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Nutritional Needs of Senior Horses: A Guide to Proper Diet


ryerss farm senior horse care guide to a proper diet tan horse with a white blaze

Welcome to Ryerss Farm, where our senior horses, aged 20 and above, enjoy peaceful days grazing in the pastures, basking in the sun, and interacting with visitors. Our 10-acre farm has multiple people looking after our beloved horses several times a day, who are fed a lower carbohydrate-balanced senior feed to ensure proper nutrition. We acknowledge that not all senior horses have the privilege of staying at Ryerss and may require a specific diet to ensure each horse has proper minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. Keep reading to learn how to develop the appropriate diet for your senior horse.


As our equine companions gracefully age, from once energetic foals to agile adults, to then gentle seniors, it becomes increasingly important to provide them with a diet that meets their specific nutritional requirements. Senior horses require careful attention to their diet to support their overall health, well-being, and longevity. In this blog post, we will delve into the essential components of a proper diet for senior horses. From understanding their changing nutritional needs to exploring suitable feed options and supplements, let's ensure that our beloved senior equines receive the optimal nourishment they deserve as they enjoy their golden years.


Understanding the Aging Process:

Aging affects horses just as it does humans. It brings about physiological changes that influence their nutritional needs. The metabolism of senior horses may slow down, leading to potential weight management challenges. Dental health issues, such as worn or missing teeth, can affect their ability to chew and digest food properly. Additionally, senior horses may face reduced absorption of nutrients, making it essential to optimize their diet to address these changes.

Quality Forage: The Foundation:

ryerss farm senior horse care guide to a proper diet black and white photo of horses running

Forage, such as hay or pasture, forms the cornerstone of a senior horse's diet. It provides essential nutrients and fiber and promotes natural grazing behavior. However, senior horses may struggle with chewing and digesting long-stemmed forage. In such cases, soaked hay cubes or chopped forage can be introduced to aid in easier consumption and digestion. Soaking hay also helps to reduce dust and alleviate potential respiratory issues.


Balancing Energy and Protein:

Senior horses have unique energy requirements. While some may need to manage their weight, others may require additional calories to maintain their condition. Choosing the right type and quantity of feed is crucial. Low-starch and low-sugar feeds are generally recommended for senior horses, as they are less likely to cause metabolic issues. Protein is another essential component, aiding in muscle maintenance and overall health. High-quality protein sources, such as soybean meal or alfalfa, can be beneficial.

Addressing Specific Nutritional Deficiencies:

ryerss farm senior horse care guide to a proper diet three horses at ryerss farm grazing in grass and standing in run in shed

Certain nutrients become even more critical for senior horses. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, offer anti-inflammatory properties and support joint health. Supplementing with flaxseed or fish oil can also be helpful. Antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium help combat oxidative stress, strengthen the immune system and support muscle function. Consult with a veterinarian to determine if additional supplementation is necessary based on your horse's specific needs.


Hydration and Electrolyte Balance:

Water intake is crucial for horses of all ages, but senior horses may require extra attention in this area. Ensure clean and easily accessible water sources are available at all times. Some senior horses may be less inclined to drink, so monitoring their hydration is essential. Electrolyte supplementation can aid in maintaining the proper balance of essential minerals, especially during hot weather or periods of increased physical activity. On those extra sunny days, make sure to give your horse lots of water breaks!

ryerss farm senior horse care guide to a proper diet two horses grazing by a dirt road on a cloudy day

Proper nutrition plays a vital role in supporting the health and vitality of our senior equine companions. By understanding their changing nutritional needs and implementing a well-balanced diet, we can help them navigate the aging process with grace and comfort. Remember to work closely with your veterinarian and equine nutritionist to tailor a diet plan that caters to your horse's individual requirements. With the proper nutrition, you can provide your senior horses with the nourishment they need to enjoy their golden years to the fullest.


Founded in 1888, Ryerss Farm is the country’s oldest non-profit organization of its kind, dedicated to providing a comfortable retirement for horses which faithfully served their former owners or which were rescued from abusive situations. We are committed to offering a home where they can spend their golden years grazing and enjoying life with friends. To learn more about volunteering or how to support us, visit our website today!



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