Our horses are living longer now than ever before. Improved parasite control, better nutrition, and advances in veterinary care combine to give us more days with our animals and improve the quality of their lives as they reach their third and even fourth decades. In fact, an estimated 20% of horses in the United States are over the age of 15.
It’s good news for us. We get more years with our horses, and our horses live longer and more productive lives. But as our horses age and their bodies start to fail, we have the obligation to meet their changing nutritional needs. Older horses with problems (geriatrics)–whether they are hard keepers or suffer from metabolic diseases or painful unsoundness–deserve the best nutrition we have to offer.
When it comes to feeding geriatric horses, "One size doesn’t fit all," says Joe Pagan, PhD, president of Kentucky Equine Research, an equine nutrition research and consultation company based in Versailles, Ky. Meeting those individual needs of your geriatric horse is up to you.
Describing the Geriatric
Just because a horse is old doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a geriatric. "Geriatric implies that there’s a clinical problem," says Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, of Rutgers University in New Jersey. "There are an awful lot of horses out there that are 20-plus years old and do just fine on regular feed."
Geriatric, by definition, is a condition related to diseases and disorders caused by aging, not by a specific number of years spent on this earth.
"The horse owner needs to have a look at his ind