We all hate to think of our animals aging. However, with good nutrition and attention to their health, we can do our best to make sure that this is as slow and painless as possible!
Nutrition is the basis by which we can treat and prevent health issues. What is at the base of nutrition – hay! Good quality, dust-free, mold-free hay! Getting your hay tested will give you a leg up on where the nutrition is lacking and allows you to supplement as needed. Don’t underestimate the power of your senses in choosing hay too. Open a bale or grab a handful from between the layers of a round bale. Shake – does it look dusty? Smell it – does it smell dusty or moldy? Only a nice sweet smell should reach your nostrils. Look at it – do you see foxtails, other plants in it, high clover level, do you see really coarse stems? Does it have a good stem and leaf quantity? Further, depending on your individual horse – do they benefit from more alfalfa to help good muscle building, higher exercise levels, higher calorie concentration? Or do they have conditions like Cushing’s or Equine Metabolic Syndrome, and in some of those animals keeping their weight down is the goal. Other horses get loose stool on too high a quantity of alfalfa in the diet. Find what works best for your senior horse.
Then fill in the gaps with a good quality senior feed – these are readily digestible for horses who don’t absorb their calories well. Alternative options include other grains, soaked alfalfa cubes, and soaked beet pulp. Sometimes they need these concentrated feeds that help them when they ingest less feed while getting more from it. This is important from the standpoint of dental condition too – as our horses reach their later senior years, regular dental checks are important, and teeth lose their height, and grinding ability, or they are losing teeth. Soft, short-cut feed can be very important for those horses to keep weight on.
Don’t forget to add in a loose vitamin-mineral mix to help their body function and utilize all their nutrients. Other supplements for their joints and coat or probiotics for gut health can help keep our seniors in tip-top shape!