Feeding Your Senior Horse
When it comes to feeding your senior horse, you will find that not every horse requires the same care. Like humans, senior horses have different tastes and preferences as well as different restrictions that could have an impact on their diet. However, the good news is that not all senior horses need to make adjustments to their diet as they age. In fact, as long as your senior horse does not experience dramatic weight fluctuation or loss, has a healthy coat and hooves, and does not have any immune or gastrointestinal issues, then you don’t have to change the way you feed them. This is going to be more likely in senior horses on the younger side, so be sure to continue to monitor them for any health changes as they continue to age. The most common indicator of health decline in senior horses is weight loss that occurs even with a steady diet. If they are eating normally but are beginning to lose weight, you will want to get them checked by a veterinarian for Cushing’s Disease, parasite issues, or possible liver or kidney disease. Your veterinarian can tell you more about how to treat these diseases and how to adjust feed accordingly. If your horse does not have any of the above issues but you are still noticing weight loss, it may be time to make some adjustments of your own. Keep reading for some of our tips on how to monitor and feed your senior horse.
What to Look For:
If your horse is experiencing weight loss but does not have a disease, there could be a few possible causes. First, you should observe your older horse among your other horses. If you have horses of various ages, it could be possible that your older horses are losing status as they age and being pushed to the side. Younger and stronger horses may be forcing them out in order to feed themselves. As horses age, they become weaker and may lose motivation to fight for their spot at the feeding table. One way to fix this is to have a designated feeding area for your older horses so they can have access to food at their leisure without barriers.
Other issues that may be causing weight loss could be pain or adjustment to temperature changes. As senior horses age, it is common for them to suffer from weakened muscles and joints. They may also be susceptible to pain in their hooves and legs, which can reduce their appetite as well as discourage them from moving around to obtain food. If you notice that your senior horse is not moving around as much as they used to, then it is time to get them checked and treated so they can continue to have a healthy diet. During the colder months, senior horses need more calories to keep themselves warm. If you notice weight loss in the winter, consider increasing their feed quantity or hay intake to keep their weight balanced.
What Should a Senior Horse’s Diet Look Like:
The necessity for nutrients and vitamins increases as your senior horse ages, and some foods can actually have a negative effect on their health. A senior horse diet should consist of only enough calcium to maintain a healthy weight. If given too much calcium, it may increase your horse’s risk of kidney disease and bladder stones. Their diets should also be low in iron and manganese. Copper and zinc should also be included based on each horses’ needs, so it is best to ask your vet first. Hay should be of high quality so that it is easier for your senior horse to chew and digest. The hay should be leafy with very few stems, light green in color, and smell fresh and sweet. All hay and feed you give to your senior horse needs to be soft and easy to eat, so they don’t have any issues getting the proper nutrients and vitamins they need. You can even consider adding water to the feed or soaking hay cubes for easier consumption!
Feeding your senior horse may come with some challenges, but they are nothing that a loving horse owner can’t handle. The best thing to do as your horse ages is to monitor their health and get them checked out by a veterinarian regularly to catch any developing issues. At Ryerss, we make sure that our senior horses are comfortable and happy as they live out their days at the farm. Head over to our website to learn more about our mission.