Balanced diets are particularly important when it comes to feeding the senior horse. As horses get older the digestive system can be compromised and become inefficient at absorbing nutrients from the diet. Therefore, a balanced diet with enhanced levels of vitamins, minerals and nutrients is required. Another problem is that as horses get older their appetite can also decrease. Therefore, it makes sense to provide nutrient-dense feeds which won’t overburden his digestive system.
Senior horses can begin to lose condition easily, especially during the winter months, and keeping them looking well can often be a challenge. This blog provides tips on how best to feed your senior horse for a comfortable and happy life in his twilight years.
Feeding the Senior Horse Forage
This should form the basis of every horse’s diet, whether as pasture and/or hay. Generally, long-stem forage (hay or haylage) should be fed at 1.5% – 2% of body weight per day. It should NEVER fall below 1% of body weight per day so it’s essential that all horses have their forage requirements met. This can easily be done using forage replacers if your veteran struggles to consume enough long-stem forage.
There are three primary considerations that you should take into account when feeding the senior horse:
- Ease of chewing
- Digestibility of nutrients
Ease of chewing/Poor dentition
Feeding a horse or pony with poor dentition can be a real challenge. Dental problems are common in older horses and frequently result in loss of body condition. Birth defects such as ‘parrot mouth’ can cause digestive issues throughout the horse’s life.
Signs that may indicate your veteran is having problems chewing will include ‘quidding’. This is when lumps of partially chewed hay or food will be spat out and left on the floor. If the length of the fibres in the horse’s droppings are also getting longer, this is another indication he isn’t digesting his fibre properly. Veterans horses should, therefore, have their teeth checked at least 6 monthly or any time chewing problems occur.
Fibre is ESSENTIAL to maintain a healthy digestive system in any horse, old or young. If your veteran can’t cope with chewing long-stem forage, you may need to offer a more easily chewed form of fibre eg beet pulp.
A Fibregenix balancer is also ideal being nutrient-dense and manufactured in small pellets, which makes it easier for veterans with poor dentition to eat. It can be fed by hand or made into a tempting mash by the addition of warm water.
Digestibility of Nutrients – Best Diet Strategies for Feeding the Senior Horse
Feeding your Senior Horse Fats
Fat contains up to 2.5 times more energy than carbohydrates. So it’s an excellent way of increasing the energy density of your horse’s ration without dramatically increasing the amount you’re feeding. Always opt for a fat product that is high in the anti-inflammatory Omega 3 essential fatty acid compared to Omega 6.
Feeding the Senior horse, the Balancer way
The most effective way to feed a veteran with poor dentition is with a high-quality feed balancer such as one from the Fibregenix range. This will ensure a nutritionally balanced diet without having to feed large quantities of hard feed and additional supplements.
All the balancers in the Fibregenix range contain the revolutionary ingredient, Nucleotides. These building blocks of DNA and RNA and are found naturally in the horse’s diet, but at low levels. All horses and ponies can benefit from their inclusion in the diet but they are especially beneficial to veterans. Nucleotides increase the length of the intestinal villi in the gut. This can increase nutrient absorption, enabling your veteran to get more out of his diet. Nucleotides also support the immune system by facilitating the immune cells, helping to fight viral and bacterial infections. Fibregenix are the only feed balancer supplements in Australia to incorporate this remarkable ingredient.
Feeding the Senior horse for Condition
Fibregenix Platinum Pro is perfect for veterans that need to maintain or gain condition. Mixed with appropriate amounts of chaff and beet pulp, it provides a great alternative to a haynet. Platinum Pro is ideal as its nutrient-dense formulation provides enhanced levels of essential key nutrients in a highly bioavailable form for older horses. Also included is Actisaf Yeast probiotic which increases fibre digestion and allows your veteran to utilise the fibre in his diet more efficiently. This, in turn, can promote extra valuable calories. Platinum Pro also contains high-quality protein to provide the necessary amino acids. These are vital for maintaining muscle mass which is often a problem for the older horse.
MOS and FOS prebiotics will help to boost the immune system and remove pathogenic bacteria from the foregut. Furthermore, a comprehensive hoof supplement is included with biotin, lysine and zinc and elevated levels of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. All Fibregenix balancers are whole-cereal and molasses free and contain a natural form of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.
Feeding the Senior Horse to Manage Obesity and Metabolic Issues.
Some veterans hold their weight well or can be prone to laminitis or other metabolic or hormonal issues. This is when feeding the senior horse a low starch, low sugar, low-calorie balancer supplement such as Lami Low-Cal can help. This high fibre specialist diet balancer supplement contains every essential nutrient required every day without encouraging any weight gain.
Feeding the Senior Horse for Ageing Joints
It’s inevitable that over the year some sort of joint issues will occur. Degenerative and inflammatory joint issues such as arthritis are extremely common in older horses. Keeping your veteran comfortable and mobile is another key consideration, as constant pain can affect his condition. This is where feeding a superior joint supplement such as Fibregenix Liquid Joint & Bone RLF will help to nourish and protect joints. By helping to delay the onset of joint problems you can ensure your veteran has a happier and healthier lifestyle. Read more about Liquid Joint & bone RLF here
3 More Top tips for managing your veterans this winter
1) If you don’t have one already, invest in a weight tape and use it fortnightly to monitor your veteran’s body condition. This allows you to pick up any changes in your veteran’s condition much quicker than by the eye alone.
2) Maintain a regular dental AND worming programme. Some older horses are more difficult to keep condition on, not because of their age, but because of parasite damage over the years
3) Remember that horses can use up to 80% of their feed energy just keeping warm. Make sure your veteran is adequately rugged and, if living out, ensure that he has shelter from the wind and rain