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Many horse owners, at some point in their horse owning lives, will care for a veteran horse or pony. A veteran is classed as any equine aged over 15 years old.

It is important to acknowledge that horses, like people, may need extra feeding support as they get older, especially if they have had busy competitive lives. However, it’s still important to feed according to weight, not age, as health issues linked to weight gain such as laminitis, Cushing’s disease and other metabolic problems can become more common in veteran horses.

One of the main considerations when feeding a veteran is the provision of fibre. Fibre helps to keep the horse warm. The fermentation of forage in the large intestine produces a lot of heat. This heat helps the horse maintain the correct body temperature, particularly in winter, and means he doesn’t have to use his fat reserves to keep himself snug.

Owners need to make sure their veterans have the ability to comfortably chew. Regular equine dentistry can help, but in some cases veterans struggle with long fibred forage. If this is the case, shorter length chops are available as are feeds such as sugar beet. Simply wetting feeds before serving can help ‘break’ them down so they are more palatable.

You may find your horse is losing ‘top line’ and general condition. Top line in horses is the term used to describe the muscle cover over the top of the horse’s neck, back and rump. Veterans can often lose this muscle as their work declines.

Oils are a great way of improving coat condition and there are also several brands of veteran conditioning cubes on the market that include oils, vitamins and minerals, fibre and protein to give a very balanced, simple to feed option. As with any feed, owners need to consider the workload and weight of the horse and feed in line with this, but also acknowledge that their veteran may need a few added extras.

Lastly, some veterans may suffer from arthritic joints, stiffer muscles and respiratory issues as they age and possibly do less work. Again, some feeds formulated for veterans may include ingredients that can support this – so always read the label! If your chosen feed doesn’t include extra ingredients or if you want to feed to support a particular issue, it’s advisable to seek expert guidance from your vet or supplement supplier. There are a wealth of herbs, oils, vitamin and mineral combinations available that can help to target and support the improvement of particular issues to ensure your veteran stays in tip top shape all year round.

Posted: 28/07/2016 11:41:00

Horses are hindgut fermenters; this makes them very unique in the sense that most feed digestion occurs in the hindgut, through the process of fermentation. Billions of naturally occurring bacteria and protozoa live in the hindgut and help to break down fibre, producing nutrients that fuel the horse. Normally, a balanced gut has a mixture of good bacteria, with only a few harmful bacteria, however this can be easily disrupted. Factors such as low or no grass and hay intake, undigested starch entering the hindgut, sudden changes in diet, excessive workload, dehydration and stress can all upset the delicate gut balance. When this happens, horses can suffer from gas, acidosis, colic, ulcers and other health problems.

The way that many of us manage horses can have an impact of gut function and levels of good and bad bacteria. Feeding two large feeds a day, or starchy processed food, goes against the natural function of the horse’s gut. Large meals are quickly transited through the horse’s gut, leaving an empty stomach. When the stomach is empty, the stomach lining is left unprotected from the acids that aid in digestion, a key factor in the onset of gastric ulcers.

When looking at your horse’s diet, it’s really important to be aware of how his digestive system works and offer feed in a way that supports and complements this. Through doing this, you’re not only supporting his digestive system, but also helping to reduce the likelihood of a number of digestive issues.

Posted: 15/07/2016 09:28:16