Rural Heritage Vet Clinic

Feeding Your Senior Horse
courtesy of Purina Mills

Veterinarians and equine nutritionists cannot turn back the clock, but they have learned how to solve many of the feeding problems confronting senior equines.

The condition of the teeth is of concern with aging animals. After examining your senior horse's teeth, your veterinarian may float them to remove sharp edges so your horse can chew more comfortably.

A time comes, however, when the aging horse gradually loses its ability to effectively clip grass. As the molars become smooth, they are no longer able to efficiently chew and grind grass or hay. You may notice wads or cuds of grass or hay that the horse has spit out in its feeding area.

At that point you must feed pelleted forages and concentrates, or a complete feed combining both forage and concentrate products in the correct nutritional balance. The finely ground or chopped products processed into these feeds are, in a sense, already chewed for the horse. They mix easily with water to form a soft mash the senior horse can chew and swallow with ease.

Dental discomfort and poor appetite result in lower feed intake for aging equines. Adding fat lets the senior horse take in more calories with every bite. Added fat also improves the horse's skin and coat. Substituting fat calories for starch calories helps the aging horse with pituitary tumors that prevent the pituitary gland from properly metabolize glucose (sugars from starches).

The digestive tract of a senior horse is less efficient than it once was. The horse may not absorb minerals well, compromising its bone strength. It has a diminished ability to digest protein, which is needed to build muscle. And a sluggish metabolism reduces the horse's ability to synthesize vitamins.

So don't give your elderly companion the same feed you give your young, growing horses or mature work horses. Look for feeds formulated for senior horses that contain the higher levels of protein, B vitamins, and vitamin C an aging animal needs, and with a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio that has been adjusted to suit your aging horse's requirements.

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Phone: 319-362-3027    Fax: 319-362-3046

21 September 2000