Forage for Senior Horses

Hay Cubes

Q: I know senior feeds contain a forage replacer for horses with difficulty chewing and digesting hay, but it doesn’t seem like enough. What other forage options are there for the hard-to-keep senior horse?

A: Many horses begin to experience difficulty chewing as they age, often caused by loss of teeth and other dental problems. The first step is to have your veterinarian out to sedate your horse and fully examine his mouth, which cannot be done when he’s wide awake.

Your vet can tell you what type of dental work is necessary and either perform it or refer you to a specialist. Your vet can also do a physical exam and run blood tests to make sure your horse doesn’t have any underlying health problems. If his teeth and body are in their best working order, you can address his diet as a reason for weight loss.

For horses that are missing teeth, eating hay and other dry forage may prove too difficult, and weight loss follows. Senior feed is a good option that is nutritionally balanced so that it can be fed as 100 percent of the diet, but there are other types of easily chewed forage you can add to your horse’s feeding plan if you wish.

Hay pellets have very small bits of chopped hay formulated into large pellets. These can be soaked and fed to your senior horse by dry weight (total forage fed should amount to approximately 2 percent of his body weight per day).

Hay cubes, most commonly made of alfalfa hay, are also easy to soak and make a wonderful tasty soup that should get almost any horse eating.

Beet pulp is another source of high-quality fiber that can be soaked and fed to seniors, but since it is not well-balanced for mineral content, it should not make up more than 25 percent of the diet.

Combining these options to best suit your horse’s taste buds will result in a diet full of healthy forage that your senior can eat. Always consult with your vet periodically to make sure your horse’s diet is appropriate for any specific health concerns he may have.

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!


  1. Dear Sirs,
    I have a “Picky Paso” who has a lot of teeth gone now. I have tried the alpha cubes, beet pulp/pellets, even chopped hay cubes soaked. He doesn’t like his food wet at all. Even feeding him his senior pellets daily if they get wet he won’t touch them. He is having major weight loss. Waht else can I do????


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