More than 15 percent of the U.S. equine population is older than 20 with many still participating in athletic activities. With so many of today’s horses living and working into their late 20's and even 30's, it is important to adjust their nutrition programs as they age.
First and foremost, a senior horse must be on a routine dental evaluation program. The years take a toll on a horse’s teeth, resulting in tooth loss and deterioration of the biting surface. A horse that is unable to properly chew his food will not be able to keep a healthy body condition and could possibly choke on his feed. An equine dental professional should examine the horse’s mouth at least yearly, and as the horse ages, maybe every six months.
As a horse ages, the effectiveness of his digestive tract to absorb nutrients declines. Research has found that there is a decreased absorption of phosphorus, vitamins and especially proteins. It’s important to provide a feed that contains quality protein, which is determined by its amino acid content. Soybean meal is an excellent protein source for aged horses because of its high quantities of lysine and threonine. Alfalfa meal is also another good source of the amino acid leucine, which helps in preventing loss of muscle mass.
Production of the enzyme needed for starch digestion can diminish with age, allowing too much starch to enter the hindgut. The microbial fermentation of starch will cause the hindgut to become more acidic, causing hindgut acidosis, which can make a horse more prone to colic and laminitis. To improve the stability of the hindgut, make sure the feed has sufficient levels of yeast cultures, prebiotics and probiotics as well as natural digestive enzymes for proper nutrient utilization.
Obtaining sufficient fiber is important to maintain a healthy digestive tract. However, ensuring a senior horse receives adequate fiber can be a challenge if he has lost too many teeth or they are too degraded for chewing hay or grass. Beet pulp in a senior feed is an excellent fermentable fiber source, and can be mixed with water to make a wet mash for easier digestion.
Intensify®Senior Therapy: This product contains high quality protein of 14 percent and an elevated fat level of 8 percent. The Bluebonnet Feeds “Intensify Technology” combines cutting-edge nutrition with high-quality ingredients and specialized milling processes to increase digestive performance. Intensify Senior Therapy can be fed as a complete feed with or without hay or pasture.
Horseman's Elite Senior Care: This product is designed to provide superior nutrition on a budget. High levels of fiber and an easy-to-chew pellet make this an ideal feed for senior horses.
Stride®Transform DSI®: This supplement is designed to improve and protect the equine digestive system by helping reduce colic, ulcers, diarrhea and other gastric disturbances. Transform DSI® naturally increases nutrient absorption from forage and feed and increases digestive efficiency by more than 30 percent.