Optimizing Senior Horse Nutrition 

This article is brought to you by Purina Animal Nutrition.

As our equine companions age, their dietary needs change. They require specialized attention to ensure they maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being. Senior horses, much like their human counterparts, undergo physiological changes that can impact their digestion, metabolism, and ability to maintain weight. In this article, we’ll delve into the key considerations for managing the weight of senior horses, highlighting expert insights and nutritional strategies. 

WHAT MAKES A SENIOR? 

For many horse owners, determining when a horse qualifies as a senior can be a nuanced task. It’s not solely about age, but rather about assessing how well the horse is thriving on his current diet. According to equine nutritionist recommendations, a senior horse is often defined by changes in body condition and performance, rather than a specific age. Signs that your horse might need special attention include increased difficulty in maintaining weight, a decline in overall appearance, and alterations in eating habits. 

When a horse’s teeth or digestive system starts to show signs of aging, such as difficulty chewing, dropping feed, or selective eating, it’s time to consider adjustments to his diet. This shift in digestion can lead to decreased absorption of nutrients from feed, resulting in weight loss and diminished vitality. 

What makes a senior? It’s not solely about age, but rather about assessing how well the horse is thriving on his current diet. Graphic courtesy of Purina.

TAILOR YOUR APPROACH 

To address the unique needs of senior horses, equine nutritionists recommend tailored approaches based on his condition and specific dietary requirements.  You must determine whether your senior’s weight loss is due to a simple calorie deficit because he has become a bit harder-keeping, or if there are larger issues at play with a decline in dental or digestive function.  First, try increasing daily calorie intake.  This could involve incorporating calorie-dense feeds with higher fat content. Or try introducing a fat supplement like Purina® Amplify® into his diet.  

It’s important to note that adding fat alone may not solve the issue. Fiber calories play a significant role in a horse’s diet. A decline in his ability to absorb fiber can lead to weight loss even if they’re consuming sufficient fat. Try upping his hay intake, or increasing the quality of the hay you are feeding, as well. If increasing calorie intake doesn’t yield satisfactory results, more comprehensive changes are necessary. 

TRANSITIONING TO THE “SENIOR” DIET 

When calorie supplementation or feeding more hay or better quality hay doesn’t sufficiently address weight loss, it’s time to consider a more senior-friendly diet. This involves incorporating more digestible fiber sources. Usually through complete feeds, which are designed to provide not only necessary vitamins and minerals but also replace digestible fiber calories. When we say complete feed, we mean that it has enough fiber built in that it could be a partial to total forage replacement. These feeds are tailored to the horse’s specific needs. They are ideal for horses that struggle with chewing or digesting traditional hay. 

It’s essential to recognize that complete feeds help seniors gain weight not due to high fat or calorie content, but because they provide the required blend of fiber, protein, and fat for senior horses’ well-being. Equine nutritionists stress that these feeds need to be offered in larger quantities than regular grain. This is because they also replace the horse’s fiber intake. While this might seem like a significant amount of feed, it’s crucial to understand that complete feeds are formulated to deliver the necessary nutrients efficiently. 

THE SCOOP ON ACTIVAGE® Prebiotic Technology

Recognizing the many challenges aging poses for horses, the equine nutritionists at Purina Animal Nutrition have developed specialized solutions. One of these innovations is ActivAge® Prebiotic Technology. This offers benefits such as supporting mobility, supporting an appropriate metabolic response, and supports a healthy metabolism in senior horses. ActivAge® can support an optimal immune response to the Influenza vaccine, support joint health as well as metabolic efficiency.  

Equine feed formulations enriched with ActivAge® technology, such as Equine Senior®,Equine Senior® Active, and Enrich Plus® Senior support aging horses’ overall well-being by providing the necessary nutrients to help horses age gracefully. 

ActivAge® can promote a balanced immune response to vaccines, support joint health as well as metabolic efficiency. Graphic courtesy of Purina.

ENJOYING HIS GOLDEN YEARS 

The care and management of senior horses go beyond just adjusting his feed. As he ages, horses undergo physiological changes that require specific dietary strategies to maintain his weight and overall well-being. Recognizing the signs of weight loss and understanding the intricacies of senior horse nutrition are essential for supporting his health in his golden years. Whether it’s increasing calorie intake, transitioning to complete feeds, or harnessing specialized technologies like ActivAge® Prebiotic Technology, providing tailored nutrition helps ensure that your senior equine companion enjoys a comfortable and vibrant life. 

FOR THE EASY KEEPER 

Some senior horses are easy keepers. This means he gains weight easily, but still requires essential nutrients that he might not get from his forage, so ration balancers are an excellent option. These feeds are formulated to provide all the essential vitamins, minerals, and protein in a concentrated form. This allows easy keepers to receive necessary nutrients without the excess calories. Products like Enrich Plus® Senior offer the benefits of a ration balancer while incorporating ActivAge® Prebiotic Technology to further support senior horses’ health. 

[Check Out This Senior Horse Care Checklist]

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