Sorting through senior horse feeds

Understanding the difference between complete and concentrated products is important to ensuring you select the correct type for your senior horse's nutritional needs.
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When senior feeds were first introduced more than two decades ago, they were intended to be fed to horses whose aging teeth made it difficult to chew long-stemmed forage. Developed as “complete” feeds, these products met all of a horse’s nutritional needs—no additional hay or forage was required.

[Click here to learn how to safely switch your horse to a senior feed.]

Bay horse eating hay at a round bale

If your horse can still chew his hay, a concentrated senior product is probably the best choice, but if he can’t manage hay, a complete feed will take care of his nutritional and forage needs.

These early senior feeds proved to be very palatable and highly effective at keeping weight on hard keepers. They were so popular, in fact, that people began feeding them to horses who could still chew hay but needed an additional nutritional boost. This was understandable but led to overfeeding because horses received hay along with their complete feed. Feed companies responded by producing two types of senior feed—complete, meant to be fed without hay, and concentrated products, formulated to be fed in addition to hay.

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For your book shelf: Hands-On Senior Horse Care: The Complete Book of Senior Equine Management and First Aid

Keep this distinction in mind when choosing a senior feed for your horse. If your horse can still chew his hay, a concentrated senior product is probably the best choice, but if he can’t manage hay, a complete feed will take care of his nutritional and forage needs.

[For horses “in between” senior stages—those who are still able to chew some hay, but not much—this decision can be complicated. Consult with your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist to determine which senior feed—possibly combined with an alternative forage choice, such as chopped hay—is best for your horse’s needs.

This article was originally published in EQUUS 485, February 2018

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