What To Feed Your Senior Horse
It's been said if you want a stable friendship, get a horse. Thanks to advances in preventative equine health care and nutrition we are now able to have our horses in our lives longer than ever before. Today it's not uncommon to see horses living into their late 20s to early 30s, with some ponies reaching 40. Horses are not only living longer, but they are competing into their late teens to early 20s and having a better quality of life as they age.
Age is Just a Number
When people turn 50 years old they are presented with their AARP card and start becoming eligible for various senior citizen discounts. Defining what makes a horse senior is a little more complicated. There is no standard definition for classifying whether or not a horse is a senior. A horse in his late teens may still be at the top of his athletic game, whereas a younger horse may be ready to go out to pasture and retire.
Rather than using physical ability to determine if their horse is a senior, horse owners need to recognize if their horse is nutritionally a senior. A horse is considered nutritionally senior when they can no longer maintain good body condition on a normal hay and grain diet. Decaying digestive system issues such as scar tissue in the small intestine due to parasites, worn teeth and missing teeth can cause this decrease in body condition.
Feeding the Senior Horse
Your horse is nutritionally a senior horse, now what? It's time to switch your horse to a senior diet.
According to Southern States equine nutritionist Dr. Marty Adams, "A senior horse feed should be highly palatable, dust-free, easy to chew and digest, based on digestible fiber instead of grain, low in sugar and starch content, 14% crude protein, and contain added B vitamins, vitamin C and additional fat."
Generally senior feeds are complete feeds to allow the horse to get all of their dietary fiber via feed rather than through grazing or hay. As horses age, poor dentition can make it difficult for them to consume long-stemmed hay. If your horse is still able to eat hay, be sure to provide good quality hay or cubed/chopped hay, which will be easier to chew and have more digestible fiber than poor quality hay.
Southern States Senior Options
Southern States offers a variety of feed options for your senior horse including Legends® CarbCare™ Senior Feed. Legends® CarbCare™ Senior Feed contains 14% protein, 7% fat and 18% fiber. Based on highly digestible fiber sources (soy hulls, beet pulp and alfalfa meal), and high levels of fat, Legends® CarbCare™ Senioris easily and safely digested. Legends® CarbCare™ Senior is recommended for insulin resistant horses with Equine Cushing's Disease and Equine Metabolic Syndrome as it contains low levels of sugar and starch.
Senior Nutrition Management
Here are some additional tips that can help make sure your horse gets the most benefit from the feeds listed above:
- Consider adding water to the feed. Adding warm water to feed and allowing it to soak for 15 to 30 minutes prior to feeding will allow horses with missing or worn down teeth better chew and swallow feed. Additionally this is a great way to make sure your horse gets extra water into his diet.
- Schedule equine dental appointments. Regularly scheduled dental appointments are an essential part of senior horse management. Horses can develop sharp points on their molars that need to be floated or filed down on a regular basis to ensure they can properly chew their food.
- Wet or soak chopped hay or cubes. Not only can water decrease choke, but it can also reduce sugar and potassium content in hay if you soak for 60 minutes and drain the water prior to feeding.
Contact your local Southern States location for more information on feeding the senior horse.