The Underweight Senior Horse: A Before + After Story

Posted by Jennifer Serot, Tue, Jan 16, 2018

Is your senior horse receiving the nutrition they need? When horses are in their senior years, it can be even more difficult for them to maintain or gain weight due to many factors such as loss of ability to chew and loss of muscle mass due to normal aging. This heartwarming story, shared by Janis, demonstrates what tender love, care and the right nutrition can do for some friends in need!

From Janis: A friend in need: Charger + Sable’s Story “When my friend Cathy P., director of Whippoorwill Horse Rescue in Turtletown Tennessee, asked me to bring two of her recent acquisitions to our little farm, I thought it might make for a rewarding summer, a change from my old horse show days. “They’re friends,” she said. “The two sweetest souls you’ll ever meet; but they need significant attention.” Significant? She meant intensive. Both were skeletons. Sable, the little black mare, was 30. How do you bring back such an old horse from the effects of starvation? The big chestnut “PL Charger” was even worse, though ten years younger. Never had I seen a horse in that state. My heart sank. There was no meat on him at all. His skin seemed to be held together by rain rot. His eyes were either swollen or he just didn’t have the strength to do more than squint. Where to start?

First, a good veterinary exam for both. Sable had teeth so worn that eating hay and hard grain was impossible. Charger’s blood test showed compromised kidney function, a poor liver enzyme reading, and anemia. Why even try? Euthanasia seemed the kindest choice for him. But little Sable loved her tall friend, and Charger’s affection for her let me see just enough light in his eyes to give him a chance. Even with all that was wrong, his ears were always flicking, listening, trying to show us the ghost of what he had once been. I couldn’t just start feeding them. They would colic and die. But they needed something: careful pasture, controlled grain calories, hydration hay, and supplements that wouldn’t make them sick.

We looked for a way to begin—a single broad spectrum component that would work on weight, skin, heart, and brain. I found the answer: Manna Pro’s Senior Weight Accelerator: Vitamin E, Omega-3 Fatty Acid, lactobacillus acidophilus, and some other carefully crafted ingredients that made this my choice to turn Sable and Charger’s lives from gloomy to glistening. We found Sable’s original owner, the young girl who raised her, now thirty herself and living on the other side of the country. Like so many horses, Sable had a caring friend for well over a decade, but years passed, and Margaret grew up and moved far away. Sadly, Sable could not go with her and eventually fell on harder times. Whippoorwill Horse Rescue stepped in almost too late. The State of Georgia seized PL Charger in 2011 and sent him to Pulaski Women’s Prison, where he was brought back to health and given his name (PL designating the prison). His history before that is not known. He was auctioned by Georgia a year later and found a loving home with a woman who adored the big chestnut. When life circumstances intervened, Sandi found what she thought was a good home for her stunning American Saddlebred in a neighboring state. Her young grandson, Gavin, mourned the departure of his dear friend. “I’ll never forget him.” Something went very wrong over the next eighteen months, and in February 2017, Whippoorwill Horse Rescue was contacted. Sable was already there, but there was not room for another, so I was called. The photos do not show the horrible condition Charger was in. My veterinarian said the horse was a few weeks from death. I don’t know what I was thinking when I said I’d take him—and Sable.

Yet here they are, healthy and happy and two of the kindest horses I have ever been around. Although I now give lessons on them to neighboring children, they’ll never have bits in their mouths again: only bitless bridles for them. And they will never again know starvation. Sandi and Gavin visit ‘Big Red’ as often as they can, happy to be invited into his life again and to help with his care. They share their love with Sable, who is teaching Gavin to ride. Margaret, the girl who loved Sable for so many years, so long ago, is moving to our area. Soon she will be reunited with Sable and introduce her to her daughters, who will be part of the rest of this little mare’s healthy life. Thank you, Manna Pro, for your central part in helping this story have such a happy ending.” 

Crafting a special diet for a senior horse can be complex. A senior horse that needs to put on weight and requires extra calories can be given a senior horse feed supplement such as Manna Pro® Senior Weight Accelerator™, as Sable and Charger were. Keep in mind that all feeds and supplements should be formulated for the horse’s individual needs based on age, sex, workload, and body condition.

Why does a senior supplement such as Senior Weight Accelerator make sense for senior horses?

  1. Digestibility: For senior horses that are starting a new feed, or when changing any feeding regimen for your horse, one has to be very careful about reintroducing feed back into their diet due to the possibility of colic. Good-quality fats (such as the fats in Senior Weight Accelerator) are highly digestible, grains are intermediate and forages are the least digestible of the ingredients commonly fed to horses. Probiotics are essential to gut health and supporting proper digestion. Senior Weight Accelerator contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, which helps with intestinal health and digestion, has anti-fungal properties, and plays a crucial role in preventing Candida overgrowth.
  2. Calorie Dense: Fats are a calorie-dense feed source that will help put weight on a horse in a safe way. Interesting Fact: Fat contains more than twice the calorie content of starch and is safe to feed because horses can easily digest and utilize fat. Fat is the perfect solution for a horse like Charger or Sable, who needs lots of condensed calories. Grains and sweet feeds provide calories, but are high in simple carbohydrates (sugars) that may disrupt the normal bacterial flora and function of the GI tract. This may cause a horse to become jittery, or  “hot.” Weight supplements that supply calories from good fats, such as Senior Weight Accelerator, do not have these negative side effects and boast the added bonus of improving skin and coat condition.
  3. Palatability is also key with senior horses. Have your older horse’s teeth checked to assure they can chew hay and feed adequately. Don’t forget that senior horses need good-quality proteins, minerals and vitamins in their diet, too. Luckily, Senior Weight Accelerator is extremely palatable and contains biotin, Vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids.
  4. Take Your Time: Thin horses didn’t get thin overnight, so don’t try to get their weight back up too quickly. Gradual is best.

Always remember to make any feed or supplement changes gradually, and don’t expect results overnight. After making a feed change, you should start seeing results within 2–4 weeks. If you aren’t seeing results, then re-evaluate and make additional changes. Once a horse has reached their ideal weight, you will need to decrease their feed to prevent them from continuing to gain weight and becoming obese. As always, if you have any concerns or are not seeing improvement, you should consult your veterinarian.

Jennifer Serot

Jennifer is the newest member of the Manna Pro Equine Team. She has been riding and showing dressage for 20 years and enjoys spending time with her Connemara pony. Jennifer graduated with her BSBA and MBA in Marketing from Washington University in St. Louis.


KRISTINA ANDERSON 01/16/2008, 2:16:23 PM

I too have an older horse. I found this article full of very helpful information. thank you!

Janis Londraville 01/18/2008, 2:16:50 PM

Kristina, I'm always willing to help with "old horse" advice, so email me any time if I can help. I am so grateful to Manna Pro for the care they take with their products and want to help when I can.

Anita Bentley 11/01/2018, 2:17:19 PM

Hi Janis, I recently bought RedCell and am unsure about adding it to senior feed due to too much selenium. My mare is 26 and has lost so much weight in past couple years. I have tried lots of different things. Help!! Thanks, Anita

Connie Phillips 10/14/2019, 2:18:17 PM

Hi, we have an older horse. We aren’t sure of his age. All of our donkeys and horses are rescues but we have had them all for at least three years. Sterling is a big ol’ thing, sweetest
Disposition. We aren’t sure if his age but our vet says he is “very mature.” He looks like he is starving. We used Quest, the vet drew blood with good results. We have him on Red Cell, gave a round of antibiotics, used weight gain. His food doesn’t fall
Out of his mouth, vet said his teeth are good. He is social. We have thrown everything in the book at him. We are starting him on Manna Pro today. Any other advice you can share Would Be appreciated. We are a rescue without a 501C3 so we don’t have unlimited funds but we are willing to try anything.

Suzanne Sarasin 01/21/2018, 2:18:39 PM

Very interesting information. I may be getting a 19 yr old gelding with a body condition of 2. He is not as bad as the horses in the article but he is still very bad. Currently going through a sezure by the state brand board. Current situation is poor as he is only feed grass hay. Vet says teeth are good but he has coliced several times lately. I will get with my Manna Pro dealer as soon as I am sure I will get him.

JoAnn Swensen 01/21/2018, 2:19:06 PM

I too have my Old Man that is on a Senior diet that I supplement with Calf Manna .. I believe it is time to put him on Manna Pro Senior Weight Accelerator.. thank you for this article .. very informative !

Barry Darlene 01/21/2018, 2:19:31 PM

I can't say enough good things about Manna Pro's Senior Accelerator. My stallion was pacing alot at one time over the mares in the pasture. They'd walk into the desert brush and he couldn't see them. He'd pace and pace, even at 115 degrees, burning off any fat he had. I finally had to move him, started him on Manna Pro Senior Weight Accelerator and the results were amazing. It's not a hot feed, which I loved. Peruvians are easy keepers. I just put it in his grain with his other supplements and he eats it up. Love, love, love this product. It's better than Amplify, in my opinion. Thanks so much for such a wonderful product. As a horse trainer, I come across rescued horses and just bought horses that are a little underweight and I always suggest this product. They use it because I do :) Thanks again!

Watson Bonnie 01/22/2018, 2:19:57 PM

This is so great reading this now!! I've been debating about trying this for my two old boys. Sasahms (33) had issues last spring with colic we couldn't get controlled and then realized he had ulcers. I spent many sleepless nights worrying if he was going to make it. Over the summer I was able to get him back in good health. Just as he started to look really great again I noticed that Pistol (26) was growing a long coat way before he should have, lethargic and dropping some weight. I had my suspisions and sure enough he tested with PPID. He's on meds now and is responding well. They are both in good weight now but with a couple more months of cold weather I worry about them. Sasahms over the past few days has slacked off his Purina Equine Senior Active. He is still eating most of it and eats his hay (bermuda with some alfalfa). I have been thinking of adding Manna Pro Senior Weight Accelerator to their feed to try to maintain their good condition and health. After reading this I'm more inclined to give it a try. I'm fairly sure that Pistol won't have a problem with it but Sasahms is a very picky eater and doesn't like anything different. I just want to do everything I can to keep them happy and healthy as long as possible.

Anita Faulhaber 02/28/2018, 2:20:25 PM

I have a Senior Quarter Horse. He is grade and I think he is in his mid 20's. I've had him 5 years. Every single Winter, he loses weight, starting in January. In the summer,, when he is on grass, he is great. He is on 16 lbs of Senior grain, 2 lbs of beet pulp, 2 cups of Manno Pro Rice Bran, and a weight supplement and a probiotic. This is per day (1/2 in morning, 1/2 at night). Is there anything else I can be doing? He drops grain whether his teeth are floated or not. He is de-wormed and UTD on all care.

Manna Pro 03/12/2018, 2:20:49 PM

Hi Anita, we would recommend to increase his rice bran. Assuming you are feeding Max E Glo, try to increase it to 4 cups per day and see if that helps. That way you are feeding a little over 1 lb per day. If need be, you can increase the rice bran up to 2 lb per day, which would be 6 cups per day. Good luck!!

Terry Fortner 01/31/2019, 2:21:16 PM

I would like some counsel regarding my senior horse. I just switched his feed to Manna Pro Renew Gold Senior. I'm not certain how much he should be fed.

Bri D 05/31/2019, 2:21:35 PM

Hello, I have a 27 year old horse that is extremely under weight and was thinking about putting her on a alfalfa only diet... we have used the weight accelerator as stated above and have not seen much results, what do you suggest? Please help. We’ve researched and were using the alfalfa diet based off the UC Davis emaciated diet

Roslyn Snow 11/25/2019, 2:22:05 PM

Hini live o townsville can o get it at the feed shops here in townsville queensland

Emma 04/15/2021, 7:06:19 PM

You have very prittey horses but you can’t
raid them

Bridgett 05/29/2021, 5:48:53 PM

weight loss

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