Supporting Ageing Horses
As horses age, they start to slow down and their bodies may have experienced a lot of wear and tear. There are some very common issues that arise for horses as they age and it’s important to not only look after your old friend but to help them thrive throughout their golden years.
Areas where issues may arise in older horses
We’ve outlined the main areas below where issues may arise, with some helpful tips to help support your veteran as they age:
As horses age, their teeth can become problematic. They either lose them, or they become very blunt and unable to chew effectively. This has a knock-on effect on the gut as they aren’t able to get the forage they need and they can also experience significant weight loss.
Tip - introduce a good baseline feed, such as a high vitamin mash:
- To help your horse stay in good condition, you’ll need to feed them a mash that is high in vitamins and minerals, and also high in fibre to keep the gut working well.
- A great combination is speedy-beet (unmolassed) and chia seeds. Beet pulp takes on a lovely, soft consistency when soaked and chia seeds form a gel that coats the gut to protect it from any acid splash. High in Omega fatty acids and with a broad nutritional profile, chia seeds are an ideal addition to the diet of a veteran horse.
- Soaked hay cubes are a great option for providing forage to older horses, particularly when they aren’t able to chew stalky hay for their roughage intake any longer.
Gut and Metabolism
As horse’s age their gut motility declines and they are more prone to gastric ulcers. Additionally, they have a harder time extracting necessary nutrients from their feed. Therefore, making nutritional supplements important to ensure they get everything they need.
The baseline feeding regimen described above will help to keep their gut functioning as it should. Keeping the gut in good working order will help everything else work well and stay in good health, as well as ensure your horse’s condition holds. It’s important to keep your veteran horse in good physical condition all year, as winters can be especially difficult for an older horse given the opportunity to drop weight.
Tip - introduce bilberry leaves to their diet
- Bilberry leaves are excellent for the health of the gut and help to support the bacterial colonies in the gastrointestinal tract, necessary for effective fermentation and nutrient absorption. They also support healthy metabolic function, ideal for horses suffering from EMS or PPS.
Fermentation of roughage is the most effective method of thermoregulation for horses.
In older horses, reduced intake of stalky, leafy hay due to dental and chewing difficulties can reduce the fermentation process and make it harder for older horses to keep warm. In addition, they often hold their winter coats through the summer months making it harder for them to cool down.
Tip - use a rug or shelter at the correct time of year and feed bilberry & rosemary leaves:
- You can keep your old friend comfortable by ensuring they are sufficiently rugged in the winter . Then in summer months make sure they have access to shelter to get relief from the sun.
- Maintaining healthy circulation is also critical to keep temperature regulated. Rosemary and bilberry leaves are both brilliant herbs for this, especially when combined. They work harmoniously to maintain healthy, effective circulation in older horses.
Older horse’s tend to develop vulnerabilities in their livers and struggle with liver function decline.
This can be hard to spot, but can include leathery, weight loss, photosensitivity, an unwillingness to eat and bouts of colic. It is important to take a preventative approach and the most widely known herbal approach for supporting liver health is milk thistle seeds.
Tip - introduce milk thistle seeds:
- Milk thistle seeds are high in silymarin compounds and antioxidants. They have a cleansing effect on the liver and also support new cull generation in the liver. They reduce inflammation and have a strong detoxing effect, helping to keep the liver and its related organs healthy and functioning well.
- Milk Thistle seeds combined with cleansing, detoxing burdock root pack a powerful punch to help with function of not just the liver but also the kidneys and the pancreas.
Joints experience wear and tear over a horse’s life and by the time they are in ‘veteran’ category, we can often see them struggling with mobility and discomfort in their movement.
This is very common and there are many ways this issue can be addressed. However, joint deterioration is not reversible and so it is necessary to provide nutritional support for the joints to keep our older horses moving freely and comfortable. Read more on joint support here.
Tip - introduce boswellia to the diet:
- Boswellia (also known as Frankincense) is a wonderful herb for addressing joint issues and can help to alleviate inflammation and pain arising from joint deterioration. Combined with meadowsweet, joint care is thoroughly provided for and horses will have a higher quality of life, able to move about and graze as they should.
There are many challenges faced by the older horse. Thankfully, mother nature has much to offer in terms of relief. We have combined the most important and powerful herbs to support the health of herbal horses in a single, easy to feed supplement. Golden Oldies combines these herbs for maximum impact and ensures that horses thrive through their golden years, with mobility, gut health and internal well-being in abundance. Shop Golden Oldies here.