Maintaining and caring for a senior horse can get expensive. Many senior horses require special supplements and feed, and others also need therapeutic shoeing.
"Some of our senior horses cost more to maintain than their younger peers," says Laurie Cerny, editor of www.equineseniors.com. " When older horses are arthritic and have become hard keepers the cost to maintain them dramatically increases."
Cerny's 29-year-old Quarter Horse gelding not only needs daily NSAIDs, but a good mobility supplement to help with his extremely arthritic knees. And with poor teeth he also requires 10 pounds of senior feed, and several pounds of hay and forage pellets daily — besides 24/7 access to a high quality second cutting hay.
"He is becoming more expensive to maintain than our current show mare," Cerny says. "But we love him and will do whatever we can do to keep him comfortable and in good body condition."
Here are some tips Cerny offers to help with the cost of maintaining a senior horse:
- If feeding supplements for multiple issues consider finding a combo or an all-in-one product.
- For seniors who have become picky with their hay - try feeding a forage product/hay pellet.
- If you do feed hay - feed the most palatable hay you have (tender and free of dust/weeds).
- Feed smaller amounts of hay/grain several times throughout the day.
- Use hay bags/nets when feeding hay. This will help reduce waste.
Feed both hay and grain in the stall. Then, if the horse drops feed they can either eat it later, or it can be cleaned up and fed to another horse. Uneaten hay can also become bedding.
If horse can eat pasture (if they're not laminitic or insulin resistant) utilize pasture grazing as much as possible. Rotate and mow grazing areas every 3-4 weeks to keep them healthy.
Make sure to have teeth done annually. Maintaining a proper bite will reduce the dropping of feed and will help increase the digestibility of feed.
For Cushing's horses (who tend to drink/urinate more) use a pelleted bedding - especially in the stall/run-in areas where they urinate frequently. Pine pellets are extremely absorbent and will greatly reduce the amount of bedding used.
If you no longer ride your senior horse, and there isn't a need for therapeutic shoeing - go barefoot and feed a good hoof supplement to help maintain wall/sole integrity.
For more information about the care of and showing of senior horses, and about their ownership, go to www.equineseniors.com.
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