Feeding the Veteran Horse - Part Four. The Poor Do-er.
𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗿𝗱 𝘁𝘆𝗽𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝘄𝗵𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗱𝗼 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗴𝗴𝗹𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁. 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗺𝗮𝘆 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗶𝘀𝘀𝘂𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗯𝘂𝘁𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝘀𝘂𝗰𝗵 𝗮𝘀 𝗽𝗼𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗲𝗲𝘁𝗵, 𝗴𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗶𝘀𝘀𝘂𝗲𝘀, 𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗽𝗮𝗶𝗻, 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗯𝗹𝘆 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗽𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝗷𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗱𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗼𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮𝗴𝗲.
Above all else if this sounds like your horse make sure he has a full ‘MOT’ from your vet to rule out any other problems or issues he may be having. Skimping out on a vet bill is never worth it in the long run and will help your peace of mind.
Feeding ad lib forage is ideal but look to see if he is able to chew it properly and not spitting it on the ground. As the horse becomes older, the teeth do become worn and damaged reducing his ability to grasp and grind. There are various different types of forage replacers you can look at feeding, but I always start with soft, short chopped fibres that the horse can still chew and therefore closer to the ‘norm’ before progressing onto soaked fibre feeds where necessary. In many instances providing a selection for the horse to browse and select is great practice and keeps him happy and occupied. Just remember to introduce all new feeds, including forage replacers gradually. It is also worth noting that some forage replacers are able to be fed as complete forage replacers; others only partially.
Some older horses may start to lose their place in the pecking order so if they are being bullied may not even have the opportunity to get to the forage you are putting in the field. Make sure forage is spread around so everyone has an opportunity to eat.
I have found owners are very keen to jump up the calorie levels with hard feed, but if the horse is really struggling to take a good amount of forage in, he will struggle to maintain weight whatever the hard feed is! Rectify this first and you may well solve your problem.
A higher calorie veteran feed may tick the boxes for the older, underweight horse who struggles to maintain weight but always make sure you have all the basics in place too such as adequate forage. There are some really great veteran conditioning feeds on the market, but be sure if you are choosing a mix based product the horse does not have any clinical conditions that would make it unsuitable to feed.