He’s Not “Just Old”
Thank you for your article addressing feeding requirements for the elderly horse (“Creative Cuisine for the Older Horse,” January 1999). I am the director of animal services for the county of San Luis Obispo on the central California coast. We handle all facets of animal problems, including a wide range of horse “cruelty” reports. While some of these are invalid upon investigation, many are horses with extreme weight loss.
Most people would find it unbelievable to see some of these equines, and our staff certainly gets tired of the excuses (and hostility) of the owners. We would like to wipe the phrase “he’s just old” out of the English language. Your article is exactly what we keep trying to explain.
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Complete Feeds For Seniors
You made some good points on feeding senior horses. However, you failed to mention that the Triple Crown Senior diet also contains digestive enzymes, probiotics and yeast cultures, as do all Triple Crown mixed feeds. In addition, we add kelp meal and yucca extract.
I also have a problem with your case history. The indication is that mixing supplements/feeds may be more beneficial than finding a complete diet that will do the same trick. The mixing and additions of various supplements can unbalance some of the important vitamin and mineral levels and ratios you discussed.
Triple Crown Nutrition, Inc.
You are correct that Triple Crown Senior’s fermentation products and live cultures are an important part of the formulation, and we are happy to mention them. However, they may not always be enough. In fact, the case-history horse was fed a high-quality complete senior feed but showed clear benefit in increased appetite and weight gain when he was given additional digestive enhancement in the form of Ration Plus.
We would also agree with you that feeding the senior horse a correctly balanced and fortified complete feed might be the best solution, but no feed can get the job done if the horse doesn’t eat it — or eat enough of it.
Our horse’s diet described what was the result of years of painstaking experimentation with an array of feedstuffs that would work for this horse, as judged by the only gauge that is truly reliable — how the horse looked and felt. This horse, and many others like him, posed the challenge of decreased appetite, inadequate ability to chew (lost/damaged teeth) and decreased digestive efficiency. He simply would not, or could not, eat the 17 to 18 pounds of complete feed it would have taken to maintain a normal body condition. That is a lot of feed, especially when it has to be wet first, as his did.
Triple Crown’s chopped forage was a godsend. It allowed this horse to satisfy his instinct for hay, and his overall appetite improved as a result. The other supplements provided him with concentrated sources of calories and high-quality milk protein that were able to compensate for inadequate total intake of feed/hay.
The diet this horse ultimately did well on could have used some fine tuning in terms of ideal mineral ratios, but the individual totals were adequate, and the overwhelming concern — as is the case with many older horses, especially those over 25 — was simply to find foods tempting and concentrated enough to supply him with adequate nutrients to hold his weight and keep up his energy for the few years he had remaining.
Side Effects With COPD Drugs
A warning about the side effects of COPD drugs needed to be included in your January 1999 article on heaves. I was devastated when my pony came down with COPD. On veterinary advice, I switched to a diet specifically formulated for such horses. Even though I only gave her half the recommended amount, she foundered. Many of these diets are NOT formulated for ponies.
Luckily, or maybe unluckily, we have four generations of COPD in my family and have used the drugs you mentioned. The inhaled steroids cause a fungal infection if the mouth cannot be rinsed after use, sometimes in spite of rinsing. Cromolyn sodium (Intal) can cause the lining of the nose to crack, scab and bleed. After using this on the pony, I noticed her rubbing her lower face until there was noticeable hair loss. That’s when I realized she was experiencing the same effect.
My neighbor used theophylline on his COPD horse, but the horse became so irritable he shipped him out. My own reaction was so bad that at first I thought I would end up in a mental institution. While side effects can differ between individuals and between species, these horses’ experiences turned out to be eerily similar to my own.
-Leslie Van Hulle
Green Bay, WI
Your points are valid. Inhaled steroids are not widely used in horses because of problems of delivery. Although Intal works in horses, the duration of effect is short, only of use in preventing attacks — something extremely difficult to predict in horses. We did mention the side effects of theophylline and theophylline-like products and have received other letters from readers confirming reactions.
Your experience with diet change and foundering is not surprising. Ponies are very different from horses and do not tolerate diet change well, especially involving any source of increased carbohydrate/grain or soluble fiber (such as beet pulp).
I agree with your COPD article that Clenbuterol can affect the nervous system. My vet prescribed it for my horse because of a nagging cough. I gave him less than the full dose, and he instantly broke out in a heavy sweat. He became agitated, pacing his stall for six hours. My vet did not warn me of this, and the directions on the bottle don’t either. I called my vet and was told that they had never heard of this reaction before. I discontinued the product.