Feeding Senior Horses
Feeding older horses can present a wide range of considerations, and as ever we continue to treat each horse as an individual.
Improving top line may be your primary concern, maybe your older horse is a good doer so weight loss may be important for maintaining prolonged health and the ability to exercise. Joint care and flexibility could be key for you target, or you may have further associated conditions to consider into your feeding plan such as Arthritis or Cushing’s (PPID).
Blue Chip Senior Feed Balancer - Available as a 10 day free trial pack, 3kg tub or 2 x 3kg refills pack.
- Begin with an ad-lib high fibre base for your horse’s diet; this includes grazing, forage (hay/haylage), chaff and fibre mashes if you choose to include those with your bucket feed.
- For horses who have compromised dentition and/or difficulties chewing long fibre, consider a short fibre option such as a forage replacer.
- The saliva created by chewing helps neutralise stomach acid and maintain healthy digestion.
- A high fibre diet which allows horses to trickle feed is always beneficial to their overall health and behaviour.
- Always provide access to clean fresh water. Older horses may find very cold-water sensitive on their teeth, so warm slightly if needed.
- You may choose to dampen or wet your horses feed to assist chewing.
- Dampening/wetting your horses feed can also improve palatability, as older horses may become fussier.
- Feed for immunity and cell support.
- A healthy digestive system is directly linked to improved immunity.
- Feed a balanced diet which is also low in starch and sugar.
- Feeding probiotics can aid fibre digestion by up to 100%.
- Feeding probiotics can decrease the likely occurrence of colic, widely associated with older horses.
- If you choose to change your horse’s feeding routine, do so slowly as older horses tend to be more sensitive to digestive upset through changes to their diet.
- Changing the diet gradually allows time for the microbiome in the gut to adapt.
- Microbiome is essential for digestion of the fibre content in the diet.
- Monitor your horses’ droppings to make sure they don’t contain longer strands of fibre which haven’t been digested properly; this is a likely sign that your horse’s digestive system is not working as effectively as it could.
- Feeding from the ground can maintain flexibility of the back and ease the chewing process placing the teeth at the correct angles with each other. This can be done with both fibre and bucket feed. For those who are stiff and reaching to the ground may be difficult, you can still feed loose (without a net) from a raised platform.
- Avoid hay nets where possible as incisor wear may also make it difficult for the horse to access the fibre which is netted.
Feeding to consider dental health:
- Make sure your older pony/horse has regular dental health checks (at least annually).
- Older horses can break and lose teeth more easily, and are at an increased likelihood to suffer from dental disease, which can lead to long term issues related to their ability to chew, including long term pain, general decreasing condition and digestive upset.
- Look out for quidding, the act of chewing and dropping the partially chewed food back onto the floor. Quidding can be in response to mouth pain or a sign that your horse has sharp points, causing extreme difficulty with the teeth being able to meet each other correctly.
- Bad breath can be a sign of diastema, where food becomes trapped and ferments between lose teeth causing decay, gum irritation and possibly even periodontal disease, which is extremely painful due to infection in the gum and even into the jaw bone in more serious cases.
Feeding for joint health:
- Feeding a good quality joint supplement (such as Joint RLF) helps to encourage range of movement and therefore the burning of additional calories for good doers.
- There are a wide range of ingredients to support joint health (such as glucosamine, MSM, hyaluronic acid, and rosehip extract), some of which are more targeted to problems such as arthritis. Our feed advisors are more than happy to discuss your horses’ particular needs.
- Keep your horse at a healthy weight to further support joint health.
- If your older horse is still competing make sure that the ingredients abide by the rules of your governing federation and are not included on the prohibited substances list. ALL Blue Chip products contain NO banned substances and are ALL both BETA NOPS* approved.
- Our Super Concentrated range is particularly beneficial for good doers as the whole range is extremely low in starch and sugar, PLUS every Blue Chip feed balancer is molasses FREE!
Feeding the poor doer, underweight or those lacking top line:
- Blue Chip feed balancers contain good levels of quality digestible protein to support muscle and cell renewal.
- For improving top line, the likely best options are Blue Chip Original or Pro feed balancer. Our feed advisors are always here to help you choose the most suitable balancer.
- Feeding prebiotics, probiotics and nucleotides all support the continued health of the digestive system, allowing your horse to absorb the full nutritional profile and calorie content of their diet which you supply. All are included in both Blue Chip Senior and Pro feed balancers.
- Correct daily levels of vitamins and minerals to support general daily health, immunity and the nervous system.
- Additional safe calories from oils, supported by anti-oxidants (also beneficial for the heart and nervous system) in the diet to combat the effect of free radicals.
- Feed additional micronized mashes for safe calorie provision.
- Keep horses suitably rugged or with suitable shelter from the elements so they don’t get cold and burn the additional calories they need in keeping warm.
- Check with your vet that there are no underlying conditions causing the weight loss.
Feeding the good doer:
- Feed low starch with no added sugar, PLUS molasses free where possible.
- A low calorie balancer coupled with a small feeding rate, removes any unwanted and unneeded calories from the diet.
- Low sugar forage, possibly soaked, supported by a feed balancer for full provision of vitamin and mineral needs daily.
- Be strict in weighing your dry forage so you don’t over feed.
- Restricted grazing (limited time, strip grazing, track system or grazing muzzle). Restricted grazing should always be supported by the provision of a feed balancer.
- Exercise where possible, anything from walking in hand, to hacking, schooling and jumping. Exercise is one of the best (and most enjoyable ways) to burn some additional calories.
- Do not allow your horse to gain too much weight during the grazing season. Keep a weekly/fortnightly record by using a weigh tape to recognise gaining trends, allowing you to take action to correct the weight gain before it has chance to take hold.
- Use winter weight loss to your advantage. Horses have evolved to safely lose weight in the winter and not maintain their summer gains.
- Older horses should not be allowed to carry excess weight as this will aggravate conditions such as arthritis, laminitis and cardiovascular stress.
- Older horses can benefit hugely from continued, regular exercise where possible.
- You may need to spend longer warming up and cooling down to allow for general stiffness to ease gradually.
- Daily movement helps improve blood flow, and encourages good circulation, plus it is good for joint mobility and digestive health too.
- Daily exercise can help ward off unwanted over-strain injuries, usually caused by long periods of no work followed by too much too soon.
- Keep work varied to maintain enthusiasm, short daily exercise (where possible) is preferred over longer sessions only at weekends or less frequently.
- For those who can’t be ridden or are on box rest, daily carrot stretches can be an invaluable way to maintain flexibility.
- Prolonged periods of being stabled should be avoided where possible.
- Look for senior feeds containing glucosamine and rosehip extract, both of which are particularly good for supporting mobility, especially for those with arthritic changes. Both of these ingredients are included in our Senior Feed Balancer formulation.
- A herbal joint support option may be preferred, our Joint Care Feed Balancer is formulated with turmeric, black pepper and oils.
- Equine Cushing’s disease (PPID) - Hormonal imbalance due to a pituitary gland tumour. Signs could include a thick, long, curly coat which does not shed easily, lack of energy and depression, pronounced fat pads, excessive drinking, sweating and urination and an increased susceptibility to laminitis.
- Arthritis and joint pain - Progressive deterioration and inflammation of the joint cartilage. Signs could include stiffness and/or lameness with reduced mobility and/or heat and swelling in the joint.
- Worm burden – Continue with an effective worm count and de-worming programme for your horse. The inclusion of worm count tests (faecal or saliva) can help you avoid medication if unnecessary.
Blue Chip product options:
- Senior Feed Balancer: For good doers, formulated with both pre and probiotics with glucosamine and rosehip extract to support joint mobility PLUS chaste tree berry for hormonal support.
- Pro Feed Balancer: For maintaining and developing top line as the formulation contains higher levels of quality digestible protein. Additional digestive support is provided by the inclusion of both prebiotics and probiotics plus nucleotides which are included in ALL Blue Chip feed balancers.
- Joint Care Feed Balancer: For good doers, formulated with turmeric, black pepper and natural oils for herbal joint support.
- Joint RLF – Liquid Joint Supplement: For joint support. Formulated with glucosamine, MSM, hyaluronic acid, yucca and manganese PLUS rosehip extract.
As always, we continue to treat every senior horse as an individual, including the fact that age is just a number, and some horses at 9 years, or even less, may need the benefits a senior diet can bring.
A chat with our friendly and helpful feed advisors can help make sure we choose the very best option for your horse.
Remember that choices can be adjustable depending on circumstances, so don’t be afraid to make these changes if needs be.
Always continue to feed according to condition, medical needs, dentition, workload, etc.
*BETA NOPS – Reducing the risk of disqualification from naturally occurring prohibited substances (NOPS) in feed. The BETA NOPS Code calls for every one of its members to evaluate the risk of NOPS contamination during each step of the manufacturing process, from field to feed sack. This includes the sourcing, storage, transport and actual processing. Suppliers of raw materials are audited on a regular basis and staff undergo rigorous training.