Aging Horse Nutrition

Senior Horse

Horses can lose muscle mass and tone as they age. The condition is known as muscle wasting, or sarcopenia.
Charles Brooks

Watch for Muscle Wasting

If you own an older horse, keep an eye out for muscle wasting. Sarcopenia, as it’s also called, is generalized muscle loss that can lead to weakness. A metabolism that changes naturally with age may be to blame, impairing your oldster’s ability to digest crude protein and absorb essential amino acids. Check with your vet, though, as there are other potential causes of muscle wasting, including Cushing’s disease, chronic lung disease, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, and equine polysaccharide storage myopathy. Lack of exercise can also be a factor, as can neglected teeth that prevent proper chewing.

[READ MORE: Senior Horse Care]

Muscles to Target

(left) H&R file photo; (right) Jennifer Paulson

The large muscles of your horse’s topline are where signs of muscle wasting will first be observable.

long ’n lowExercise that stretches and works the topline can help prevent or counteract muscle wasting.

Courtesy of Purina Animal Nutrition

Digestible Protein

Commercial senior feeds can help horses when muscle wasting is due to a lack of adequate protein and overall nutrition.

  • Protein contents of 12 to 14 percent—what older horses need.
  • Highly palatable to help seniors better absorb the nutrients they require.
  • Blends of fiber sources (often including beet pulp) help support normal digestive function.
  • Can be fed in addition to good hay or as a complete feed, dry or wetted (especially useful for seniors with chewing issues).

[READ MORE: Horse Nutrition]

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