Taking Care of Older Horses
Ageing is a natural continual process. It is influenced by many factors like genetics, nutrition, environment, use of the horse and many others factors. Currently horses in their 20’s and older are considered geriatric. Older horses require closer monitoring regarding their health.
One of the main problems older horses develop is dental disease, meaning we recommend monitoring how the horse is eating. The most common signs are reluctance to eat, food dropping from mouth and packing food inside the mouth. A more general symptom is losing weight without any other more obvious reasons. All these symptoms indicate that horse needs to have a dentist appointment. Most common problems for older horses include missing teeth, sharp edges, wave mouth and periodontal pockets. To prevent these problems, it is recommended to have an equine dentist check your horses teeth bi-annually, and even more often if recommended. The equine dentist may also recommend diet changes and you may need to consider whether the horse can still be ridden.
Another of the most important aspects of taking care of older horses is providing a sufficient diet. The diet should include more frequent smaller meals rather than a few large meals. The diet should consist of more easily digestible fibre rather than indigestible fibre. It is recommended not to exceed more than 30% total fibre. With a decreased ability to absorb protein in the digestive tract, the feed offered to the geriatric should be higher in protein than that given to younger horses, usually around 14% protein. It is also recommended to add supplements for geriatric horses. If your horse has been diagnosed with diseases like laminitis, equine metabolic syndrome or other metabolic and gastrointestinal related diseases, we recommend discussing diet with a vet.
Hoof care is another essential aspect to providing the older horse the best care. It is crucial to maintain good hoof care in geriatric horses even if they are not in work. It is generally recommended to have a farrier attend to a geriatric horse’s feet once or twice a year. Some horses would require a farrier even more often, every six or eight weeks. It is a good idea to monitor the horses gait, noticing any changes and if the horse is still walking correctly, if there are any cracks or the hoof is spliting. Some horses would require special diet supplements. An important problem related to the hoof in older horses is laminitis, which may well require veterinary attention.
Understanding the needs for geriatric horses will increase your horses quality of life. The main aspects are monitoring the older horse carefully, perfoming regular health check ups, dentistry appointments and providing a suitable diet.