Caring for the older horse...all tips and advice welcome
We are now the owners of a 25 year old quarter horse mare. She became a rescue horse when her previous owner died and the family did not take care of her. She is utd on her shots, coggins, had her teeth floated and her feet done. She has no arthritis or no other health conditions that we know of. The only difference between her and my 12 year old gelding that I can see is her body conditions (due to her lack of care) and the fact that she can't chew hay well. She is on 4 scoops of purina senior a day (divided up into 2 feedings a day). She is peppy and healthy, but I have never owned an older horse and want to make sure we are meeting all of her needs to ensure that she is around for a long time. I also want to know if we can feed her alfalfa cubes (soaked in water first)?
A great book to read is Care and Management of the Older Horse, by Heather Scott Parsons. Personally I see no issues with feeding her soaked alfalfa pellets, as long as you are weighing it out, and making sure that she is getting the right amount, factoring in the senior feed.
From what I've been told by several vets, senior feed is actually supposed to be fed as a replacement for hay in the older horse that can no longer chew hay, though it obviously works great in an older horse as an add on to help maintain weight on a harder keeper who can still eat hay. I am not sure how much a "scoop" is of the senior feed, but it is good to be splitting the grain into two meals instead of giving it to her all at once.
I would just keep an eye on her, especially as she adjusts to a new place, and make sure that she eats what you are feeding her, and just pay attention to exactly how much of what she's getting. With my dad's old gelding, we always added the 4-Flex joint supplement to his grain, as well as my Thoroughbreds grain, as more of a preventative measure, then a fix for a problem that was already there. I would highly recommend it even if your horse isn't arthritic, or sore, just to keep things moving right.
As long as she's happy, peppy, and isn't losing a bunch of weight, I would just stick with what you've been doing, and only make adjustments if needed. I think that a lot of people think that owning an older horse means more grains and supplements, and extra special care above and beyond what a horse in his teens might need, but often times the problem lies in the fact that they get too much other stuff when they would be great with less. Get her teeth checked often, as she is older, keep on top of the feet as well. Lots of praise, and love, and as long as she is willing, and able, keep riding her. It will keep her happier and healthier in the long run.
I'm glad that you were willing to take on an older horse, and are wanting to make sure that she stays happy and healthy knowing that she already requires some extra care. Kudos to you. Put up pics if you can.
One of our local feed stores just had Purina put on a horse feed seminar and I found it very informative. The bottom line is that the company does a lot more in research then any other that I am familiar with. That being the case, plus the fact that their feed is not "fixed formula", and after doing the math I found that my cost per horse per month was on a par with the feed I've been using, I'm making the switch to their feed.
The reason for that whole dialog (if you were able to get through it) is that their feed if formulated to contain all the vitamins and minerals necessary without having to use any supplements and, in fact, use of supplements is actually redundant.
So ... my suggestion would be to use their senior formula feed and you really need nothing else unless there is a problem with her teeth. You can also call Purina and they will work with you over the phone to get you on the right track. There are a lot of "old wives tales" out there with a lot of old wives saying that "this is the way that we've always done it". I like to stay up to date on what is working today.
I have to admit that after taking care of horses for ~30 years, I learned something new concerning feed.
dressagebelle- Thanks for the book suggestions and advice. We have the vet out every six months to do vaccinations and check teeth, so she should get all that she needs in that area. She is underweight at the moment...she was a rescue (not by us though). So she has lots of weight still to gain and she needs some muscle built up in her. She will be a trail horse for my kid. While that's not an easy job, a lot of most trails we do at a walk. The way she acts and feels right now she should be able to handle that for a few years to come. As for me taking on an older horse, I feel that she has a lifetime of experience to offer my daughter and will be able to keep her safe on the trail. As her reward for that, when she is unable to handle the trails anymore, she will be kept as our pet and pasture ornament. So you see, it's not an act of kindness....we both have something we can offer each other :lol:
Iride-Good for you for being open minded. Most people who have been in the horse business that long won't even consider doing anything different. We already have her on Purina senior, so I'm really glad that's the way to go. I was worried she was missing something by not being able to eat the hay. Sounds like I was wrong, so I'm not gonna worry about the alfalfa cubes. In May we are going to reopen our pastures, so she will have grass then. You know how that goes though, halfway through summer we will probably have to close it off again because of the drought that we always get. It's interesting that purina will give you advice over the phone. I think I will give them a call and see what they say, but I think I've already got great advice right here :wink: Thanks!
My Appy mare lived to be roughly (were never 100% sure on her age) 34-36 years. Towards the end she was still happy, but her cushings made it nearly impossible to manage her in the winter (body temp regulation and that whole bit). I firmly believe she would have lived longer had we lived in a warmer climate.
I really can't even remember back to the days when she was 25! Back then it was just preventative care and management. She was 100% sound and healthy until around 28, and then we had to start using joint supplements and feeding her softer foods. She also got wet alfalfa cubes instead of hay.
For right now, stick with a good senior food and keep her teeth as healthy as possible and you're good to go :) I hope she lives just as long as my love did!
Thanks Squeak. I really hope she has many years left in her. My daughter loves her already.
Purina doesn't add Probiotics to their feed, so a couple of times a month either give her some paste probios, or add yogurt to her feed. Thats the only complaint with Purina I have. I can't say enough good about Probiotics. The good bacteria helps with digestion and makes sure they're getting the most out of their food.
What has worked for me with an older horse, and kept him in good weight is this... Nutrena Senior mixed with steamed rolled oats and alfalfa pellets, soaked to make a mash as he had some teeth missing, twice daily. In the summer I'd back off the alfalfa pellets. In the winter I'd add corn oil occasionally if it was seriously cold just as a boost.
(amounts vary from horse to horse and is something you'll have to figure out for yours regardless of what you feed)
Good luck with whatever 'recipe' you use, and get that probios! The feeds that have probios included, on the bag tag it will say lactobacillius etc etc....
I used purinas equine senior for years without any issues and then Pistol started having diarreah so I switched to Triple Crown Senior which is working great for me. I think you just have to play around to see what works best for you. Pistol can't eat hay anymore, he dips it in water and chews it into a cud and then spits it out. I give him the hay cubes and dump a little water on them. He doesnt NEED them, but he does enjoy them.... (I don't give him a bunch, maybe 10 or 15 cubes in a flat pan under his feed dish.
I appreciate threads like this, because Nelson is turning 21 this month *on the 23rd* and we've had a rough spell in Jan, but he's come a very long way since then *knocks on wood*
He thrives on a round bale infront of him. He is currently getting Purina Senior, and Purina Ultium *Ultium is more beatpulp based as I've been told*
He's on 2 pounds of Senior, and 3 pounds of Ultium = 5lbs per feeding, twice a day. Before he was only on Senior, and was doing well on that, plus hay, plus pasture - but he was in his late teens then, and when he had that very bad spout in Jan, he lost alot of weight. Since that month, I've had a very hard time getting weight on him, which was why I added Ultium after a thread here on HF and advised by my Vet *because it is beatpulp based*
I do have him on added Suppliments though with the mix of the the purina feeds, for digestion and ulcers *because of the Jan sit* and advised by Vet, older horses digestive system isn't as what it would be in younger horses, their system breaks down over time making it not as strong as it would of been in their teens and earlier. So I added Digestive Aids to his diet.
SmartPak's sups - SmartDigest Ultra, SmartGut and TractGuard. They have probiotics and prebiodics and other essential ingredients to help our older horses thrive in their senior years.
Not saying all Senior horses need these, some are far more healhier than others, just as cases vary in humans - but there are products out there that can help. I love SmartPak.
Nelson is doing well now *again, knocks on wood* but I worry about when he hits 22, 23, 24, 25 and so on. So I appreciate threads like this.
I like threads like this too.. always up for new information. btw MIE, Nutrena Senior has beet pulp too, and flax... just a fyi. However there is a Nutrena Senior without beet pulp, so have to check the bag.
I use the beet pulp one
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