Senior Feeds and the Unthrifty Horse

I used a senior equine feed to help my hard keeper gain weight. Now, should I switch him to a low-NSC product?

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Senior Feeds and the Unthrifty Horse
Senior feeds generally provide slightly higher crude protein and trace mineral levels than other feeds for adult horses due to the fact that some research suggests senior horses absorb these nutrients less efficiently. | Photo: Erica Larson/The Horse

Q: My Arabian/Quarter Horse trail horse is 20-plus years old. He got very skinny two winters ago, and it’s taken me until now to get his weight back to where it should be. He’s always been an easy keeper, and usually we’ve had to watch what he’s eaten so he didn’t get fat. We were very concerned when he lost weight. I’ve been lucky enough to have good hay and grass over the last 18 months, and I’ve been feeding him 10 pounds of a 10% fat beet-pulp-based senior feed each day, divided into two or three feedings.

Now that he’s gained weight, I’m wondering if I need to take him off the senior feed and offer him a low-carb performance feed that also has 10% fat, which is what I feed my horses that are in work. I’m concerned about the sugar causing problems for my senior horse, such as Cushing’s disease. Do I need to worry about that? I don’t want him to get skinny again!

He doesn’t quid or have other health problems we’re aware of. He hacks out maybe once or twice a week; he’s primarily a pasture ornament

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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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