Feeding And Nutrition

The nutritional requirement of geriatric horses varies greatly between individuals and needs to be assessed on an individual basis. Below is some general information on nutrition for an older horse. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to provide you with more detailed advice for your horse’s specific requirements.

Generally, feeding the geriatric horse should include high-quality roughage/forage with supplemented vitamins and minerals. Hay or haylage should account for a large proportion of the horse’s food. Any additional energy needs can come from concentrates (coarse mixes) that are formulated for the older horse making them easily digestible and easier to chew. Horses with specific dental problems may have to have their food significantly wettened to make it easier for them to eat.

As older horses have problems with the movement of food through the gut it is important that they have regular exercise through turn-out and access to grass. Grass acts like a naturally occurring laxative as it has a high percentage of water and promotes normal movement of food in the gut. Horses out at pasture are less likely to suffer colic as they graze and ingest in a natural manner i.e. continuously and slowly. If turnout is not available for some reason, your veterinary surgeon should be consulted to advise on an appropriate diet for your geriatric horse. Remember to regularly worm your older horses as you would your younger horses.

The older horse should not have to compete for its food so it is important to ensure that it is left in peace from other horses when eating. Finally, close attention should be paid to the overall body condition (see page on body condition for assessment techniques) so you can determine the amount of feed to give. Consult your veterinary surgeon who can help you with an individual feed plan for your horse.