Good Diet for Older Horse?
I just got my first horse and am wondering about the best feeding for him. His previous owner fed him grass hay/alfalfa mix and during the winter months she added grain (Safe Choice by Life Design). I believe he has also been on straight grass hay, but availability caused her to switch to a mix.
At our barn, he is currently getting grass hay/alfalfa mix 2x per day and a small amount of grain (not sure the exact kind, our barn provides basic feed with boarding). I have been told and read here a lot of differing opinions on alfalfa and grains. Part of me has the attitude, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", so as long as he seems to do well I should just keep it the same, but I want to do the right thing. I also wonder about a specific senior feed being important.
He is an 18 yr old arab/QH cross. Currently he gets worked/ridden (light work) about 1-2 hours per day. What would be a good, basic diet for him?
I like that idea "If it aint broke don't fix it"
My daughters old mare did just fine on basic feed and hay until she turned 32 years old. That was when we finally had to put her on a senior feed diet ... right now she is 36 years young
18 is not senior in my book! But age doesn't define senior as much as health and attitude. I have a 27 year old gelding that did not start getting senior until this past winter when his living circumstances changed.
If he is maintaining good condition and is neither to sluggish nor to fizzy, if his coat and hooves look healthy and his poop is solid, I would tend to agree with keeping it simple. I would definitely ask what the type of feed it is that he's getting and how much just for your own information.
I will definitely ask about the kind of grain he is getting. I guess being a first time horse owner, I get confused by all of the "free advice" I get about feeding:
"DON'T feed alfalfa, that's total sugar!"...."Oats are better than grain"......"All he needs is hay, take him off of everything else"......"No treats!"......."Get him extra supplements (of varying varieties)"....."Oats are terrible for a horse!"......."Alfalfa will make him hot and hyper!"......"He only needs a salt block"......"Get him a mineral block"......etc. etc.
So many helpful people around the barn for sure :-) It just makes me wonder if I am doing the best thing for my horse. I guess there are a lot of opinions and I realize that horses are individuals and have varying needs. I will continue in the way I am going at this point. I can adjust if and when there is a need based on his overall health and behaviors.
Every horse is an individual and no two horses will do the same things with the same feeding regimen. Having said that, there are some basics that are generally true: hay is essential for horses and ought to make up the bulk of their diet. Which varieties of hay is very subjective. My mare gets a change every few bales: I rotate between Lucerne (high in protein and sugars), Rye Grass, Clover, and Oaten Hay. In addition, I give her two bagged feeds: one is called Maxi Soy and is fed wet, the other is a chaff mixture which includes molasses, sunflower seeds, essential oils and grains such as corn. From time to time, I add Apple Cider Vinegar and LSA Mix just as supplements. I vary the quantities of her feed based on her body condition and time of year - she is fed twice daily in winter and usually once daily over summer as she has access to pasture (she's kept on a 5 acre paddock which has natural pasture growth most of the year). My mare is 15 yrs old so isn't on any senior horse supplements or feed as yet but I will introduce it when I feel it has become necessary.
Definitely find out what your horse is being fed. It's crucial that you know this...what if you change the location where your horse is kept?
Well, 18 isn't ancient although it is technically a senior age. I like to keep it simple, and it sounds like his diet was kept simple and nutritious. I really like purina, nutrena or manna-pro senior feeds. If he were mine, I would replace the grain with a senior feed in the winter. It is formulated to ensure their decreasing ability to absorb nutrients is "made up for", which in turns makes sure they get more of what is available from the rest of their intake - and I have always gotten good results w it.
But, like you said - everyone has a different opinion. My friend has a 32 yo senior that, due to dietary restrictions, can only have laken lite (alfalfa/grass pellet) and he is a very healthy looking older gentleman. So, there you have it.
As was said above, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If he's in good weight and looks healthy, no need to change. But I would ask what and how much he currently gets to have a base to work off in case he does develop problems.
You will find great advice here, if you need it:-)
Well whoever told you oats are better than grain doesn't know what they're saying because oats are a grain. That's considered light work and feeding mostly hay with a ration stabilizer or a mixed pellet is fine. A mineral or salt block won't do harm. Digestive systems change as horses age so he may need supplements ore more energy rich foods as he ages but as long as he's in a good condition then don't worry about what everyone else says. If you're worried about it you can always call the vet or a nutritionist to see what they've got to say about his diet.
All grains are NOT the same. From the University of Kentucky...
Historically, oats has been the grain most often fed to horses. Of the common grains for horses, it is the most nutritionally balanced and best for the horse's overall health. Compared to other grains, whole grain oats are high in fiber(10.5% to 12%), lower in starch and are more easily digested. These benefits reduce the risk of colic and laminitis (flounder), making oats the safest grain to feed horses. In addition, the presence of 5% fat provides both nutritional value and additional energy in a safe form, as opposed to pure carbohydrates which can increase the risk of laminitis.
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