Winter Tips Series - Looking after your Veteran

Owning an older horse or pony can be very rewarding! They are usually (but not always!) more sensible, have seen life, and if still actively working or competing, they know their job, and get on with it! Traditionally, a horse or pony was recognized as a veteran at just 15 years of age, but these days, many horses do not reach their competitive peak until their mid-teens, and countless horses and ponies are still active well into their twenties and even thirties!

So age really is just a number, and it's important to assess the individual horse when deciding whether getting older means a change in management and feeding is required to keep your veteran horse or pony happy and healthy
Challenges faced by aging horses and ponies can include one or more of the issues below:

Weight loss

Poor dentition affecting the ability to chew effectively and possibly leading to discomfort

Weight gain (through decreased activity and more time at pasture)

Decreased mobility (joint and/or muscle stiffness)

Compromised immune system (they don’t heal from wounds or fight infection as well as they used to).

Increased incidence of metabolic and endocrine disorders such as Cushings (PPID), Equine metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and insulin resistance (IR)

Recognizing any of these issues in your older horse or pony may need a change in management, or additional support from feed to help overcome these challenges.
Weight loss
A small amount of weight loss over the winter months may be acceptable, but it's important to avoid a significant loss in an older horse, whatever the cause. Weekly use of a weigh tape can help provide an objective assessment, but do remember to remove rugs daily, and check body condition. Extra calories and a small amount of extra protein may be required. If teeth are still in good condition, extra forage and extra oil, such as Equine America Supreme Omega Oil  is often the best way to provide additional calories, especially in horses and ponies with metabolic conditions such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)  and Cushings, where diets must be kept low in starch and sugar. Unmolassed sugar beet and low sugar chaffs can be used as well as good quality hay or haylage. Equine America Bloom and Condition can also help, with their slow release energy for improved condition and stamina without the additional excitability! A small amount of cooked linseed will provide extra protein, and some veteran cubes or mixes are also low in sugar and starch, with extra protein already added. 

Ensure adequate minerals and vitamins are provided, to help maintain health and wellbeing, and if not provided in a fortified feed, add Equine America Everyday Vitamins and Minerals to support general health. If required, appropriate rugging can help maintain body temperature, but do remove and replace at least daily. The fermentation of forage in the horse’s gut is the best way for him to produce heat – from the inside out, so ensure plenty of good quality forage is available. Even with adequate forage, older horses and ponies may struggle to maintain their body temperature, so ensure suitable shelter is provided, and if necessary suitable rugs. Check that the older horse or pony is not being bullied by field companions, and perhaps not receiving their fair share of forage, feeds or even water in the paddock. 
Weight Gain
Being overweight is also undesirable for an older horse, and may occur as a result of reduced activity, perhaps because of an old injury, or a younger horse is taking more of the owner’s time. Weigh forage, and restrict if necessary, but never below 1.5% of bodyweight unless under veterinary or nutritionist’s supervision. Reduce calories from other feeds and replace with lower calorie versions. Re-balance to ensure mineral and vitamins are supplied if required, using Everyday Vitamins and Minerals
Decreased mobility and stiffness
Wear and tear and inflammation in joints and muscles from years of work, or perhaps previous injuries, can take their toll on older horses, resulting in stiffness, and sometimes even pain and lameness. Natural, plant-based anti-inflammatory products such as the Buteless Range will provide support and relief to horses and ponies. Those with higher levels of wear and tear, or those still in work may benefit fromButeless Super Strength Powder or the highly potent EA Nutra Buteless High Strength Liquid. Those in lighter work may find that Buteless Original Powder will be sufficient. Where cartilage wear and tear or historical injuries are present, consider providing the nutritional building blocks to support repair from Cortaflex Super Fenn or Cortaflex Regular, both available in powder or liquid form. 

Respiratory System
Increased time in the stable over the Winter months can also present respiratory challenges to the older horse or pony, as they are subjected to higher levels of dust and spores from bedding and hay. Coff-Less Powder  and Airways Powder or Liquid will provide natural support from Eucalyptus, Menthol, and other plant extracts, to help keep lungs and airways clear.  
If you have any queries or would like any more information for looking after your veteran this winter, please do get in touch!