Feeding The Senior Horse

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Aug 22, 2014
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I have some questions about feeding a senior mini forage. The vet wants me to start getting him used to soaked hay, pellets, cubes or another "hay subsitute" (because his back teeth are getting pretty low and he possibly has dust allergies). I've tried feeding him soaked hay for several years and he turns his nose up to it. The only way I can get him to eat soaked hay is if I cut it up into 1/2" long pieces and mix it with his feed. Other than that he won't touch it. And it doesn't really fill his need to chew and graze. And I don't want to leave it in his stall until he does because of molding. Also I can not use a hay net for him because he likes to rear up and attack the hay net and get his hooves caught.

He is used to being out on pasture constantly. But he is now restricted to stall rest due to a corneal ulcer, for the next few weeks. Then afterwards he can be turned out at night only. Is there a good alternative that will still satisfy his need to chew and graze? One that he can have free choice with out having to worry about him gorging himself, or it molding if needing to be fed wet (in Texas, everything damp gets funky fast). He is allergic to Tifton 85, so I need to stay away from anything containing it.
Have you tried using alfalfa pellets? You can give them in a separate feed dish and just dose them with water while you measure out his grain ration, then pour out any extra water. The pellets will swell a bit and make it easy to chew, and it does give them something to chew that tastes like "hay", and if fed separately, he can eat to his heart's content. The bag should give you the "ration" for a horse of his weight, and it also acts like a tummy soother to help him during the transition in his diet, and gives a good boost of protein to his diet. Also, they are not dusty, so he shouldn't experience any discomfort from any dust.

Best of luck, and keep us posted.
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I have a mare who will be 32 in October. She is in great condition on rabbit pellets, Total Equine(both of which are forage-base, with alfalfa as the primary ingredient, a generous serving of soaked beet pulp PELLETS(the shreds, when soaked, produced too many large, leathery pieces)once daily, and some stabilized ground flax daily. She has lost many of her premolars and molars, even one incisor. Until fairly recently, she could be allowed to try to graze, but now isn't, due to too much risk of choke. She won't eat soaked hay pellets. She has now subsisted on this diet for about 4 or 5 years.
I haven't tried any of the pelleted hays or alfalfa yet. I usually would only feed him alfalfa as a treat, and he would devour it. So I am pretty sure he will eat the pellets. I am not sure about beet pulp. He has never had it before.

With the alfalfa pellets, what do you mean by fed separately? Is it really ok for them to have free access to alfalfa? I've always been taught that alfalfa is used as a treat or a conditioner and is not to be fed free choice like hay because it basically can act like a hyper kid getting an espresso.

Also, he is currently on Safe Choice and Source for a supplement. He is doing well on it. So I am hesitant to change him over to a senior feed or an all in one feed. I wish feed companies would make trial size bags.. They don't have to be big. Maybe 5 to 10 lbs. That way if your horse doesn't like it, you aren't stuck with a bunch left over.
I had only fed Alfalfa hay (sometimes pellets or cubes) to my horses for years and years. They are on dry lots here in Florida, with no other hay. They do just fine, and I've never had any "hyper" problems and only one case of colic (in a visiting mare) in all my years. I've never personally experienced anything "hyper" from feeding alfalfa, but the benefits have been great in the protein and tummy soothing departments.

I said separately to give him a second place to munch. But pellets can easily just be added to the grain he gets, which is what I've done for years. But since you're making the feed wet, I just suggested putting it in a separate food dish so it doesn't "sour" if mixed with the wet grain.

Best of luck!
When I was growing up, we fed Alfalfa free choice (sometimes it was alfalfa/mountain timothy mix) and/or alfalfa cubes (purchased in loose bulk and stored in large tanks, not bagged) and never had the problems that we supposedly should have. But our horses did not get a lot of concentrated feed and were out on pasture as well. We also didn't have the show type QH, Paints and Apps that were coming into favor as halter/pleasure horses either. Maybe it made a difference.

I'm currently feeding our penned (dry lot) ponies alfalfa pellets (in 1 pasture - 3 2014 stud colts & 2 2010 geldings; 1 pen - 3 yr old stud colt; 1 pen - 6 yr old mare). Because I feed concentrated, pelleted feed wet - I fed the alfalfa pellets wet. I do feed the alfalfa pellets in separate buckets - as I try to keep them almost free choice unless they show signs of being overweight. None of my ponies currently getting alfalfa pellets is near the age of yours, though.

A couple of months ago I started working earlier and can't feed them wet before I go to work. SO, I started feeding the 5 boys theirs dry and fed quite a bit after they got used to eating it that way. (5 ponies under 38" of height were getting 21 #s of alfalfa pellets daily and cleaning them up completely along with free choice coastal hay from round bales and pasture). As they gained the weight I wanted them to gain, I've cut them back. They were down to about 12# - but with less the 2 older, slightly larger geldings were getting more of the pellets and the yearling, smaller colts were getting less. This past week, while out on pasture that's been w/o ponies on it for a month and was knee deep in grass (ok, and weeds), I haven't fed them any alfalfa pellets - but will be moving them back to their pasture where there isn't so much grass and will re-introduce pellets - dry. These boys look better then they've looked in years!! The oldest two are 4 yr olds. The youngest is not quite a full year old yet. The penned stud is fed 14 #s at a time and when his bucket is empty - I add more. The penned mare gets the least - just a little over a # and no longer free choice, but she gets that amount 2x daily.

I still use the beet pulp shreds but have two friends who swear by the beet pulp pellets. You might give them a try. Also, Tractor Supply now carries a WIDE assortment of "chaff hays" - hay already shredded and bagged. I haven't read all the specs on them, since I haven't felt I've needed them, but they are out there and there are many different kinds.

I have not used them, but you can try also to use a "hay pillow" - which has much smaller openings and is put on the ground for feeding hay. It's a type of hay net - and from what I"ve heard even mini foals don't usually get their hooves caught in them. I now use the much smaller "slow feed" hay nets, and none of the slightly larger ponies here have had problems with it and I use them now for Julie's much smaller mini stud... I also was hanging the hay nets w/ attachments on both sides so that the bag hangs much higher to try to keep them from hanging their hooves in them.

As to feeds, you can try different types until you find one that your fellow likes and does well on. I found that a Southern States, Legends Sr Feed worked best for mine when I was feeding Sr feed. Ours didn't like and didn't do well on the Purina Sr feed. The formulation for both types has changed since I last fed them, so I don't know how either would work now for our ponies.

EDITED TO ADD - some alfalfa pellets are dusty. They become dusty as the pellets break down. Standlee AP are much harder due to the way they are made and also come 10 #s less to a bag. With the amount of pellets that I feed, I prefer the Southern States AP - they aren't as hard, and they are a bit more dusty (I do not stand over the bins when I dump the bags in, nor do I let the ponies stick their noses in the buckets when I pour the dry pellets in as they will start coughing). But I get 10 more #s per bag and the ponies like the softer pellets better - both dry and wet. Watch as some alfalfa pellets are made with additional products including molasses (to keep the dust down) - both Standlee and the Southern States alfalfa pellets do not have any additives.
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Check your feed store for "compressed hay". It's chopped up and sealed into an airtight bag, much like bagged shavings. It won't be dusty. You can get both grass hay and alfalfa that way. It's easy to weigh in a rubbermaid tub on a calibrated scale. I would feed it either in a big tub on the ground or put it on a rubber mat. You will find that it costs more, of course. And for grain with supplements, a senior pelleted feed can't be beat....check the ingredients.
What Maryann said, there are several brands of chopped bagged hay products, what's available will depend on where you are. I know Lucerne Farms has several varieties of chopped hay, most have molasses on them to cut the dust, but a couple use oil of some sort (they were available at TSC, but I don't know if they still are). Triple Crown has their Safe Starch forage product. TNT forage has a couple varieties of chopped forage. I believe Standlee Hay company just came out with some chopped hay or it's set for market release soon. There are probably others, but these are the ones I know off the top of my head.
Castle Rock - My brain must not have been working, lol.

He is currently being fed SafeChoice twice a day and is doing well on it. But because he is currently on stall rest due to a corneal ulcer, he is starting to get fat. So I need to cut back on his feed.I'm going to give the alfalfa/timothy pellets a try. I know he likes alfalfa, so maybe he will eat them. Guess I could always break up come cookies and mix into it if he is unsure of it.

One more question...One of my neighbors suggested trying Wendland's One-N-Only. It is supposed to be a free range feed. It looks like big round dog kibbles to me. Has anyone ever tried it before?

Thanks for all the info and suggestions. You always figure out more asking other people than just reading bags and websites.
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I fed an old horse, who didnt have many teeth, and could not eat hay due to choking, the Purina Equine Sr. It's a complete feed, VERY easy to chew- the pellets are tiny also- and the horse just bloomed and did fantasticly on this feed.
I've fed Purine Equine Sr, with good results also. Easy to eat, good nutrition, and I added soaked alfalfa pellets to the mix, and was a good, complete feed, and the alfalfa gave an extra protein boost and roughage.
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