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For example, a large Stubbs scoop of Alfa-A Originalweighs 400g whereas the same scoop of Cool Mix would be about 1.25kg. This means that, to get the same weight of feed, three scoops of Alfa-A Originalwould need to be fed. Both feeds would provide the same amount of energy because both feeds contain 10MJ/kg DE, but horses and ponies will get a lot more chew time from the Alfa-A Original, which is ideal for keeping them occupied when stabled and their digestive system healthy. Weigh your horse before you weigh your feed to ascertain his bodyweight It is also important to consider that fibre is very lightweight. At Dengie, we commonly liken fibre feeds to a ton of feathers compared to a ton of coal, which represents cereal feeds. Although both are the same weight, the feathers or fibre take up a much larger space than the coal or cereals. The final consideration is to make sure the horse has sufficient time to consume his meals, in an environment where he will be protected from other horses. If a total replacement diet is needed then an area to munch, for an hour or two, in peace will be needed. This could be in a stable or in a fenced-off area. Although difficult to manage, this is the only way that a horse, which needs a considerable percentage of its diet as a soaked feed, will be able to consume enough food to maintain weight and health.

The older horse may have issues chewing even when his teeth appear to be in good shape. This is due to changes in the “Curve of Spee”. The Curve of Spee refers to the angle of chewing surfaces in the teeth of the mandible (the lower jaw). As the teeth wear, the angle changes and chewing forces become less powerful. YouTube sets this cookie to measure bandwidth, determining whether the user gets the new or old player interface.

There are fewer feed choices available for an old horse prone to laminitis. This is because extreme care should be taken to keep starch and simple sugars under a total combined amount of 10%. This will keep insulin levels low and stable. It is high, peaking insulin which has been shown to be a trigger for laminitis events in horses.

Elderly horses often drink less. This could be due to arthritis or mouth pain, cold weather or when they are bullied by other herd members. Decreased water consumption increases the risk of impaction colic. Dermot is a 21-year-old Connemara who, despite being in his senior years, still lives a very active lifestyle. Dermot has poor dentition; various diastemas and having had three teeth removed means he struggles to chew hay effectively and requires a partial forage replacer ration. Perhaps the most problematic aspect of how to feed an old horse is what happens to its teeth. At the time they erupt in a young horse, a horse’s cheek teeth are approximately 4” in length (including the exposed/erupted part and the portion within the jaw). Over the years, munching grass and hay cause these teeth to wear down over time. By the time horses are in their late twenties to early thirties, most have lost the majority of their teeth. This is normal and part of the ageing process.When winter sets in and the grass content lowers in the total diet then this is where many horses lose weight even though they look as if they are still grazing and eating enough hay or haylage. The months of December through March seem to be the worst, as grass availability is poor and the weather often turns a lot colder. It is very wise to assume that an old horse will lose weight if you don’t substitute quite a high proportion of hay and haylage with soaked high-fibre feed. How dental health affects feeding elderly horses The suggested feeding levels are intended as a guide only. Always adjust your horse's feed ration to suit his temperament, the environmental conditions, his body condition and work load. If your horse is resting why not try one of the Dengie Hi-Fi products How Hard Are You Working Your Horse? Although some laminitis-prone horses will tolerate Copra, the starch level in Copra is sometimes too high for it to be a good choice for all laminitis-prone horses. Where an elderly horse has well-controlled insulin levels, then Copra can be used, but care must be taken with this feed. Ageing in other species of animals is known to be associated with an increased risk of low production of stomach acid. This can cause incomplete digestion of protein, failure of mineral supplements to dissolve properly and possibly overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the intestinal tract, as stomach acid provides a barrier against infections. In elderly humans, poor absorption of minerals has been linked to an increase in bone fracture. A reliable indication of poor chewing is an old horse that begins to lose weight despite getting adlib hay and what should be enough calories. These horses typically do much better on pasture, which is high in moisture and easier to chew, than they do on hay or haylage, so they may have particular difficulties in winter. How does Cushing’s disease affect a horse’s teeth?

We covered the whys of dental health affecting older horses at the start of this article. A basic rule is that as a horse progresses into their mid to late twenties the power of the teeth’s grinding capabilities will reduce. When Kim brought Roxy she suspected gastric ulcers and when looking at different feeds to promote digestive health and condition she decided on Healthy Tummy. Now all her horses are fed Healthy Tummy! Insufficient fermentation in the large intestine may become a problem for the older horse. Research suggests that the number and variety of protozoans greatly reduce in many elderly horses. Protozoa are important, along with vast numbers of bacterial strains for efficient fermentation. 5. What about colic in the older horse? In general, we would always encourage owners to avoid soaking hay if possible. Where a horse has COPD then spraying and damping the hay should be sufficient. The latest research into steaming hay suggests that protein quality may be affected, so if steaming is carried out, additional protein may be required to compensate for this. There are also dangers associated with over-feeding too much of certain vitamins and minerals, as they can cause toxicity problems – just because “some” is good, it doesn’t mean that “lots” is better! Why can fibre feeds be fed in larger amounts than cereal based feeds to horses?If you can’t test, then understanding the effect soaking has on hay and choosing to soak for short periods of time, will preserve the nutrient status of the hay. It is important to use a protocol which will not leach high levels of water-soluble nutrients from the hay. The following products are suitable for feeding as full or partial hay replacers and contain added vitamins and minerals to balance the diet: Ageing can be associated with reduced production of saliva, the normal lubricant for food. Digestion also starts in the mouth with special enzymes that are contained within the saliva, so a reduction in this means the digestive process can be compromised. Less saliva also means less buffering of stomach acid which in other species has been documented as being low in elderly animals. 3. How can stomach acid affect an old horse? Corey’s daily Dengie diet gives him energy to perform at his best and look fantastic without affecting his temperament. What more could I ask for?” says Brook. If a horse is prone to laminitis then access to grass should be carefully controlled. Many laminitis-prone horses do well on late, leafy autumn and winter grass, but as spring and early summer arrive, the simple sugars in the grass fluctuate and high levels can trigger both low-level and full-blown laminitis. In this respect, it is best to either strictly control grass access to the early morning only or remove the horse from all grass onto a turn-out area which allows for movement.

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