Thanks to improvements in nutrition, management, and health care, horses are living longer, more useful lives. Many horses are living well into their thirties or even forties with the help of a healthy lifestyle, proper care, and good nutrition. Giving your senior the proper feed and care can help them stay comfortable through their golden years. Providing the best care means understanding some of the special health challenges older equines face.
Some signs of decline may be caused specifically by the aging process but others may have an underlying medical problem, so be sure to speak with your veterinarian about any changes in your horse.
While every aspect of horse care is important, nutrition is the most important. As horses age, their digestive systems become less efficient. Some hormonal and metabolic changes can affect or interfere with their ability to digest, absorb, and utilize essential nutrients in their feed, especially protein, phosphorus, and fiber. Many horses benefit from eating a diet that includes senior feed.
When out shopping for feed, use this list to know which feed would work best. The senior horse diet should be:
A horse that can chew its feed properly will waste less, get more nutritional value from feed, and be less likely to choke or have colic. Have your veterinarian examine and float your horse’s teeth at least once a year — twice annually if the horse is over age 20. This will keep his teeth in good working order and help him get the most from his food. It also gives the veterinarian a chance to check for broken or lost teeth, and check for tongue, gum or other problems.
While there is a lot you can do to keep your older horse healthy and spry, some conditions associated with aging require medical intervention. Your veterinarian can identify and treat such things as tumors, hormone imbalances, renal disease, Cushing’s syndrome, arthritis, reproductive problems, and other issues. Remember that older horses are at greater risk of developing laminitis (founder), so proper nutrition is essential.