One of the best ways to help your senior start winter off right is by making sure he’s at a healthy weight. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to evaluate his body condition, and read more about the Henneke body condition scoring scale. Once you know his body condition score, you can consider whether you need to make any adjustments to his diet now.
It’s also important to monitor your horse’s teeth. If your horse can’t chew properly, he’s not going to receive the full benefit of the food you’re providing. That means wasted calories and wasted nutrients, and a horse whose diet isn’t meeting his needs. Every horse needs an annual dental exam, and seniors might need two each year or more frequently.
Next, be sure to evaluate your horse’s serving of forage. As with any horse, he should be eating 1-2% of his body weight in roughage every day. Keep in mind that horses burn more calories in the winter staying warm. Your horse’s body ferments roughage in the hindgut, which creates heat that helps keep him warm from the inside. Even if he’s getting 1–2% of his body weight in forage already, an increase in hay might be warranted to make up for what he’s using to maintain his core temperature.
Finally, consider whether you’re going to blanket your horse this year. Even if you didn’t blanket him when he was younger, it might be a smart choice to start now that he’s a senior, since older horses typically have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature.
In addition to general care, some senior horses might benefit from the daily, ongoing support that supplements provide, especially during the winter months. Key areas to support such as weight, joint, and immune are important to consider for your senior.
By using these tips together with the expert advice of your veterinarian and barn manager, you can ensure you’re providing your senior horse with the support he needs to stay happy and healthy all winter long.