Chances are, your horse is going to live a very long time. Why not make those senior years as happy and healthy as possible? Previously, we showed you how to diagnose and deal with dental problems in senior horses. In this article, we’ll explain how to diagnose and manage the two other common problems associated with aging horses.
Sensitivity to Stress
The older your horse gets, the more jarring change becomes. Stress can be caused by differentiations in environment and housing. Also, alterations in the pecking order or pain can be large sources of stress.
Senior horses are particularly sensitive to changes in temperature. This doesn’t always mean their environment is getting hotter or colder. For instance, if your horse loses or gains weight, this can affect the fat cover that acts as insulation for her body. Although the temperature around your horse hasn’t changed, how her body interacts with the temperature has. Sensitivity to cold could also be a result of a senior horse’s inability to chew and take in adequate amounts of fiber. It’s the fermentation of fiber in the horse’s hindgut that produces heat to help warm the horse.
The best way to deal with senior horses’ sensitivity to stress is to limit change when possible. For instance, keeping your horse in the same stall and following the same routine can help. When managing a senior horse, try not to add any new horses into her herd or pasture if possible as this will change the pecking order.
Decreased Nutrient Absorption
As horses get older, their digestive tracts begin to lose efficiency. This means their intestines pull less nutrients out of their feed as it goes through their bodies. So while your horse might be eating the same amount, they’re not necessarily getting the same level of nutrition. Research studies have shown that “nutritionally senior” horses require additional protein, phosphorus and certain vitamins. Senior horses with inadequate protein intake will actually break down their own muscle tissue to provide essential protein for other body functions. Just like how we all end up eating baby food when we get older, so too must a horse’s diet revert to its younger years. The protein content of a senior horse’s diet should be similar to a yearling’s.
Standlee Premium Western Alfalfa/Timothy Pellets and Beet Pulp Pellets are some of the best forms of nutrition for your senior horse. See if these forage options are right for your favorite four-legged friend by viewing more details at standleeforage.com under products.