How to put weight on a 30-year-old horse

Written by christy bagasao
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How to put weight on a 30-year-old horse
Old horses require special care to maintain proper weight. (horse #3 image by Adam Borkowski from

With advances in veterinary medicine and natural horse care, it is not uncommon for horses to live well into their 30s. Caring for a 30-year-old horse offers a new set of challenges, particularly maintaining the horse's health by keeping it at an ideal weight. There is a certain amount of trial and error involved in putting weight on an animal, since each horse's body is unique. There are, however, numerous approaches that have been successful in adding weight to a senior horse.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Feed bag or separate bucket
  • Senior food
  • Corn oil
  • Probiotics

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  1. 1

    Check all the horse's teeth to see if any are missing or excessively worn, making it impossible for the 30-year-old horse to chew its food well enough for proper digestion. If the teeth are bad, switch to ground feed, chopped hay or complete pellets either dry or soaked in water to create a mash.

  2. 2

    Feed the aged horse separately from the rest of the herd or use a feed bag to keep other horses from stealing its food. Place the food in the feed bag, position the bag over the horse's muzzle and slide the strap of the bag over the horse's head like a halter.

  3. 3

    Provide the 30-year-old horse with a high-quality, high-fibre feed with 12 per cent protein and 0.3 per cent phosphorus to aid with digesting and absorbing nutrients, since older horses often suffer from malabsorption. Senior equine feed prepared in proper ratios is available for purchase from feed mills.

  4. 4

    Add up to 1 cup of corn oil to the horse's feed daily for weight gain and energy. Add 28.4gr of probiotics for increased intestinal absorption, or as directed on the package.

  5. 5

    Establish a consistent worming routine every eight weeks or as recommended by your veterinarian.

  6. 6

    Request a veterinary examination if the horse has developed a year-round shaggy coat and is losing weight, yet maintains a healthy appetite. This may indicate a pituitary tumour or Cushing's Disease, which can be treated with drugs or by reducing starches and increasing fats to reverse the weight loss, according to Dr. Shea Porr, equine nutritionist.

Tips and warnings

  • When eating pellets, horses often turn to chewing wood, cribbing or other behavioural issues due to boredom or a lack of fibre. Giving the horse increased pasture time or supplying constant access to hay will usually reverse the problem.
  • A veterinarian or equine nutritionist will be able to help assess your feeding plan.

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