When to Make the Switch to Senior Feed

How do you know when it's time to switch your older horse to a senior feed? Consider his age, weight, and dental health.

You love your senior horse and want the best for him. So, how do you know when it’s time to switch up his feed to better suit his needs? Determining when to transition a senior horse to specialized senior feed is a critical decision that requires careful consideration of various factors. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, several indicators can signal the need for a change in your horse’s diet.

Assessing Age and Health

As a general guideline, many equine experts say that a horse is considered a senior after 15. However, it’s essential to recognize that individual horses age differently. Chronological age alone may not be the sole determining factor. Monitoring your horse’s overall health, dental condition, weight maintenance, and digestive efficiency are crucial aspects to consider when evaluating the appropriateness of senior feed.

Deciding if it’s time to start senior feed just based on chronological age can be inaccurate. Each horse is different, and other factors should be taken into consideration.


Dental Health

Age-related dental issues pose a substantial impact on the chewing ability and nutritional intake of senior horses. As your horse ages, he may encounter dental challenges. These can include tooth loss, worn teeth, or difficulty chewing. Which can hinder his capacity to effectively process traditional forage and grains. These issues not only affect your horse’s ability to obtain essential nutrients from their diet but also increase the risk of weight loss and other health complications.

If these dental challenges arise, it may be a strong indication that your horse could benefit from the transition to senior feed. Soaking the feed can also be beneficial for older horses with dental issues. It helps soften the feed and make it easier for them to consume and digest. Senior feeds are usually processed to make them easier to chew. So your horse is getting all of the nutrients needed from his feed. A “complete” senior feed can sometimes take the place of hay if a horse is unable to chew his roughage in flake form anymore.

Weight Maintenance and Digestive Efficiency

If your horse is older and eating large amounts of feed with little to show for it, you should consider switching to a senior feed. It’s always a good idea to have your veterinarian check him out to rule out any illness or other problems. But it’s very likely that your horse just needs a senior feed that’s tailored to his needs. Senior horses may experience challenges in maintaining optimal body condition and digestive function as they age.

Closely monitor your senior’s weight. As horse’s age they can face challenges in maintaining optimal body condition, and might need a feed formulated for seniors to put on weight.


Weight loss, poor appetite, or decreased digestibility of conventional feeds can be signals that your horse’s nutritional requirements are evolving. Feed companies tailor specific nutrient profiles in senior feeds to support the aging horse. This includes his metabolism, joint health, and overall vitality, addressing the potential deficiencies associated with aging. If you notice that your senior is dropping weight on his normal diet, it might be time to look into senior feeds.

It’s not a fun job, but you’ll be surprised at how much your horse’s manure can tell you. If you see forage pieces in his manure that are more than an inch long, it might be a sign that he isn’t digesting his food properly. This is common in aging horses. As his gastrointestinal system ages, you can easily manage it with a senior feed formulated to aid with digestion.

Individual Variability and Professional Guidance

Your senior is an individual and has unique needs. It’s important to acknowledge the variability among senior horses and the necessity of individualized assessment. While some horses may thrive on a senior diet at an earlier age, others may maintain good health and condition on their regular feed well into their late teens or their twenties. Consulting a veterinarian or equine nutritionist for a thorough evaluation of your horse’s specific needs and health status is invaluable for making informed decisions regarding dietary adjustments.

Related Articles
Horse legs in a dirt  Arena with backlit dust
Understanding Arthritis and Joint Structure
Mouth of horse during eats hay
Weight Management for Joint Health
The Importance of Weight Management for Joint Health
Equine Lameness Check
So You Think Your Horse Has Arthritis...Now What?
Large horse in round pen lunging outdoors
Make Your Barn Comfortable for the Arthritic Horse
Receive news and promotions for Horse & Rider and other Equine Network offers.

"*" indicates required fields


Additional Offers

Additional Offers
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.