Chopped Hay for Senior Horses

Jessica McDaniel
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Chopped Hay for Senior Horses: Forage Alternatives

When a horse becomes a senior citizen, many feeds change to accommodate the different capacities of the horse. For instance, you may have fed your senior horse on a senior feed but may notice changes in his body shape and overall performance.

With age, a horse could develop dental problems, preventing him from chewing or digesting regular hay. One of the solutions to this problem is to give your horse chopped hay or haylage.

Chopped hay is a special type of hay in which the leaves do not only fall into a ground hay wagon. Instead, the leaves are chopped in such a way that the fiber particles are broken into small bits.

As a result, the hay is easily digested by the horse because it's easier to break down. What's more, chopped hay has an interesting texture that your senior horse may enjoy eating, rather than the usual "mouth-full".

If bringing out new horse feeds may be costly, you may save money by feeding hayloft hay and chopping it yourself. There are special machines used for chopping such as the chaff-cutter or hay chopper, which are available on many farm stores.

Nonetheless, you could also have a hay bale chopped into smaller pieces at the feed store or by a professional farmer in your area.

Importance of Forage

When horses get older, their digestive system slows down which causes them to be less efficient at digesting food. Foraging for hay or other roughage may help to relieve some of their discomfort.

What once was a well-filled hayloft becomes an empty bale refilled every two or three weeks.

If your horse is a picky eater, try adding some chopped hay to his daily nutrition. Often, seniors will eat it up, whereas it is much easier for younger horses to simply keep taking the hay out of their manger.

The reason for this is that older horses require a softer type of forage to chew. Their teeth are worn down and their jaws are arthritic which often makes hard hay painful to chew on.

Given a choice, a horse will choose softer food over harder food that requires more effort to chew.

Forage Alternatives

As a horse ages, his appetite and food requirements are often reduced, as he is less active than he was when he was younger. This is particularly true for horses that are in their senior years.

Senior horses are the ones that are often fed forage alternatives.

Are hay cubes good for horses?

Hay cubes are fresh or preserved hays that have been chopped or ground to small pieces. A variety of supplements are often added while preserving hay cubes to make them nutritious and appetizing.

Senior horses need a variety of nutrients. The easiest way to ensure this is to feed a blend of hays along with hay cubes if your horse doesn’t have enough interest in hay. There can be different reasons for this, like sore mouth, dental issues, hoof issues, or simply dislike for certain hays.

Mature horses mid-life onwards so they require about 7- 8 kg of roughages per 1,000 kg of their body weight. In other words, a 900 kg horse should eat around 6-7 kg of food matter, consisting of stall feed, pasture, grass hay and hay cubes.

So, how much hay cubes should senior horses consume?

Senior horses may require 10-15% of their diet to consist of a forage alternative. So for a 900 kg horse, this translates to about 90-135 kg of hay cubes and added supplements if needed.

Chopped Hay for Senior Horses: Other Alternatives

If you have an older horse that is prone to bloat, then chopped hay can come in handy to reduce the risk of his chances of getting it.

Bloat or gastric torsion is a condition where a horse will develop a full, round stomach that causes pressure on the other organs and can be potentially fatal. Hay is the main factor in the cause of bloating.

This is because if the horse cannot properly chew the hay, then he will not be able to break it down properly and can develop an over-sized, full stomach. Horses that have persistent digestive problems should be fed small amounts of hay rather than one large amount.

Just a couple of different feeding alternatives for senior horses that are prone to bloat include:

Chopped Hay – Chopped hay and a slow feeder hay net are the most effective and economical options for bloat prevention. If you won’t allow you horse to be in with other horses, you can place the netted hay in a paddock.

Hay Cubes

Hay cubes are a great way to feed your senior horse. They are a way to ensure they are getting an ideal amount of hay to eat. It’s good idea to use cubes if you are feeding your horse hay cubes to prevent them from having the opportunity to over graze on the hay. The hay cubes are a great supplement to your senior horse’s feed and provide their whole body with the nutrients and vitamins they need to be healthy.

6 reasons to feed hay:

  • the fiber helps to keep a horse’s digestive system moving.
  • the fiber aids in the absorption of nutrients.
  • the fiber assists the horse in maintaining a healthy weight.
  • the high fiber is calming to a horse that has a nervous tummy.
  • the supplement allows a horse to easily manage the necessary requirements of a horse.
  • it’s a convenient way to ensure they are getting the proper amount of hay per day.

Hay Pellets

Vs. Chopped Hay for Senior Horses

As your horse ages, it becomes difficult for it to digest coarse, bulky and long-stemmed hay. His teeth and gums may also not be able to grind hay any longer. In addition, he may be suffering from other health problems, including ulcers, that make chewing difficult.

Senior horses are often less active and can experience more digestive issues than more active horses. They need more calories from feed to keep their muscles and bones healthy and strong. Horses may also suffer from arthritis and stiff joints, making it more difficult for them to move around and exercise.

When a horse has advanced age, health problems and joint stiffness, it may need more calories than it can potentially get from just hay. In fact, research has shown that horses may need 4-6 times as much dietary calories for maintenance.

Not surprisingly, the quality of hay along with the quantity plays a significant role in the health of the horse. Chopped hay or pellets made up of all the stems of the hay plants are easier to feed, digest and therefore, better for senior horses.

If your senior horse is a picky eater, you can introduce him to chopped hay by adding it to his daily feed. If he likes it and it improves his heath, you can increase the amount. The best feed for horses is the one it will eat willingly and with gusto!

Beet Pulp

Beet pulp helps with digestion in older horses due to the natural fiber and low sugar content it contains. Beet pulp also contains a good amount of iron and magnesium.

Older horses usually have a high requirement for nutrients, which they can't get from hay alone. Increasing the fiber in your horse's diet can help him to feel more satisfied after meals and be better able to process the nutrients provided in his feed. Using beet pulp is a good way to keep his fiber intake low.

Beet pulp can be found at almost any feed store, and it doesn't cost too much more than regular horse feed. Another good thing about it is that it tends to keep longer than other high-fiber feed, especially if it is stored properly. Prevent it from getting moist, or it will become moldy and need to be thrown out.

Beet pulp is beneficial to all types of horses because it provides a good source of fiber. However, if your senior horse isn't in very good health, there's no reason to completely change his entire diet at once. Start by mixing 75 percent of his regular feed with 25 percent beet pulp and gradually increase the amount of the pulp over time until he is being fed entirely on pulp. Do this slowly and carefully, to ensure your horse's health and comfort.

Soybean Hulls

Wheat Straw, and Chopped Hay for Senior Horses.

Chopped hay is a natural and nutritious source of fiber and calories for senior horses. The chopped hay will help to maintain your senior horse's digestive efficiency as long as its digestion is still functioning.

Don’t let the name "chopped hay" fool you, though. Chopped hay is not made from just ordinary hay. The hay is chopped or ground into small pieces. In addition to containing the fiber, chopped hay has the benefit of providing a variety of nutrients that are beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Chopped Hay Equine Benefits

Foraging senior horses may transition from whole hay to mechanically chopped hay (in a pelletized form) due to arthritis and other conditions of the teeth and mouth that make chewing difficult. В This can eliminate the need for a senior horse's teeth to be floated on a regular basis.

Chopped hay has a soft texture that senior horses can eat, without the aggravation of having to chew the stringy, tough stems.

The chopped hay is easy on the digestive system and the digestive tract does not have to work as hard, allowing less stress.

Chopped hay can provide a source of fiber and calories in the older horse's diet.

Chopped Hay

Chopped hay is a great type of diet for senior horses because it is easy to digest and chew and allows for a more comfortable eating experience or geriatric horses.

Senior horses have special dietary requirements, so it's important that their food is easily digestible and lower in calories.
Lower calorie foods also help reduce the risk of colic.

Chopped hay may be the perfect fix for senior horses because it already has been cut into small manageable pieces. This makes it easy for senior horses to chew without having to do the work themselves.
When horses eat, they first chew the food in their mouth, then they grind it between teeth in the back of their mouth. The smaller the pieces of hay, the longer it takes for your senior horse to eat. For senior horses with dental issues, eating is more stressful because it takes longer.

Chopped hay also comes with additional benefits in the form of reduced waste and the ability to feed large amounts of hay in a short period of time.
Waste is reduced because chopped hay is constipating, so less waste equals less time spent on cleaning the stall.
Feeding large quantities of hay is easier because it’s all right there in a heap. Because the hay is all in one place, you can pick the amount you need and stick with that amount. Your senior horse requires less servings, so it helps to control over feeding.

Chopped Hay for Senior Horses: Benefits

When senior horses transition to chopped hay, you could see a lot of improvement to their overall health and mobility:

  • Horses are likely to chew their hay which makes their diet more natural
  • Senior horses with decreased or limited capacity to chew hay are likely to chew the hay better and consume more of the nutrients within
  • Chopped hay is a great way to supplement senior horses that haven’t been grazing due to injury or other illness
  • Chopped hay is a good source of forage for senior horses with dental issues
  • Chopped hay optimizes senior horse nutrition by making the most of what the horse eats
  • Chopped hay is a great winter feeding solution for senior horses at risk of colic, founder, and laminitis

Chopped Hay for Senior Horses: Where To Find It

Chopped hay for senior horses: At feed stores or horse supply stores.

The most popular hay for haylage or hayblending for horses is timothy hay, but you can use good quality hay or mixed grass hay. Grass hay for senior horses should be green, not yellow. The best grass hay tends to be grass hay that has been cut in early spring (March or April) and sometimes called May grass.

Some types of grass hay that can be used for mixing are: Orchard, meadow, alfalfa, brome, blue grass, rye, kine grass, dog grass, willow, reed, tall fescue, orchard grass, or barley.

Chopped hay for senior horses can be fed either as horse haylage or as part of a horse blended diet. Fresh chopped hay is consumed faster than baled hay so you’ll want to make sure you have enough padlock feeders in your pasture or barn to keep up with the rate of consumption.

While many horses are picky about eating hay, do not waste your time worrying about what animals will or will not eat the hay. Just get your senior horse eating hay, at the very least. The dairy cows will be happy to eat the remaining hay and you can feel good that you are providing your senior horse good nutrition.


Since foals start eating hay early in life, it's no surprise that older horses need hay too. Chopped hay is easy to eat and make sure it stays within the horse's mouth and its dental pad. But will it fit in an older horse's mouth?

Most older horses have large, spacious mouths. Their teeth have worn down over time, which means you need to break up the hay into smaller pieces. But if you don't have the time, chops are a great option and will do the work for you.

However, older horses tend to have more serious dental issues than their younger counterparts, which means you may have sore fingers after breaking up large mouthfuls of hay all day. If this is the case, horse hay feeders can help.