Contributed by: Valerie Mellema, Gray Horse Publishing
With winter on the horizon, many are prepping their barns and horses. Horses that have a particularly tough time in winter are senior horses. Their metabolism is slower and less efficient and, in many cases, their teeth aren’t that great either. Here are a few steps to take this fall to prep your senior horse for the winter.
Fall Vet Check
It’s a good idea to have your horse’s teeth checked going into winter as well as get him boosted with fall vaccines for rhino and flu. You may want to discuss a senior feed as well for the winter. This will depend on his teeth and what kind of "keeper" your senior horse is.
Winter Feeding Strategies
In addition to senior feed, some horses will benefit from wet hay cubes or turning their feed into more of a "gruel" that they can eat/drink. This helps to ensure that they get all of their feed and don’t drop it due to poor teeth. This also helps prevent choke.
For hard keepers, more calories are key. You can up the calories by adding beet pulp to their feed or dressing it with vegetable oil. If you feed beet pulp, it should be soaked for 1 to 4 hours prior to feeding to prevent choke. Throw out any unfinished beet pulp as it does go bad. If you top dress with oil, slowing introduce it over a span of 2 weeks. Increase from a small amount (around 2 tbsp.) to half a cup twice a day.
All horses, but particularly senior horses, need to have plenty of forage. Hay is the key to keeping horses happy in the winter. They need to be able to graze regularly to keep their digestive system moving and to keep warm. Senior horses will need to be able to access hay easily.
Blanketing will depend on where you live and the condition of your horse. Choose a quality blanket weight for your area and the amount of winter coat that your horse grows. Blanket or not, your senior horse will definitely need cover from precipitation and preferably a wind block as well.
Senior horses are slower, so if they have to fight for their feed or hay at feeding time, this can cause unnecessary stress and weight loss. If your senior horse is being bullied by other members of the herd, you may want to consider a new living arrangement that will make life easier on them.
Valerie has E-books, Marketing Services, and more Horse Tips on her website at www.grayhorsepublishing.com.
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