COLD-WEATHER CARE FOR OLD HORSES
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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