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October 2013

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Feeding Senior Horses

Are you planning to do any articles on the many senior feeds coming on the market? I have a 19-year-old navicular mare that is too heavy and receives little feed, pasture and some hay. Lately, she has slowed down and at times seems depressed. Her pasture mate is a 24-year-old mare that is in good shape. Other than what the different manufacturers claim, I have never seen an independent analysis. My other concern is that manufacturers are just putting a senior label on the same old feed.

Your older horse doesn't necessarily need a senior feed, if he's doing fine on the current diet.

Horse Journal Response
The major difference between senior feeds and regular feeds is usually that the grains in senior feeds are more highly processed to make them more easily digestible, and fiber content is often higher, to allow them to be used as a complete feed if need be. The higher fiber in senior feeds usually comes from beet pulp or alfalfa. The higher the fiber content, the less calorie-dense the feed will be in most cases (e.g. compared to plain grains), but this is often offset by the addition of fat and by fact the grains are highly processed. If your mare is overweight, she doesn't really need a senior feed, and you would be better off meeting her mineral needs with a mineral or protein and mineral supplement appropriate for your area, pasture grasses and hay type. A grazing muzzle might even be in order. The cause of her slowing down and seeming depressed should be investigated by your vet.

I used Jiaogulan for the horrible laminitis/founder vaccine reaction we had last year, but we have another horse with respiratory allergies that I feed Spirulina with good results, and I wanted to know more about the research behind Jiaogulan for lung allergies.

Horse Journal Response
Briefly, respiratory problems are one of the traditional, "folk" uses for Jiaogulan. A study in guinea pigs with lung allergies found it was effective in preventing bronchospasm caused by exposure to either histamine or allergens. If you're getting good results with Spirulina, there's no particular reason to add it, but if your horse is still having problems, especially while being worked, the combination might work better for you. You can get Jiaogulan at 888-649-3931.

Bucking Problem
I purchased a three-year-old Paint mare a year ago. She had no training and was starved and abused. She looks wonderful now, and her attitude has improved. However, I sent her to a horse trainer. She did well for the first three weeks and then started bucking for no reason. It looked like a rodeo. She's been checked by the vet, and there are no health problems. I'm puzzled as to why she's bucking and what to do about it.

Horse Journal Response
There's no way to determine why your horse is bucking without seeing the situation first-hand, but we can offer some suggestions. Sometimes a horse will have gotten scared, and suddenly they're dealing with a fear that we may not be able to identify. Often these horses are also headshy, so helping her past headshyness would be a good start. Sometimes horses who have a history of abuse haven't learned how to handle their emotions. These horses are compliant when they're underfed, but when they get their strength back, they overreact, because they never learned good manners.

Regardless of the reason, the solution is to back up in the training to before the horse bucks. There's a hole someplace that needs to be filled. Don't let the horse get in the habit of bucking, or she's likely to think that's what she's supposed to do. Ask your trainer not to punish her for bucking, but instead ask her for small tasks that she can do, and build on those using repetition. That way she gets really solid in some basics before you put her back in the situation in which she bucked. She'll build her confidence and she'll learn to handle her emotions better.


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