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Nutritional tips for older horses

Senior horses, from 18 years of age onwards, will often have problems with their body weight. The body no longer absorbs the nutrients easily and teeth problems often play a role too. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to have your senior horse gain weight and keep weight on.

An old horse with a poor condition: determine the cause

When your senior horse drops weight without an obvious reason, the first step is to find out the cause. We recommend starting with a blood test and faeces test. With the blood test the proper functioning of kidneys, intestines and liver can be examined. Perhaps your horse is suffering from deficiencies of some kind or is carrying a disease. By means of a faeces test, you will find out if your horse has worms. Have its teeth checked too, as your horse might have a problem with chewing its feed.

Senior horses require good quality roughage

The horse’s diet consists of 70 to 99% roughage! Especially for a too thin horse roughage is essential for a healthy gut functioning. Have your roughage tested by all means.  You can find out how much sugar, proteins and energy your roughage contains. Some important points that require special attention:

  • Dry matter content

    On average, haylage has a dry matter content of 650 – 750. This means that the haylage consists of 65 to 75% dry matter and the rest of it (25 to 35%) is water. Therefore, you should feed quite a lot of haylage, as a large part of it is only moistness. Hay has a much higher dry matter content, around 90%.

  • Protein (DCP)

    When determining the roughage quality, the Digestible Crude Protein horse (DCPh) is taken into consideration too. To make a senior horse gain weight, this content should be pretty high.

  • Vitamins, minerals and trace elements

    If the roughage is produced on fertilized soil, the levels of minerals and trace elements are usually ok. This however, does not apply to roughage produced on unfertilized soil. In that case, an addition by means of concentrate feed or a supplement is often necessary to meet the daily requirements of your horse.

Turn a senior horse out on grass

For a senior horse that is too thin, it is best to have it turned out on grass all day. The reason is that grass contains much higher energy and protein levels than our roughage. If you can’t offer your horse access to grass, then unrestricted high-quality roughage is essential.

Easily digestible horse feed

You can help a senior thin horse by offering it easily digestible feed. Expanded pellets and mueslis with a lot of puffed raw material have been processed as a result of which they are easier for your senior horse to digest. The feed is mechanically ‘pre-digested’ as it were, which makes it easier for the horse to take in the nutrients through the small intestine. Compared to unprocessed feed, the process also reduces the risk of the horse being troubled by colic.

Roughage substitutes in case of dental problems

Horses with dental problems have a problem taking in roughage. In that case, a replacement for the roughage should be offered. Pavo SpeediBeet (beet pulp) for example, is full of healthy fibres and needs to be given soaked, so horses with dental problems have no problems eating this. Pavo SpeediBeet combined with Pavo 18Plus is the ideal feed for senior horses with poor teeth. The advantage of Pavo 18Plus is that it can be given both in dry form as well as soaked. When you soak it, the small pellets easily fall apart. If your horse does not manage to eat hay anymore, you can add grass pellets to its diet.

Supplements for senior horses

  • Minerals and trace elements

    Older horses need a slightly different ration of calcium, phosphorous and magnesium than younger horses. These minerals play an important role in the functioning of muscles and maintaining strong bones. It is also wise to give your senior horse extra zinc and selenium (both trace elements).

  • Vitamins

    Regarding the vitamins, older horses usually have some problems taking in vitamins B and K because they can’t eat roughage so well. So adding these vitamins as well makes sense. Vitamin C is a vitamin that senior horses can make good use of too. The horse’s body can produce vitamin C itself but this is more difficult for an older horse. That is why you help your horse by offering this vitamin also.

Pavo 18Plus

With Pavo 18Plus, you give your ageing horse everything its body requires, without burdening the system unnecessarily. This dust-free and easily digestible muesli will help your senior to stay fit and healthy. And when at a later age dental problems occur, Pavo 18Plus combined with Pavo SpeediBeet forms the complete feed for the daily needs.


Pavo 18Plus

Keeping your senior horse fit and healthy

Pavo DailyFit

Daily vitamin biscuit enriched with flowers and herbs

Pavo SpeediBeet

High-fibre, quick soaking beet pulp flakes