Winter Care for the Older Horse
Older horses can find it difficult to maintain a good weight in the winter months - this can be for various reasons including difficulty eating shorter grass and hay.
Generally, older horses struggle with hay as they start losing teeth or encounter dental issues; this is why it is important to ensure you are feeding your horse food they are able to eat and digest. Some of our older horses here at Oak Tree Animals’ Charity are on three or four feeds a day to ensure they are getting enough fibre and protein to maintain weight and muscle. It is also very important to keep up to date with your horse’s dentals; your equine dentist or vet can help advise you what diet would be suitable, or help you understand why your horse might be losing weight: it may be that they have lost a lot of teeth or there may be another underlying issue.
Here at Oak Tree we use soaked feed which can be used as a hay replacer; it is low sugar and starch which means it is suitable for those prone to laminitis or equine cushings. A hay replacer mash is suitable for horses and ponies who struggle to eat hay due to lack of teeth as it is easy to eat and digest. You can also provide soaked feed warm, which can be great in the colder months to give them a bit of warmth!
If you have an older horse or pony, you may find they are easy to manage in the summer, and from September onwards they may start to lose condition as there is less grass on the paddocks, or they have restricted grazing. The end of summer is a crucial time for horse owners to ensure their horse has enough weight, but not too much, to carry through into autumn and winter. To monitor their weight you could use a weigh tape once a week or start by taking photos from the side profile and behind, to be able to note and record any differences in weight or condition. If you are lucky enough to have access to a weigh bridge it can be extremely helpful for ensuring you are giving the correct amount of feed.
We are so grateful to have our weigh bridge and would love our local community to also enjoy the benefits of knowing their horse’s accurate weight, and to offer any guidance you may need from a feed specialist and vet. We are planning on running some weight clinics this year, depending on government guidelines. Keep your eyes peeled for any information and updates when we have some dates to write in your diary.
Our two eldest horses are pictured below. Timmy (black ex racehorse), and Lesta (chestnut pony), are both 31 years old and are in excellent condition. They are weighed every week to monitor their weights to ensure they are not dropping weight, and they are monitored daily by the staff who note any drop in condition. They are both fed four times a day and have a small amount of hay in their stable to keep them happy and for their mental stimulation, even if that means just pulling the hay out of the net.
If you are seeking advice on your horse/ponies diet or management over the winter please speak with your vet, a feed specialist or contact our Equine Team, who will be happy to answer any questions and offer advice. Help is out there for you and your horse to support you through the most difficult season of horse ownership.
Contact our Equine Team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org