere? Alfalfa hay usually makes her hot and bothered (and foundered once, two summers ago on it) - but I may end up giving that a try again to see if she will eat it now or not. She wouldn't eat it last summer.


          • #6
            There are several grass/legume pellets available these days - Bermuda, orchard grass, timothy, etc. So if Alfalfa isn't a good option, you can try one of the others.

            She may just be tired of the taste of the senior you're feeding, so trying another brand of senior might be in order - maybe something with more fat, like Triple Crown Senior or Pro Elite Senior she might find more tasty.

            There are a number of "human" cookies that are fine fore (most) horses - oatmeal, fig newtons, etc. crumbled up on top of a meal might just do the trick too.
            ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


            • #7
              Just a horse recently had something similar and I was recommeded U7. It comes in a big yellow gallon and my horse loves it. He was scoped two weeks ago and his stomach is clear. He would eat his hay, but really not much else. He has been on U7 liquid for 3 or 4 days and is starting to eat again...He also received 10 sucralcrate 2x and day for 7 days then I started thd U7. I am in AZ too and have a gelding with Cushings.


              • #8
                Is your pony receiving electrolytes each day during the heat? We had one horse at the barn who would go off his feed whenever the heat came in for a few days running, and syringing electrolytes in a 60cc syringe filled with water each a day turned out to be the answer for him.Since Cushings isn't an issue, you may also be able to get this done by putting Gatorade or Powerade in a bowl and letting the pony drink it down. I syringe my own app during the hot days, and sometimes give him the Gatorade in the bowl to break up the syringing so it doesn't become tedious. He drinks more in the heat this way and stays okay. The red punch and orange flavors seem to be his favorites, though he is open to most colors.

                Good luck with your pony!
                "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein