Tuesday 5th January, 2016
Every horse owner wants to take great care of their horse at every stage of life, and thanks to the wonders of modern technology and advances in veterinary care our equines are living longer healthier lives than ever before. When caring for our elderly equines there are some very important considerations to be made so we have listed our top five tips to help keep your veteran in fine fettle.
The good old British weather is nothing if not predictable, and even the hottest summer can still see torrential rain storms and gale force winds at times. Shelter from the elements is vital for elderly equines, not least because the cold, damp weather can play havoc with their joints. Owners automatically assume that a cosy warm stable is the answer to their horse’s needs, however standing around in a cold stable can actually cause stiffness and prolonged discomfort in arthritic limbs. A large field shelter that is big enough to accommodate all the horses in the field is often a more suitable solution as it encourages your horse to remain mobile yet offers protection from the elements.
There is no denying the regular exercise keeps both you and your horse fit and healthy, but as horses gain in years their joints become less mobile and they can lose muscle tone, therefore they will require an exercise regime with reduced impact. Road work should be kept to a minimum, as should schooling in a deep sand ménage where the horse’s limbs are put under increased strain. Try and exercise for short periods of time of 20-30 minutes with a mixture of light schooling in a field or shallow ménage and hacking out.
As horses get older their metabolism changes meaning they do not require the high energy mix they once enjoyed as a youngster. When their training schedule decreases so too will the amount they eat, and instead of concentrates the main bulk of their feed is likely to be alfalfa which is high in fibre and aids the digestion process. Overfeeding an elderly horse can make him prone to putting on weight which adds considerable strain to the aged, brittle bones in his limbs and also make him more vulnerable to conditions such as laminitis. Be aware of turning elderly horses out on to fresh spring pastures for this reason also and restrict grazing as necessary.
The onset of warmer weather is a welcoming prospect for all horse owners, particularly if your horse is prone to mud fever, yet the hard grounds of sun scorched paddocks can be rather unforgiving on elderly feet and limbs. Ensure your horse is regularly shod and monitor him for any signs of lameness each day. Supplements such as glucosamine chondroitin, omega 3 and cod liver oil can help to keep your horses joints nice and supple.
Horses’ hooves take a great deal of pressure and as they get older, the hooves have a tendency to become drier and more brittle which makes them prone to cracks and other damage. Regularly examine your horse’s feet each day to check for signs of bruising, puncture wounds or damage to the hoof wall and ensure you treat the hooves with a conditioning oil to nourish and protect the hoof. Biotin supplements are very useful as a preventative measure and for treatment of weak, damaged hoof walls as it helps to increase the strength of the hoof wall itself to facilitate repair.