From the age of 15, horses are seen as “older”. In many horses this is a point where the joints get a bit more problens and the first ailments of old age develop. But of course every horse is different. One horse is still happily hopping around at the age of 25, while the other horse indeed has some discomfort at the age of 15. We are therefore going to give you tools for the care of your aging horse.
Have the teeth of an aging horse checked
Horses’ teeth wear down during life. With an aging horse it can therefore occur that more dental problems arise, which makes these horses less able to chew and therefore lose weight. It is important for all horses to have their teeth checked annually, but certainly for older horses. Loose molars, excessive tartar, diastases (space between the molars) or the condition EORTH can cause discomfort that makes the horse eat less well. In some cases it is advisable to adjust the diet, for example a senior slobber and hay that the horse can eat easily. In older horses, pay particular attention to whether they develop plugs (half-chewed food spit out), lose weight or take longer to eat. These are signs that something is changing in the teeth.
The nutritional needs of an older horse change
The nutritional requirement changes in an aging horse. Older horses, for example, need a different ratio of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium than young horses. Older horses also need more zinc and selenium. Because older horses are often less able to eat roughage, they are more likely to lack vitamins B and K. Older horses who struggle to maintain their weight often benefit from an increased protein supply.
Muscle building is more difficult in older horses
Aging horses lose muscle mass more easily and have more difficulty building muscle. It is therefore important to adjust the diet to more (and good quality) proteins. Pea protein or food especially for older horses can support the horse to maintain muscle mass. On average, an older horse needs about 14% more protein. Especially the essential amino acids tryptophan, lysine and threonine are important for the maintenance of muscle mass.
The digestive system of an older horse works less well
Over the years, the ability to digest food and the absorption of nutrients decreases. That is the reason that older horses have an increased need for protein, energy and vitamins and minerals. Adult horses can form vitamin C in the liver from glucose themselves, but in older horses this production decreases because the liver starts to function less.
Because the intestinal function of older horses decreases, these horses are more sensitive to colic and changes in the ration. In addition, older horses cannot properly process a large amount of sugars and large amounts of sugars lead to an increased risk of metabolic diseases.
PPID in older horses
20-30% of horses over 15 years old get PPID (also called Cushing). PPID is a disturbance in the hormone system that is regulated by the pituitary gland. Horses with PPID are more sensitive to laminitis and have more trouble regulating their temperature properly.
Joint wear and tear comes with age
Osteoarthritis is one of the best-known old-age ailments in horses. Osteoarthritis is a painful joint wear that can affect all joints. It can occur at any age, but especially in aging horses due to the decrease in cartilage and reduced quality of synovial fluid.
Horses are masters at hiding discomfort, often when they show the pain / discomfort there is a serious problem going on. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but it is possible to keep the cartilage in good condition. It is advisable to start adding silicon in time. That is the building material for all connective tissue. But more importantly, silicon stimulates the production of the body’s own glucosamine. By starting silicon in time, the development (or worsening) of osteoarthritis can be delayed.
In addition, cannabinoids have a very positive effect on osteoarthritis (combined with silicon). Cannabinoids have an analgesic, anti-inflammatory effect and bring the body back into balance. Read more about cannabinoids here.
For horses with joint wear and tear, it is important to find a balance between adequate rest and exercise. Rest rusts, but excessive movement can also have a negative effect. Does your horse have osteoarthritis? Then give it enough free movement and make sure your horse stays warm. These horses often have start-up problems, but once they are warm it goes more smoothly.
Overall resistance decreases
Older horses have more difficulty maintaining their resistance. They are more sensitive to weather changes and infections. Therefore, support your horse if necessary to keep the resistance high. Older horses often benefit from a detox so that waste products are removed and they can absorb nutrients better. Be careful with a detox if your horse has liver problems or a reduced resistance. A detox requires a lot of energy from a horse, so only do it when the horse feels good.
Depending on how your older horse feels, it is important to make adjustments. Therefore, keep a close eye on your horse and intervene if you see that things are changing. Make an appointment with the dentist or vet if your horse is getting lean or has difficulty eating. Take a closer look at the ration, does your horse still get enough vitamin C, phosphorus and proteins? If necessary, ask a nutrition advisor to take a look at the ration.
And how does your horse feel during labor? Is it getting stiffer, or is it occasionally irregular? This can be a sign of (starting) osteoarthritis. It is advisable to add silicon to aging horses. Start in good time with this so that the production of glucosamine is maintained.
Also, do not strictly adhere to the 15-year limit for an older horse. Every horse is different and should be treated as an individual.