Equine nutritionists discuss a variety of feeds and feeding practices to help horses cope with the problems associated with growing old.

As horses grow older, their nutrient needs change. This might be due to bad or missing teeth, changes in metabolism, or less efficient digestion. Some horses become thin, while others gain weight and become prone to laminitis. Some develop problems such as Cushing’s disease, insulin resistance, failing kidneys, or impaired liver function, and they need a special type of diet.

Importance of Balance

Amy Gill, PhD, an equine nutritionist based in Kentucky, says it is important for an older horse to have good-quality protein with the right amino acids. "Make sure the diet is highly fortified with vitamins and minerals, and very digestible sources of fiber," says Gill. Don’t feed overly mature, coarse hay that’s hard to chew and does not contain adequate nutrients.

In addressing feed needs of the older horse, we must define when a horse is "old," since horses age at different rates. You can’t just say that horses past a certain age fall into the "old" category. Stephen Duren, PhD, an equine nutritionist with Performance Hors

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About The Author


Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey's Guide to Raising Horses and Storey's Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog, www.heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com, she writes a biweekly blog at https://insidestorey.blogspot.com that comes out on Tuesdays.

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