03 May Management Tips for the Older Horse
As much as we may not want to accept it, time does eventually catch up with our beloved horses and ponies.
As they become older, issues such as arthritis, stiffness, weaker immune systems, hormonal changes and more can take a heavy toll on their quality of life. Fortunately, we are better equipped than ever to deal with such issues, with management information and products being widely available.
So what are some of the issues we’re likely to run into with our four-legged geriatric friends, and how can we help address them?
*Less able to cope with extreme environmental conditions like cold and heat: provide adequate shelter against the elements and ensure rugging is appropriate for the conditions. Provide extra feed in the colder months to make up for the loss of energy used in keeping warm.
* Issues with digestion: ensure that feed is both palatable and nutritious. Hormonal and metabolic changes can affect your horse’s ability to digest and use essential nutrients in their feed, so it’s important that their intake and condition is monitored. The feed should be clean, dust-free, and contain enough energy, vitamins and minerals. Our Thompson and Redwood Horse Cubes are a suitable pelleted feed for use with chaff/hay, containing a palatable and balanced mix of ingredients designed specifically for older horses. It may also be necessary to keep them separated from younger horses that will try to compete for feed.
* Dental care: horses have ‘hypsodont’ teeth. This essentially means that their teeth erupt continuously throughout their lives (to compensate for the constant grinding which wears away their teeth), with only a certain amount of reserve crown. Older horses are far more predisposed to things like gum disease, the possibility of fractured teeth, and loose/worn teeth. A specialised equine dentist should be used at least once per year.
* Stiffness and loss of mobility: just like humans, horses will experience wear and tear throughout their lives, with things like arthritis and stiffness being common in older horses. Some tips to alleviate this include gentle exercise and stretching to reduce stiffness and muscle loss, adding a joint supplement such as Glucosamine or Hyaluronic Acid, and keeping your horse at a healthy weight. Longer term pain relief and joint mobility can be found in herbal products containing Devil’s Claw, such as the Dodson & Horrell ‘Mobility’ blend. This product also contains Comfrey Leaf, Dandelion + Nettle to support normal cell renewal as well as bone and joint integrity, and Celery Seed + Burdock Root to promote joint and muscular function.
Thus, while older horses are certainly more susceptible to health issues and mobility problems, there are a number of management tips that we can adhere to help them live long, comfortable lives. It’s common nowadays for horses and ponies to live well into their twenties (and even thirties), so it is worth having a retirement plan for your furry friend that takes this into account!