Hay Replacers for Veteran Horses


As horses age, their diet and ration may need to change, particularly if their level of work changes too. Hay replacers will become essential if, due to poor dentition or simple old age, they can no longer manage hay or haylage. Hay replacement will ensure veteran horses are still getting all the nutrition they require to maintain condition and health.

Long In The Tooth

Did you know the phrase ‘long in the tooth’ actually originates from horses? This is because their teeth continue to grow throughout their lifetime; their gums recede as they get older which gives them the appearance of longer teeth. This needs to happen because mastication (chewing) of fibre causes a lot of wear on teeth and horses should spend a long time eating – 16-18 hours every day.

If they didn’t keep growing, horses would probably ‘run out’ of tooth as soon as their early teens! With horses living longer than ever, their teeth can start to let them down either becoming loose and wobbly or even falling out!

Hay Replacement For Horses That Struggle To Chew Long Forage

When horses are stabled hay and haylage are often their main fibre source. The long length of these forages can sometimes cause a veteran horse problems, as their teeth become less efficient – they can spend hours chewing only to create balls of forage that they then drop (quid). This prevents them from receiving sufficient nutrition from the ration

Diastemas are more common but not exclusive to old horses. A diastema is a large gap between teeth which allows partially chewed food to get stuck and cause infection. If this reaches an advanced stage, the tooth can become diseased and fall out. Equally, if too much partially chewed food passes further into the digestive system the risk of impaction colic increases significantly.

Study: Why Hay Replacement Should Be Considered For Older Horses with Poor Dentition

In 2007 Dengie were involved with a study,  in association with Writtle College , to investigate how age-related dentition affected the consumption of fibre. The trial involved 12 horses and compared the amount of 3 different types of fibre (hay, Dengie Hi-Fi Senior and Dengie Alfa-Beet) they were able to consume within a certain time period.

It was expected that a horse with poor dentition would consume less food in the same time as a horse with no dentition issues, however, the extent to which this happens was unknown. The reduction in intake was most significant for hay; those with poor teeth consumed up to two-thirds less hay in the same time period as those with no dental issues. The smallest difference was with the soaked product and only a slight reduction was seen with the short chop product. Some of those with dental issues actually refused to eat the hay completely, whereas the soaked product was not refused at all. This shows just how significant dentition is to fibre intake, and thus a hay replacer should be considered to ensure veteran horses are still receiving a proper ration.

These results indicate why it is common to see considerable weight loss in veteran horses – especially over winter when hay is their primary fibre source.  The study also illustrates how easy it is to provide an alternative fibre source for these horses and ponies. With soaked products showing the least difference between good and poor dentition, these feeds make ideal partial or complete hay replacers for horses with very poor teeth.

Soaked Fibre Feeds Are Easier To Chew

The fibre particles in soaked products tend to be ground much smaller which makes them easier to chew and aids digestibility. If a horse can manage some short chop fibre, then it would be beneficial to feed these products alongside the soaked feeds to help increase chew time. Dengie Hi-Fi Senior is the ideal chopped fibre to add to Alfa-Beet.

Partial or Full Hay Replacer For Horses

Dengie’s comprehensive range of fibre feeds, both short chopped and soaked, are all sympathetic to the horse’s digestive system and several of the products can also be used as partial or full hay replacers.

Hi-Fi LiteHi-Fi Senior and Hi-Fi Good Do-er can all be used as a full hay replacer by simply replacing weight for weight with the hay.

Hi-Fi Molasses FreeMeadow Grass with HerbsAlfa-BeetHi-Fi AppleAlfalfa Pellets and Grass Pellets can be used as partial hay replacers for horses of any age.

All hay replacers can be fed from the floor or a large bucket rather than a net. However, like a haynet, larger quantities of these hay replacers can be left with your horse for them to “graze” on over a longer period of time than a bucket feed would usually take.

For more information or advice for introducing hay replacement, get in touch with the team here at Dengie!