With all of this in mind, there is a four-step approach to feeding older horses in the winter.
1. Try to put weight on your older horse in the autumn, so he goes into winter with a body condition score of at least 5; ribs not visible, fat around his tail head slightly spongy, and his shoulder blending smoothly into his body. But don’t overdo it; older joints don’t need to be carrying an obese body around. 2. Increase a horse’s feed intake during the winter months. An ideal is free-choice hay all day and all night. Older horses with dental issues may find it hard to chew hay properly, so you can try a chopped hay/chaff product, or haylage. Soaked sugarbeet is another easily digested source of fibre. 3. Feed only good quality hay. Stemmy, stalky hay is not digested well by horses of any age, making it useless in helping a horse gain body condition or stay warm. 4. Monitor your older horse’s weight during the season, increasing feed if necessary. Dave suggests adding calories as “lovely, energy-dense oil” (introduced gradually to the diet), and also swears by Gumnuts. Lucy says that many older horses do best on soaked or moist feeds, or processed/steam-conditioned feeds. “And highly digestible sources of protein, such as milk-based products, heat-processed protein grains or processed (ensiled or pelleted) lucerne can be good at preventing muscle loss.”