How To Put Weight On A Senior Horse

Last Updated on April 4, 2022

As horses get older, they often start to lose weight. This could be for a range of reasons, and it can be difficult to keep them at a healthy body weight. Let’s take a look at how to put weight on a senior horse.

Trying to put weight on an older horse can be very frustrating. As horses age, their nutritional needs change and they will lose weight easily. It is vital to monitor the weight of your older horse carefully and adapt their diet if they are under or overweight.

Why Is Putting Weight On An Old Horse Necessary?

When you have a geriatric or old horse, their nutritional needs change as the body ages. This is because of degenerative changes to various body systems.

These changes happen very slowly, and you may not notice that they are happening. But over time, your horse will become less able to process nutrients efficiently. He will also have different nutritional needs to a younger or adult horse.

Why Is Putting Weight On An Old Horse Necessary

Horses which are aged 20 years old or more are considered to be geriatric. However, these changes may start to occur at a younger age, so it is important to monitor your horse’s weight carefully throughout their lifetime. Being overweight or underweight can cause many health problems in horses of any age.

As a horse becomes older, there are three key factors that can alter their ability to put on weight:

  • Dental Changes

As a horse ages, their teeth will become worn and may even fall out. This makes it difficult to chew fibrous food such as hay and grass. Food which is not chewed adequately is difficult to digest, causing the horse to lose weight.

  • Digestion Changes

During the geriatric years, the body becomes less efficient at processing food. This means that the horse may be eating the same amount of food, but it gets fewer calories when it is digested.

  • Age-Related Diseases

Older horses are more likely to develop age-related diseases which can cause weight loss. One of these is Cushing’s Disease, which causes a loss of muscle mass. Older horses may also become less mobile, reducing their ability to find food.

When To Start Putting Weight On An Older Horse

The best way to judge when to put weight on a senior horse is by assessing its body condition score.

This is a method which helps you to determine if your horse is the right weight. It does not give you the actual weight of your horse but assesses if they need to lose some weight or if you need to give some extra feed.

When To Start Putting Weight On An Older Horse

Body condition scoring works by comparing different parts of the horse’s body to a chart. The shape of each part is given a score, and the overall score is then added up to give a final figure. This figure tells you if your horse is underweight, overweight, or just right!

For example, as part of the body condition score assessment, you would look at your horse’s rump. In overweight horses, the rump will be apple-shaped, with a gulley down the spine. If your horse is underweight horse the rump will dip inwards, with spine protruding upwards.

It is completely normal for a horse’s weight to fluctuate through the seasons. In the wild, a horse will put on weight over the warm summer months and lose it again over the colder winter. So don’t panic if your older horse looks a little bit thinner towards the end of winter, as the spring grass should soon help him to put some weight on again.

How To Put Weight On A Senior Horse

If your elderly horse has a lower-body condition score, you will want to start thinking about putting a bit of extra weight on him. There are two factors to consider here – how much energy your horse uses, and how much he consumes.

One of the easiest ways to put weight on a senior horse is to cut down the amount of energy they use each day. Horses use a huge amount of energy keeping warm, so make sure your geriatric horse has plenty of rugs and blankets during the winter. Keep him inside during colder weather and provide a deep, comfy bed in the barn.

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Cutting down the distance your horse must travel to find food is a good way to reduce their energy needs. Don’t expect your older horse to forage for grass on low-quality grazing land. Provide hay and feed stations around the paddock to make it easy for him to find food.

To increase your horse’s energy intake, you could just simply increase the amount of food you are giving him. This will work for many horses and may well be enough to help your old horse to put on weight.

If this is not working, then you need to look at higher-energy feeds to add more calories to your horse’s diet. This could include adding in oils, sugar beet, or alfalfa.

How To Put Weight On An Older Horse With Bad Teeth

When an elderly horse has bad or missing teeth, it will struggle to eat fibrous foods like hay and haylage. If this is the case for your horse, you will need to add in foods which are easier to chew and digest.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to give chopped hay, also called chaff, in large amounts. Dampen this with water to make it easier to chew and reduce the risk of choke. You can also feed a fiber-replacer mash or add vegetable oil or sugar beet to the feed.


So, as we’ve learned, keeping a senior horse at the right weight can be tricky. It is important to get the balance right, so your horse gets enough nutrition to maintain a healthy weight.

The key to success is to monitor your horse’s weight regularly and make small changes whenever your horse loses or puts on weight. Follow our guide to putting weight on an older horse to keep you on the right track!

Do you have any questions about how to put weight on a senior horse? Or maybe you’ve got a great suggestion for how to put weight on an older horse? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!

What is the fastest way to put weight on a horse?

The fastest way to put on weight on a horse is to feed him a combination of grains that are high in fat and protein content, and alfalfa hay. Alfalfa hay is an excellent source of energy for horses, and it is also a great source of protein. As long as your horse doesn’t have a medical condition that would not allow this king of concentrated diet, you can efficiently get your horse to put on weight in this way. Vitamin and mineral rich dietary supplements are also recommended for senior horses as they tend to have less efficient digestive systems, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

How do you build muscle on an old horse?

With horses over the age of 20 it’s not uncommon to see a loss of appetite and decreased ability to absorb sufficient nutrients and energy to maintain the muscle mass.
Regular aerobic exercise is an important aid in this matter as it improves horse’s blood circulation. This helps with nutrient distribution in the body and promote nutrient intake in the muscles. As the horse age, muscles that are not consistently worked and supplied with sufficient amount of energy, loose the mass at a faster rate than muscles that are constantly trained and properly fulled. Therefore, a combination of regular exercise and proper diet is the best way to build and maintain muscle on a senior horse.

Is beet pulp good for senior horses?

Beet pulp is a by-product of sugar beet processing. The pulp is made by squeezing the juice out of the sugar beets through a fine screen. The pulp contains about 25% crude protein and 4% crude fiber, with carbohydrates and minerals making up most of the remainder. Beet pulp can be fed as a complete or partial diet. It is also used as a supplement in horse rations that are not formulated to meet specific nutritional needs. For example, it can be added to a ration that is deficient in one or more nutrients.
And yes, beet pulp is an excellent dietary supplement for senior horses. It is a good forage or fiber replacement for poor quality hay, and it is especially beneficial for older horses that have problems chewing or digesting hay. Since it contains higher digestible energy than hay, it can also help with weight management in senior horses.

How do you build a topline on a senior horse?

The topline is a term used for the part of a horse’s body that is located above the croup and between the shoulder blades. The topline is a critical area because it supports the weight of the horse’s head, neck, shoulders, and forelegs. In addition, the topline is also responsible for maintaining proper balance. The topline also helps keep the horse’s back straight, which reduces the risk of injury.
An older horse can be given a higher-protein diet to help improve their ability to maintain their topline. A horse will obtain its protein needs by eating hay or natural pasture, but extra protein enhances their muscle development and overall performance. It’s recommended that you provide your senior horse with protein supplements that can be bought in any feed store.