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25.1.2022 How To… Care For The Older Horse… In 10 Easy Steps: Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Feeding

The older horse might need different management to the younger horse, particularly in terms of feeding. As always, each horse should be assessed and treated as an individual. An older horse who is overweight is clearly getting enough calories from his feed and may benefit more from a weight loss program than from increasing his feed. Your horse might be absolutely fine on the same diet that he’s been on his whole life. Often, though, horses lose weight as they age, and it becomes a challenge to maintain the weight, especially through the winter.

One of the key issues is that the teeth wear out or become damaged. Some of the signs of this are quidding (dropping the food when it’s chewed, instead of swallowing it), food coming out the side of the mouth, being more unwilling to eat, eating more slowly, and losing weight. If your horse is struggling to eat his hard feed, you might need to soak it to make it easier for him, so that he still gets the nutrients, and to reduce the risk of choking.

An older horse will sometimes cough more than a younger horse. If this is the case for your horse, you could soak or steam his hay. Also, make sure that his bedding is as dust free as possible. He might find it more difficult to keep warm or cool than he used to, so you might need to adjust your management in both summer and winter to take this into account.

A ground feeder, a tub such as the Haygain Forager, or a device such as the Hay Cube, are good methods of feeding all stabled horses, not just older horses. It can be particularly important for the older horse, though, as they stiffen up through their neck and spine. There are many supplements available for the older horse, and I recommend discussing with your vet whether these are appropriate for your horse.

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion

January 25, 2022
Sue Palmer