From Horse and Rider - Jan.2016
Stay-Young Feeding Tips
Aging horses have special nutrition needs. Here's advice from an equine nutritionist.
If your horse is moving toward senior-hood (or is in it already), there are feeding strategies you can follow to help him stay happy and healthy as the years go by. We asked equine nutritionist Juliet Getty, PhD, for some basic advice along this line. She's the author of Feed Your Horse Like a Horse and other nutrition-oriented guides (gettyequinenutrition.com). Here's what she told us.
YOU MULTIPLE THE HORSE'S AGE BY 3 TO GET THE HUMAN AGE, I.E. A HORSE 20 YEARS OLD IS 60 IN HUMAN YEARS; SO A HORSE AT 20 OR 21 IS PRETTY WELL INTO SENIOR YEARS; AVERAGE LIFE SPAN FOR HORSES IS 25 TO 30 YEARS - Keith Hunt
Avoid high-starch feeds. Cereal grains (oats, corn, barley) and feeds made from cereal grains are best eliminated from the diet. As your horse ages, he's more inclined to become insulin-resistant and may start to exhibit signs of equine Cushing's disease. Feeding lower-starch feeds will help to avoid promoting these conditions.
Choose 'senior' products. These commercial feeds are precooked and formed into kibbles that are easy to chew and digest (see box). Many senior feeds have digestive enzymes added to their formulas to further boost digestion. These products contain vitamins and minerals, as well, but keep in mind that the only way your horse will get enough of these nutrients is if you feed the recommended amount for his weight. (If you don't, you may have to add a vitamin/mineral supplement.)
Or feed beet pulp/hay pellets. As an alternative to a commercial senior feed, you can moisten beet pulp and/or hay pellets into a mush, to make an easily consumed forage for the horse whose ability to chew is compromised. (Senior feeds can also be
IN THE BOX
How Is He Different?
Your aging horse undergoes two key changes that affect his ability to get adequate nutrition.
Saliva production diminishes. A senior-friendly diet takes into account your horse's reduced saliva production, which makes dry food difficult to chew and especially to swallow. Always keep water close by, and consider moistening his feed as needed.
Digestion efficiency diminishes. This can lead to diarrhea, electrolyte imbalances, and weight loss. It starts in the small intestine, where your aging horse produces fewer digestive enzymes, leading to malnutrition simply because his tissues never receive the nutrients from his meal. Plus, undigested food enters the hindgut, where it's either fermented (which can lead to colic or laminitis) or ends up in his feces.
A senior-friendly diet, supplemented if need be, can correct for less-efficient digestion.
A changing metabolism means your aging horse requires special TLC at feeding time. Here's what you need to consider.
moistened. Have your oldster's teeth checked regularly to make sure they're not contributing to a chewing problem. You'll need to add a digestive enzyme supplement to beet pulp and hay pellets, along with proper vitamin/mineral supplementation.
Consider what else is needed.
Ask your veterinarian or equine nutritionist about supplements that might especially benefit your aging horse. These include pro- and pre- biotics, necessary for digesting fiber; omega 3s, which support immune function and help regulate blood insulin levels; vitamin C, necessary for collagen production and a potent antioxidant and natural antihistamine; and vitamin D, especially during winter or when your horse is stalled and has less access to sun, to help keep his bones, muscles, and teeth in top shape. □
For more information on providing the best possible care for your aging equine, check out "Senior Horse Care Tips" at the Web site.