Having an older, mature horse means paying additional attention when caring for them, especially during the winter. From supporting supplements to adapting horse food to accommodate their weight and condition and keeping them warm with a variety of rugs, there are several ways to care for veteran horses in the colder months. From mature horse with poor dentition to those who feel and act a lot younger than they are, we have all you need to know for caring for your veteran horse this winter.
What Should You Feed Older Horses That Are Stabled?
Older horses can really benefit from being turned out even in winter, as being able to move around helps them to retain good mobility. Supplementary feed such as hay and haylage may still need to be provided when the horse is turned out as grass quality is poor at this time of year.
What To Feed A Senior Horse
A senior horse may have more health problems such as PPID, poor dentition and weight loss making management of their diet even more important all year round.
For horses with PPID (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction), a low starch and sugar diet is ideal, just as if you were feeding a horse with laminitis. If your veteran horse is able to maintain their weight then a low calorie, low starch and sugar feed would be most suitable, however if they are prone to weight loss, a feed that is high in fibre and oil will provide more energy in a slow release form. A digestible fibre source, such as sugar beet, is a great way to help older horses gain weight as it is readily digested and is easy to chew so particularly useful if your horse has poor teeth. It’s important to note that if your senior horse drops weight, it’s essential that you investigate why as soon as possible as it is much harder to put weight back on in the winter months. A good place to start is asking your vet or equine dentist to check your horse’s teeth as if they can’t chew easily, they soon lose weight.
What About A Mature Horse With Poor Dentition?
If a horse drops weight, this can be a sign of poor dentition, which usually occurs in mature horses and can be first noticed when a horse drops partially chewed feed, known as quidding. If your horse quids, this can cause poor digestion and result in colic. So, not only is it essential that you have the equine dentist out regularly to check your horse’s teeth, but that you provide a forage that they can chew more easily. An alternative option to hay or short chopped feeds is a soaked feed high in fibre. This mash and sloppy consistency is easier for horses to eat and will ensure that your horse still gets the nutrition and goodness needed in its diet.
Hopefully this guide has given you some ideas for caring for your veteran horse this winter.