Feed & Management Tips for Senior Horses

tips for senior horses

No two senior horses are the same which means the most suitable diet and management for your horse will depend on his individual needs. However, we’ve teamed up with SPILLERS™ to provide you with some tops tips to help you make sure your golden oldie gets the care they deserve.


1. Not all senior horses are prone to weight loss! Balancers such as SPILLERS Supple + Senior Balancer are the ideal way to provide good doers with additional vitamins, minerals and amino acids to balance a forage-based diet, without excess calories. Obesity comes with a host of health and welfare implications including an increased risk of laminitis and certain types of colic, excess joint strain, heat intolerance and respiratory stress. Excess weight gain can also exacerbate ‘inflamm-aging’ – chronic low grade inflammation associated with ageing.

2. A diet low in non-structural carbohydrate or ‘starch and sugar’ is essential for seniors prone to laminitis, including those with PPID.

3. Pain or difficulty chewing can lead to weight loss and digestive upsets including choke, colic and loose droppings, making hay replacers essential for those unable to manage long fibre (or grazing). Possible options include short chopped fibres such as SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF and mashes such as SPILLERS Speedy-Mash Fibre and SPILLERS Senior-Super Mash.

4. Hay replacers should be divided into a minimum of four meals for those without access to grazing. Horses fed hay replacers may need to be separated from their companions at meal times to prevent sharing or bullying.

5. If your horse is reluctant to drink in cold weather, try adding some hot water to his buckets to take the chill off – some older horses have sensitive teeth! You can also try using warm water to soak mashes or dampen feeds. Reduced water intake is a risk factor for impaction colic, particularly in stabled horses fed dry hay.

6. Turnout provides gentle exercise but try to avoid uneven ground, steep inclines and heavily poached paddocks as they increase joint strain.

7. Arthritis in the neck or forelimbs may make grazing, lowering the head to eat or drink from ground level or pulling hay from a net uncomfortable. Speak to your vet if you have any concerns and try offering feed and water from raised buckets, mangers and troughs.

8. Choose field companions carefully. Older horse may be at risk of bullying and be prevented from accessing feed/ forage or shelter by more dominant members of the herd.

9. Some older horses have difficulty regulating their body temperature and may need their rugs changing more frequently. Did you know that getting too hot increases the risk of colic and can lead to reduced appetite, particularly in horses with PPID? Getting too hot can also contribute to excess weight loss, as can getting too cold.

10. If your senior has become fussy with age, consider feeds with added herbs or aromas such as SPILLERS Senior Complete Care Mix.  Changes in routine or being separated from companions can also make some seniors reluctant to tuck into their feed or forage.

If you need any further advice about feeding your senior horse or pony you can speak to a SPILLERS nutritionist by calling 01908 226626, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm.