As horses age, they often need additional support and attention in order to maintain their weight, comfort and overall health through the cold winter months. Dr. Luke Fallon of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute spoke with US Equestrian about the steps horse owners can take to keep their senior horses healthy and in good weight this winter.
In the spirit of “an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure,” Fallon suggests allowing older horses to put on a bit of extra weight in preparation for the winter (which he estimates to be 100-150 pounds for a 1,200 pound horse). He cautions, however, to stay mindful of any pre-existing health conditions, such as chronic laminitis. He also reminds horse owners to pay attention to whether the horse in question has access to shelter from the wind and other elements and if the horse has competition for food when feed hay or concentrate.
Fallon also suggests stocking up on good quality for the winter and also checking a horse's teeth, as older horses are more prone to certain dental concerns that can impact his or her ability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients.
Once winter hits, there are several things, in addition to the horse's body mass, that owners should keep an eye on, including soundness. An older horse with old injuries or arthritis may benefit from the added support shoes – either front shoes only or all four feet – can provide, especially for horses suffering from a decreased range of motion and flexion in the joints between and including the coffin joint to the knee or hock.
Read more at US Equestrian.
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