Feeding Old HorsesBy Dr. Joe Pagan · July 25, 2011
Though many old horses, those over 20 years old, are able to maintain their body condition and health on normal maintenance rations, weight loss is not uncommon in aged horses. Dental problems, parasitism, pituitary dysfunction, and chronic pain are a few problems that may hinder intake or digestion of feedstuffs. Therefore, it is important to carefully consider the diets of geriatric horses.
If horses have no medical conditions other than dental abnormalities (but not a substantial number of missing teeth) or pituitary dysfunction, a concentrate specifically formulated for old horses is probably the wisest choice. Typically referred to as “senior” feeds, these concentrates are generally supplemented with more water-soluble vitamins, calcium, and phosphorus than other feeds. They typically contain 12 to 16% protein and a high-quality source of fiber. Alternative energy sources such as beet pulp and oil are frequently used in these feeds.
If horses are unable to chew long-stem hay, they might be given moistened hay cubes as a source of forage. If an old horse is afflicted with renal or hepatic dysfunction, a diet with a lower protein concentration and higher carbohydrate concentration should be offered. For horses with hepatic disease, beet pulp is a suitable source of fiber, though it should not be used for horses with renal disease because it is too rich in calcium. Vegetable oil can be fed to increase the caloric density of a ration for horses with renal disease, but it is not appropriate for those with hepatic dysfunction due to the risk of hyperlipidemia.
Other articles of interest: