Feeding hay to a horse with no teeth

| 10 March 2012 4:51 pm | 2 Comments

Q: My 34 year-old Quarter Horse gelding has no molars. He cannot chew hay at all. I feed him timothy pellets that have been soaked into a mush.

I continually worry about him not having anything to eat during the night, especially as the weather gets colder. He can manage to gum the pellets without soaking, but I know that if I put down a big tub of them, he will continue to eat till they are gone. Which makes me worry about colic and/or choke from not being able to chew mouthfuls of pellets correctly.

Is there anything I can do to keep his gut moving in the winter without having to go out all night long and feed him every two hours? I do feed him 3 meals a day in winter instead of 2.

Thanks for your help. I have had him since he was a yearling and would like to keep him going a few more years.

Diane, Ohio, USA


A: Hello Diane, I understand your concern. Feeding forage to an aging horse with poor teeth (or lack of teeth) can be challenging. But I’m glad you appreciate his need to have forage flowing through his digestive tract at all times – day and night.

So, let’s get creative. If you don’t have to confine him to a stall at night, this would give him an opportunity to walk around and not stand in front of a feed bucket. Cold weather is a joy to horses and if he is on the thin side, you can blanket him. If you can provide the choice of going in or out of the barn, at will, he’ll do better since the movement is also helpful toward keeping his digestive tract moving properly.
Hay pellets can be challenging because if eaten dry, or too quickly, horses may choke. How about hay cubes instead? Break them into small pieces and moisten them. They can be offered free-choice. You can even place them in a slow feeder – there are many on the market – The Natural Feeder, Freedom Feeder, Nibble Net, Work 4 Feeder, Texas Haynet, etc.

You can also mix moistened beet pulp in with the hay cubes as a way to provide water soluble fiber and some extra calories.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Please keep me posted.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Category: Health

About the Author ()

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. has been called a "pioneer in free choice forage feeding," and her articles and interviews often appear in national and international publications. » Read Juliet's profile

Comments (2)

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  1. Lynette Cousins says:

    Just another suggestion, our feed supplier used to very kindly mill the hay into a meal which my older
    horse could manage.

  2. Muriell woods says:

    We have a horse he has to eat mash , he cannot eat hay, we feed him beetpulp and alfha pellets that have been soaked and it makes a good mash, which he happily eats twice a day, sometimes I shake leaves off of alpha hay and he does eat this to. He is fed twice a day and does fine. We also feed him sweet feed and haystack which is a pellet feed, when I put a pellet in my mouth it disolves right away and also the sweet feed also is a soft feed, it is called stock and stable. the reason I tried the pellet was to make sure it is a soft feed. just wanted to let them know , and this horse is 31 years old.

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