How Can I Combat My Senior Horse’s Loose Manure?

Why might replacing long-stem hay with hay pellets help resolve a senior horse’s loose manure? Our equine nutritionist weighs in.

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How Can I Combat My Senior Horse’s Loose Manure?
Hay pellets might be less irritating to the hindgut lining than long-stem hay and could help inflammation-associated loose manure resolve. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Q.My senior horse has always been somewhat prone to having loose manure. However, recently, it has become more consistent, despite the fact I haven’t changed anything in his diet. He currently gets grass hay and my vet recommended I feed him hay pellets instead. Why would this help?

A.Problems with loose manure are somewhat common in older horses, as is passing water before or after more normally formed fecal balls. Ideally water from the digestive tract is reabsorbed in the small colon before exiting the horse’s digestive tract, resulting in the production of well-formed fecal balls that slightly break apart when they hit the ground.

Loose manure indicates that something is not quite as it should be in your horse’s hindgut. In the best-case scenario the horse isn’t too bothered by the situation—his body condition might still be good and you might only have to dealing with a little manure in his tail and on his hind legs. However, this can becomes frustrating when tails and legs need almost daily washing to keep them clean so that they don’t attract flies. Also, the horse’s skin often becomes irritated by the manure or the frequent bathing

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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