Q: How can I determine if my horse is a "senior" horse?
A: Watch for certain physical signs including chronically low body condition, loss of muscle over the topline leading to a swaybacked appearance, graying of the coat and hollowing out of the supraorbital grooves over the eyes.
Q: How do I determine if my horse should be moved from the "mature" to the "senior" category?
A: This depends on each horse. While most consider 20 to be the beginning of old age in horses, there is no real age limit that horses reach in which they are considered chronologically old.
Q. How can physiological characteristics affect a horse's nutritional status?
A. There are four main characteristics:
1. Deteriorating dental health effects the consumption of hay - the most crucial part of a horse's diet. A senior horse with bad teeth will not be able to chew and process long stem forage, so alternative fiber sources, such as alfalfa pellets or cubes, soybean hulls or beet pulp must be provided in the diet.
2. Decreased digestive efficiency causes the need for a highly digestible, nutrient dense diet. Older horses cannot metabolize nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals as easily and effectively as they did when they were younger.
3. A changing metabolism means that some older horses may have no problems maintaining weight and become "easy keepers" while others may develop problems in holding their weight and become "hard keepers."
4. Arthritis can cause pain and stress to an animal leading to a reduction in weight or going off feed completely. In group feeding situations, arthritic horses may not be able to fend off other horses to eat their feed. Careful monitoring is a must for senior horses, especially those housed in group situations.
Q: What does a nutritional plan look like for a senior horse?
A: When feeding senior horses, it is a good idea to use a specially formulated commercial grain mix that compliments the forage being utilized. This ensures that the protein, vitamins and minerals in the mix are adequate for a senior horse's higher nutritional needs and are correctly balanced to fit their nutrient requirements. Look for a feed with a high amount of fiber in the grain to compensate for any loss in ability to process hay due to deteriorating teeth. Some senior feeds can even be fed as complete feeds, or can be fed in place of hay. Pelleted feeds are best for those senior horses with poor teeth because they are easier to process and digest. Also, choose a feed with low starch and sugar levels. Because senior horses are more susceptible to metabolic disorders, like Cushing's disease and insulin resistance, you can reduce the risk by selecting the correct feed.
Q: What products for aging horses are available by Buckeye? Nutrition?
A: Buckeye? Nutrition has three formulations designed for the older horse: Senior Texturized, Senior Complete Feed and Senior GC. Senior Texturized is designed for healthy, older horses with functional teeth that can still eat hay. The Senior Complete Feed is a pelleted, complete feed designed for older horses with poor teeth that can no longer eat hay and are difficult to keep in good condition. The high level of digestible fiber makes it safe to feed at high levels in order to supply the fiber no longer available from hay. Senior GC is designed for older horses with functional teeth that can still eat hay but require additional joint support and condition. This formula can eliminate the need for additional joint supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate or methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).
Q: Where can I get more information about feeding my aging horse?
A: For more information about available equine nutrition products and feeding advice from Buckeye? Nutrition, visit www.BuckeyeNutrition.com or call the Buckeye? Nutrition Care Line at (800) 898-9467.