If you have older horses, there are a lot of different options for feeding them and your veterinarian can help. Dental disease is common in older horses and a special feed may be required for them. However, just because your horse is older does not automatically indicate they need to be on a senior or special feed. It depends on the teeth, which needs to be determined by your vet after a thorough exam. Many older horses will maintain their weight on just pasture and hay with a vitamin mineral supplement. Also, you have to take in consideration the horse’s other medical issues if there are any. For example, if your horse is insulin resistant or has Cushing’s disease, then you need to take that into account when choosing a feed as well. You would not want a senior feed that is high in carbohydrates as this could lead to laminitis and founder. Also, significant dental disease may require that your horse is on a diet with no long fibers because long fibers given to a horse that has difficulty chewing could lead to esophageal obstruction, commonly known as choke. Some older horses cannot chew well enough to feed even short-chopped fibers and need to be given a complete ration that does not require foraging.
Again, you cannot just pick a diet that satisfies this requirement, but you must look at the horse’s overall health and take all factors into consideration. Many older horses have a difficult time consuming enough calories due to dental issues and will lose weight. Feeding increased carbohydrates is not a good option for most horses due to the concern with laminitis developing so feeding an increased fat ration may be helpful. However, we don’t want older horses to be too heavy due to the arthritis that is a common problem in aged horses.