What To Feed A Veteran Horse: The Beginners Guide
Horses age at different rates, so although commonly senior horses are viewed as those 15 years and older, if your horse isn’t showing signs of old age it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to adapt their routine or diet straight away. As horses age and health problems do start to occur it can be difficult to know what to feed them. So, before buying your horse food online, take a look at our beginners guide to what to feed your veteran horse, below.
Use Feeds For Specific Requirements
As a horse ages and becomes a veteran, the efficiency of their digestion and their ability to absorb nutrients can decline. Therefore, it’s imperative that you ensure that your horse has food that is easy to digest with good quality nutrients, which is especially important if your horse struggles to maintain their weight. To help keep the top line and muscle mass in your veteran horse, look for horse feeds which contain quality protein. Alfalfa and soya are rich in methionine and lysine; these are essential amino acids which have to be supplied in the diet and will help to maintain muscle tone in your senior horse. Protein is also required for the maintenance and repair of body tissue.
Make Fibre The Foundation Of The Diet
Fibre is very important in every horse’s diet and should always form the basis to help maintain their condition and weight. Ideally a horse should eat at least 1.5% of their bodyweight of fibre each day to promote healthy digestive function. As your horse gets older, it becomes even more imperative that you feed your horse hay or haylage that is very good quality to help them retain their condition and for their respiratory health. If your veteran horse suffers from missing or worn teeth, then it can be difficult for them to eat enough fibre, so you may want to try feeding haylage or a short chop alternative.
Ponies and horses use a lot of energy to keep warm when the temperatures drop. Those that are older tend to lose condition if their diet doesn’t provide them with enough energy. To keep your veteran horse or pony warm in the winter, ensure they have plenty of fibre in their diet as the fermentation of the fibre in the hind gut by the bacteria creates heat – literally the horse’s central heating. Thicker rugs and stabling may be required for some older horses that don’t hold their weight well.
Regularly Monitor Weight And Condition
It’s important that you regularly monitor the weight and condition of your horse, as it will allow you to implement any changes that may be needed sooner rather than later. This can be achieved either by using a weigh tape or, weighbridge and body condition scoring your veteran horse. Make a note of the weight and condition of your horse, so you can see the changes between each check and implement any alterations in their diet if required.
Feed Your Horse Supporting Supplements
Older horses tend to have more health problems so you may want to add supplements to their feed for extra support and maintenance. For example, without bacteria, horses would be unable to utilise fibre therefore, it’s important to find a digestive enhancer that will encourage a healthy environment in their digestive system. These enhancers include prebiotics and yeast cultures which improve the activity of kind gut bacteria, ultimately making fibre digestion more efficient. Other supplements suitable for veteran horses include glucosamine that help support joints and may improve mobility.
There are a number of factors to take into consideration when it comes to feeding your veteran horse. Hopefully this guide should give you some food for thought and help to maintain good condition and weight on your horse all year round. If you are seeking additional advice when it to comes to feeding your senior horse, contact your vet or a nutritionist, who will be able to help you create a feeding plan for your horse.