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A Helping Hand for Older Horses During the Winter

A Helping Hand for Older Horses During the Winter
9 December 2016 | Margaret Wilson


Older horses may need some extra TLC during the winter months. Adding extra vitamins and minerals can improve performance and improve the quality of life.

Improvements in veterinary care, dental care and a changing culture of horse ownership has led to horses leading longer lives. Horses are staying in competition at all levels into their late teens. These older athletes often benefit from some extra nutritional help to keep them in top form. The main checklist for older horses is regular dental care and veterinary check-ups to ensure any age related diseases are spotted early.

One of the most common complaints of this age group is lameness. It is always best to identify the specific cause of lameness and have veterinary treatment as necessary. When direct trauma, such as a fall or kick, is not causing the lameness, it is likely to be due to general wear and tear. Veterinary medication may be necessary. Adding a supplement to aid cartilage and joint fluid production can be useful both as an adjunct to medication and in sound horses to prevent future problems.

Ost-O-Flex combines glucosamine, which is a key component of cartilage. It also contains Methylsulfonylmethane for cartilage production and anti-inflammatory properties. It also includes powerful marine collagen, which is an excellent source of calcium, chondroitin sulphate and hyaluronic acid. Chondroitin sulphate is necessary for cartilage production, whilst hyaluronic acid is a key component of joint fluid.

Adding an oil to the diet will add easily absorbed calories. Which many aging horses will need to help maintain weight, particularly in the colder months. Using a linseed/flaxseed based product such as Kentucky Karron Oil will also provide omega oils 3 and 6 which support the immune system and have anti-inflammatory properties and are much applauded in human anti-aging products.

While a good balanced diet is important in all age groups, there are some vitamins and minerals that are particularly useful in older horses. The antioxidants in particular are proven to help in the antiaging battle. Supplements such as V.S.L. and Muscle Max contain Vitamin E and selenium which aid muscle health and recovery. These products also contain lysine which is an essential amino acid (protein) which helps muscle building. It is useful to remember that older horses tend to drop muscle from their topline giving the characteristic “old horse” appearance. Adding easily digested lysine to the diet helps to maintain topline. Muscle Max has the added benefit of Vitamin B which is helpful to both muscles and the digestive system.

Older horse often suffer from Cushing’s disease, more correctly called Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID). This is a disease of the pituitary gland which results in hormone imbalances in the body. The most characteristic sign of PPID in horses is that the horse has a long curly hair coat. This extra wooliness combined with rugs during the winter can make these horses sweat quite a lot which means they lose a lot of electrolytes. It is very important to add electrolytes to the diet if a horse is sweating for long periods. This can be done by adding electrolytes to the feed such as Equi-Lyte G which comes in a bucket or in sachets.

PPID may be present in horses without the long curly hair coat, it is also associated with laminitis, infertility and susceptibility to repeated infections. Please talk to your vet if are suspicious that your horse may be suffering from this disease.

Got a question about maintaining older horses? Why not contact one of our expert equine team.

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