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  • May 04, 2023 3 min read

    Feeding the Golden Oldie 

    Older horses can provide so much joy for their owners and riders. They usually have a "been there and done that" attitude, so they can be dependable and quiet, which makes them perfect for teaching novice riders, or for when you may need a quiet ride on the trails. When they eventually retire, they make fantastic companions and can help teach the younger horses confidence and manners. However, keeping our older horses looking great can be a challenge, as just like us, when we age, their body functions will begin to slow and won't work as efficiently. So, to help them look (and feel!) like the steed they once were, we can make some changes to their diet and care, which will help maintain their health and well-being. In this article, we will discuss the best feed to feed an older horse for weight gain and overall health.

    • Hay 

    Hay is a vital component of any horse's diet, especially for older horses. Hay provides horses with essential fibre, which helps maintain healthy gut function and promotes proper digestion. A diet high in fibre can help prevent colic, which is a common digestive issue in older horses. Hay should be the foundation of an older horse's diet and should make up the majority of their feed.

    However, if the horse has damaged or worn molars, then feeding hay is not recommended. This is because the horse cannot chew it enough for it to be properly digested. This can lead to other problems, such as colic. Instead, feed forage that has been processed, such as chaff or soaked hay cubes. 

    • Lucerne 

    Lucerne is a type of hay that is high in protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients. For an older horse, lucerne can be an excellent source of nutrition and can help them maintain their weight. Just be sure to feed Lucerne chaff, especially to horses that have worn teeth, to allow for ease of chewing and to increase digestive efficiency. 

    • Super Fibres 

    Super fibres such as sugar beet pulp and soybean hulls are excellent fibre sources for the senior horse! Super fibres are high in fibre and low in sugar and starch, which is precisely what an older horse needs, as these feeds are easily fermented in the horse's hindgut. Further, you can soak these feeds, making them fantastic for a horse with little teeth! 

    • Senior Horse Feed 

    Many feed companies offer specialised senior horse feeds that are designed to meet the nutritional needs of older horses. These feeds are typically high in fiber and low in sugar and starch, and may also contain added vitamins, minerals, and digestive enzymes. Senior horse feed can be an excellent option for horses that have difficulty maintaining weight, as it provides a concentrated source of nutrition in a form that is easy to digest. 

    • Supplements 

    In addition to hay, lucerne, super fibres, and senior horse feed, there are also a variety of supplements that can help older horses maintain their weight. These supplements may include probiotics, digestive enzymes, and joint supplements. Supplements should be used in conjunction with a balanced diet and should be selected based on the individual needs of the horse.

    • Make sure grains are cooked

    As previously mentioned, older horses find it more challenging to digest starch. So, if you choose to feed your horse grains, ensure they have been cooked (boiled, extruder, micronized, or steam flaked) so that the starch content is easier to digest. 

    Feeding an older horse to maintain weight requires a balanced diet high in fiber and low in sugar and starch. Hay should be the foundation of an older horse's diet, and Lucerne, beet pulp, senior horse feed, and supplements can provide additional nutrition and support. At Oakford Stockfeeds, we are here to help! If you need any advice in selecting a feed suitable for your horse, please visit us in store or online! 

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