If the horse is getting on in years, its needs also change. With the wrong feeding and husbandry, the aging curve is unfortunately very steep. We have therefore put together a guide for you on what you should pay attention to, how you support your animal and how you feed an old horse so that it remains vital. Find out more here.
How to Recognize an Old Horse
If you want to convert the age of a horse into human years, you can use a factor of 3 to 4. This explains relatively easily when an animal is generally considered “old”. For example, the 20-year mark (around 60 human years) is usually set for a slow change in feeding.
Age is Relative
But it’s not just the number that matters. On the contrary: age is relative. Because while some horses are still romping around and romping around at 20, others are already very sluggish and look dull overall. Therefore, pay attention to external clues. These clearly tell you whether your horse is getting old and you should make appropriate changes to its keeping. The following are such signs:
- The back lowers;
- Weight loss;
- Muscle breakdown;
- Skin appears dry and slack;
- Cloudy eyes;
- Graying of the fur (usually starting on the face);
- Change of fur takes longer;
- The onset of age-related diseases (especially dental and digestive problems, laminitis, shortness;
- Of breath, weather-related colic, spatula, osteoarthritis).
Incidentally, the reason for these phenomena is metabolism. This decreases significantly from around the age of 20. This means that an old horse no longer has such a strong immune defense. In addition, the ability to regenerate is significantly restricted. This also means that processes such as liver detoxification and cell regeneration take longer.
The Life Expectancy of a Horse
Now that you know when a horse is considered old, you might also be interested in how old it can get in the first place. As a rule, one speaks here from 25 to 30 years. However, with proper feeding and adjustments in keeping, the lifespan can be significantly extended. Of course, medical care also plays a role, as does the breed and size of the animal. The large cold-blooded and warm-blooded animals usually have a shorter life expectancy than smaller conspecifics.
By the way: the oldest documented horse in the world was 62 years old. Old Billy was a cross of a Shire Horse and Welsh Cob and was worked in Britain for over 50 years in the 18th century. In general, small horses such as Icelandic or fjord horses, which are particularly robustly built, have the best chance of getting particularly old.
What to Feed Old Horses?
An old horse usually has a lower energy requirement than a young animal. This also means that the basal metabolic rate drops. Again, that doesn’t mean you can just cut down on the food ration. Instead, you should tailor them to suit your pet’s needs. Because an old horse needs significantly more essential nutrients. These include, for example, minerals, vitamins, and trace elements.
If the horses get the appropriate support, it helps them to strengthen the immune system again, to accelerate regeneration processes, and to increase their general health. But what does that mean specifically for you and what should you feed now? You stimulate the metabolism with it. We clarify!
The Most Important Nutrients
We have just mentioned: an old horse has special requirements for its feed. It should be particularly rich in essential amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and trace elements. These should of course be given in a high-quality form, because the older the animal, the worse it absorbs these substances in the body and processes them further. We can recommend this product to you.
Magnesium for the Heart
Magnesium ensures that the heart function is strengthened or remains intact. This can also reduce tarnished legs and weather sensitivity. Conversely, this also means that the risk of colic is reduced.
Trace Elements for Skin and Horn
If you notice that the hoof growth stagnates, coat problems and itchiness occur more frequently or the coat change is disturbed, this can be an indication of a lack of trace elements. This also manifests itself in increased itching, the appearance of eczema, but also in the loss of appetite and the associated emaciation. Zinc, selenium, manganese, copper, and cobalt are particularly essential for an old horse. Their relative amount should be adjusted according to the energy demand.
Vitamins for a Healthy Intestinal Flora
As a rule, the intestinal flora of a horse regenerates itself completely. However, this process can be significantly restricted in old horses. In this case, you should support your animal with certain vitamins. Vitamins C, B, and K, which are formed in the young horse itself, are particularly important here. Caution! Not too much of some nutrients
In addition to the nutrients that you should increase in your diet, there are also some that should be avoided. This particularly affects those that have to be eliminated via the kidneys. Because the organ often decreases in efficiency with age. If the feed contains too much calcium, sodium, and/or phosphorus, old horses are often more susceptible to infections, appear generally sluggish, and have more problems with changing their coat.
Herbs for More Efficiency
Various herbs provide special phytochemicals that have a positive effect on the horse’s organism. Among other things, you can promote detoxification and purification as well as strengthen the musculoskeletal system and thus ensure greater well-being. The following herbs are particularly popular: hawthorn, lemon balm, ginseng, rosehip, ginger, devil’s claw, verbena, nettle.
Feeding Concentrated Feed to an Old Horse
Often our senior horses tend to lose weight. Special concentrate feed can help to prevent this. You should make sure that the ingredients are particularly easy to digest and of high quality. This makes it much easier for the animals to ingest and process them.
Particularly high-quality energy and protein sources bring with them, for example, various vegetable oils, soy meal as well as pea, potato, and thermally digested cereal flakes. These are often also found in special food for seniors.
If an old horse is also struggling with dental problems, you can soak the concentrate in water for a while. The porridge is much easier to feed. By the way: If your horse doesn’t want to touch it, you can make it tastier with a few apple or carrot chips. At the same time, they also bring valuable vitamins and raw fibers to the menu.
Feeding Old Horses with No Teeth
An additional obstacle to feeding comes into play when an old horse has no or hardly any teeth. Then the entire chewing process, which is essential for the digestion of roughage such as hay or haylage, is significantly restricted. It is then important that you replace them accordingly.
From spring to autumn this means that the horses can go out to pasture every day. Because the fresh grass is softer and can be eaten much more easily. In summer, an old horse can also spend 24 hours on the pasture – then it can eat in peace and quiet.
In the meantime, there are also good roughage substitutes, which are thickened with water and can be better absorbed by horses without teeth. When it comes to the amount, the same rule applies here as with regular feed: Around 1.5 to 2 percent of the bodyweight should be consumed in roughage every day.
For a Vital, Old Horse: Tips & Tricks
Finally, we would like to give you a few tips that you should pay attention to when feeding. With these, you can usually slow down the aging process of your animal significantly.
- Weight maintenance: feed high proportions of crude protein & amino acids (especially lysine);
- Prevent metabolic problems: avoid too much sugar and starch;
- For more energy: add vegetable oils;
- Strengthen the immune system: give larger amounts of vitamin C & E;
- Better food intake: use organic instead of inorganic trace elements;
- Good digestion: feed particularly high-quality raw fibers.
Loss of appetite is also a common symptom of aging. You can counteract this by making the feed particularly tasty with fresh fruit. In addition, the feed should always be easy to absorb and digest. This also means that they are as dust-free as possible.