On this page you'll find information about how best to feed senior horses that have trouble keeping weight on. You'll also see lots and lots of senior horses that look GREAT because of the excellent care they've gotten. And of course, you get a bit of a rant.
This page shouldn't have to be in existence. If a horse of ANY AGE looks too thin, the owner should consult with a vet and fix the problem. But too many people see a horse that looks like a walking skeleton and shrug, saying, "He's just old." This is an awful, terrible, no-good excuse for laziness and neglect.
It's true that old horses have less muscle mass. They also have a harder time keeping weight on, and they may need special diets. They sometimes have other health issues, like poor teeth, cancer, breathing difficulties, severe arthritis and other problems that also make them less eager to eat. It's hard keeping weight on an old horse with health problems. But it can be done.
An old horse shouldn't have to suffer the aches, pains, cold and hunger of malnutrition for weeks or months or years just because you are too poor/sentimental/busy/lazy/ignorant to either find a way to improve its health, or put it down humanely.
The bottom line is, there is no excuse for an old horse to be a starving horse. None.
Resources and Links
- Here's a great list of articles from The Horse on keeping older horses fit.
- Information for Rehabilitating a Starving Horse
- If you are rehabilitating a starving horse, be careful: you can cause re-feeding syndrome by feeding to wrong food too fast or too soon. Learn how to prevent re-feeding syndrome here.
- A well-researched article, outlining some common problems among senior horses: Care for the Older Horse: Diet and Health
- Here's the gold standard, vet-approved Henneke Body Condition Scoring System, with color photo examples.
- Tried everything? Maybe your old horse really can't keep the weight on. It's time to give your friend the last, best gift: a peaceful, humane death. Here's a video showing how low-stress it is. Here's an article by a vet about the difficult, emotional process that we must all face: "I held on longer than my common sense told me was reasonable. Ultimately, however, I realized that I was clinging to Goldie's life for my own benefit, not hers."
Thank you to all who sent pictures!! I truly appreciate them-- and of course your dedication to your senior horses. You are their angels.
If you have a senior horse in great shape you'd like to show off, please send pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Clover is in her 30s, rescued from neglect. She lives on alfalfa mush.|
|Late 20s horse rescued from neglect.|
|Moonshine, a 36 year old pony, looking good!|
|Canela 24 year old Argentine Thoroughbred|
|Rondi - 20+ Year-Old | 15hh | Lipizzaner | Mare ||
|Leah - 22 Years-Old | 15.2hh | Appendix Quarter Horse | Mare (Sadly now deceased.)|
Re-feeding syndrome can occur if the horse is fed too many calories too quickly which can lead to heart failure, respiratory and kidney failure within 3-5 days after feeding commences. - See more at: http://www.triplecrownfeed.com/articles/horse-feed-starving-or-neglected-horse-horse-feed-strategies/#sthash.EJGvCjrf.dpuf