If you are lucky enough to own a veteran horse, here are some essential tips from Allen & Page nutritionist Emma Hurrell to keep him happy and healthy:-
1. Make fibre the foundation of the diet: For horses of all ages, fibre should form the basis of the diet - but ensuring a veteran eats enough fibre can be tricky. With age, he may suffer from worn or missing teeth, which will reduce his ability to chew long-stem fibre sources, such as hay, and could lead to him eating less. To ensure your horse eats a good quantity of fibre, unmolassed short chops can be provided. Alternatively, a fast-soaking fibre feed that is easy to eat can be used and in winter can be soaked with warm water to provide a warming treat.
2. Provide good quality protein: Most older horses will benefit from a higher level (10-15 per cent) of quality protein for the repair and maintenance of body tissue. When choosing a feed for your veteran, look for one that contains ingredients such as soya bean, linseed expeller/meal and grass, which are all good quality sources of protein. If your horse has been diagnosed with, or is at risk of, liver or kidney problems, a low protein diet will be required instead.
3. Ensure a balance of essential vitamins and minerals: To keep a horse healthy, it is important he has a balanced diet, which includes the right amount of vitamins and minerals. The easiest way to achieve this is to use a balanced, formulated bagged feed, which will provide essential nutrients, when fed at the manufacturer's recommended level.
4. Feed to meet energy requriements: Many older horses need a little extra support from the diet for weight maintenance and to provide enough energy for work. This is why most veteran feeds tend to have a high energy/calorie level. However, if your veteran is a good doer, it would be more beneficial to give him a lower energy/calorie feed.
5. Monitor weight and condition regularly: If your veteran is not in work, and he spends the winter months in a rug or develops a thick coat, weight loss may occur before you notice. To ensure you spot changes quickly, routinely condition score or use a weight-tape on him.
6. Look for ways to add water to the diet: Dehydration can affect performance and will put a horse at greater risk of conditions such as colic. Always provide access to clean, fresh water. If a horse is reluctant to drink, add a flavour, such as unsweetened fruit juice, to try and tempt him to drink up. Using a soaked feed is also a great way to keep his fluid levels topped up.
7. Introduce interesting flavours: Some older horses can be fussy eaters. Try offering feeds flavoured with herbs - mint and fenugreek are popular flavours for horses. Sometimes, just soaking a horse's feed in warm water can make it more inviting.
8. Feed pre- and probiotics: Aging can lead to reduced digestive function, so providing a feed which contains pre- and probiotics can be good for health. Pre- and probiotics help with fibre digestion by improving the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This can help your horse to make the most of nutrients in his feed and should help with weight maintenance.
Product focus: Veteran Vitality is a balanced feed that provides essential nutrients for older horses. The feed is soaked to form a nice, soft mash and is high in fibre and low in starch, making it kinder on the digestive system. It is palatable to even fussy feeders and has a good calorie level to help weight maintenance. Veteran Vitality is available in 20kg sacks, priced £9.40 – £11.40, depending on location. For more information or for tailored advice on your horse's diet, contact Allen & Page's nutrition team on (01362) 822 902 or visit: www.allenandpage.com
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