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Choosing the Best Food for Your Senior Horse

It is very important that you adjust a horse’s diet as they go through the autumnal years. Older horses are often prevented from ingesting the nutrients they need as a result of worn or missing teeth and parasite scarred tissue in their small intestine.

To be complete diets many senior feeds have more calories and protein, this means that they have all the dietary fiber needed for the horse with a degraded digestive system.

Look at the fiber quality and fiber content in order to analyze the differences between the available senior feed options. A higher-calorie and digestible source should be the main provision for fiber. This means substances such as shredded beet pulp but not the pellet form. In order to provide the calories older horses require to maintain their body condition the feed needs to have a minimum of six percent fat.

Shredded beet pulp provides nearly as many calories as oats and it ferments in the hindgut very easily for older horses. The “scratch factor” needs of the horse should also be met with the length of the material and most pellet or extruded feeds do not meet this requirement. For horses that can’t eat hay or graze in the pasture this fiber length is extremely important.

Also high in digestible fiber is soy hulls. However, the oat hulls, rice hulls and peanut hulls not only have a relatively low digestibility but they also don’t have as many calories as grain offers. The calories that are required by a senior horse are always provided by even the higher quality fiber choices. About twenty-five percent fewer calories than a grain based diet without added fat is typical for many complete feed and at least a six percent difference is made up in the complete feed.

Even if you feed a senior diet that has a guarantee of six percent fat you are really only providing the same amount of calories in a quality grain based diet that has a fat guarantee of three percent.

Older horses will not be able to maintain their optimal body condition without quality fiber and a significant addition of fat to their diet - even if you are buying a bag of feed that is labeled for senior horses.

Read the next horse nutrition article on Orphan Foals Milk Replacer.
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