We all get a little stiffer as we age, and joint health is often high on list of priorities for owners of senior horse and ponies. Although a supplement may be the first thing that springs to mind, it’s certainly not the only the consideration…
Excess weight gain and obesity can be a problem in older horses too and places excess strain on joints. Not all senior horses are prone to weight loss and a balancer is the ideal option for those able to maintain weight easily on forage alone. In addition to vitamins, minerals and amino acids to balance a forage-based diet, some balancers also contain added functional ingredients such as glucosamine and MSM to help support joint health.
Avoid stabling for long periods
Turnout provides gentle exercise but try to avoid uneven ground, heavy mud and paddocks on a steep incline, all of which increase joint strain.
Difficulty eating? It may not be his teeth!
Although teeth might seem the most obvious culprit, a reluctance to eat or difficulty chewing can also be the result of arthritis in the jaw. Arthritis in the neck or forelimbs can also make grazing, lowering the head to eat or drink from a bucket and pulling hay from a net uncomfortable. Consider soft, short chopped fibres and mashes for those who have difficulty chewing and try offering feed, water and forage from raised buckets, mangers and troughs.
Snoozing instead of grazing?
Look out for horses that are constantly found snoozing whilst others are grazing as the pain of chronic arthritis (or another underlying condition) may mean some horses feel unable to lie down and rest fully. If you have any concerns, seek advice from your vet.
Supplements may help to support joint health but beware of bold claims – if it sounds too good to true it probably is! Always choose a supplement from a reputable manufacturer and remember that no supplement can cure or treat joint disease. If your senior horse is still competing, make sure the supplement (and feed) you choose is BETA NOPS approved.
For more advice on feeding for your senior horse contact the SPILLERS Care-Line.