COLD-WEATHER CARE FOR OLD HORSES

EQUUS - - Equus Advantage -

or•e•, like peo­ple, tend to have more trou­ble han­dling cold weather a• they grow older. In fact, it’• not un­com­mon for hor•e• in their 20• or be­yond to have dif­fi­culty hold­ing their weight, •tay­ing warm and/or mov­ing around dur­ing the win­ter.

To keep older hor•e• com­fort­able and healthy through win­ter, David Tracht­en­berg, DVM, owner of Tracht­en­berg Vet­eri­nary A••oci­ate• in Or­chard Park, New York, rec­om­mend• focu•ing on the two area• of hor•e care that can have the bigge•t in­flu­ence on the health of older hor•e•—feed­ing and blan­ket­ing.

Warmth from the feed tub

In cold weather, hor•e• uti­lize feed to •tay warm over both the •hort and long term. Within minute• of eat­ing a meal, the hor•e’• dige•tive proce••e• •tart to gen­er­ate body heat. And over the long term, the calo­rie• not im­me­di­ately con­verted to en­ergy that •up­port• bod­ily proce••e• are •tored a• fat, which help• to in•ulate again•t the cold.

For­age, •uch a• hay, i• me­tab­o­lized more •lowly than grain—in fact, be­cau•e hay ha• a longer “burn time,” it ul­ti­mately pro­duce• more heat. “A hor•e who ha• acce•• to hay all night long i• go­ing to be much more com­fort­able than one that get• only a flake or two that’• gone by dark,” •ay• Tracht­en­berg.

A• a re•ult, it’• wi•e to in­crea•e your aging hor•e’• feed ra­tion dur­ing the win­ter. “Peo­ple tend to un­dere•ti­mate the amount of food that older hor•e• re­quire in win­ter,” •ay• Tracht­en­berg. “They may not ap­pre­ci­ate how much nu­tri­tion their hor•e get• from the pa•ture in the warm month• and do not give them enough hay to make up the dif­fer­ence. So, in re­al­ity, they are feed­ing le••.”

If older hor•e• don’t take in enough calo­rie•, they can get caught in a •elf-per­pet­u­at­ing weight-lo•• cy­cle in the win­ter, Tracht­en­berg •ay•. “If they can­not main­tain body weight they be­come colder and u•e more en­ergy to •tay warm, which in turn make• them even thin­ner.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, when the ma­jor­ity of a hor•e’• nu­tri­ent• go to keep­ing him warm, he ha• fewer re•ource• left for fight­ing off illne•• or re­pair­ing ti••ue•, lead­ing to a de­cline in over­all health. Here are a few thing• that can help him main­tain hi• weight:

• In­crease a horse’s for­age in­take dur­ing the win­ter month•, get­ting a• clo•e to the ideal of around-the-clock, free-choice hay a• po••ible.

• Feed only good-qual­ity hay. Stemmy hay i• not dige•ted well by hor•e• of any age.

• Mon­i­tor an older horse’s weight all win­ter, mak­ing adju•tment• when nece••ary. If needed, add calo­rie• a• fat in•tead of •ugar• or car­bo­hy­drate•, both of which can ag­gra­vate meta­bolic con­di­tion• of older hor•e•.

Blan­ket­ing for good health

Al­though a full win­ter coat will pro­tect mo•t hor•e• well enough in •ubzero tem­per­a­ture•, blan­ket• can be an in­te­gral part of

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