Feeding your veteran through the colder months doesn’t have to be complicated. Nutritionist Donna Case offers her expert advice for keeping your golden oldie in tip-top condition this winter.

Winter is the ideal time for owners of older horses to consider what they feed them, as most horses tend to drop a little weight at this time of year.

When is a horse classed as a veteran? The magic number seems to be 16, but there are many horses of this age and older still competing at the highest level who may not feel their age.

The truth is that horses, just like humans, age at different rates and may need extra nutritional support earlier or later than their stable mates. To help you decide if now might be the time to consider a veteran feed, look at the following:

1. Check their teeth

Are they able to chew their feed properly – both hard feed and forage? Check that they are not quidding (losing semi-chewed food from the side of their mouth). If they are, it may also be necessary to consider a hay replacer depending on the severity.

2. Check their condition

Is your horse maintaining their weight nicely? As previously stated, many horses will drop weight slightly during the colder months. This isn’t necessarily a problem, particularly for native types who often need to lose a little weight during this time of year. However, if you are noticing a real difference or sudden loss of condition, this needs to be addressed. Speak to your vet in the first instance to rule out any other possible factors.

3. Are they bright and alert?

Keep an eye out for any changes in your horse’s behaviour or temperament.

4. Is your horse still coping happily with their workload?

Are they moving freely and coping well with what you’re asking of them? Or are you finding they are stiffer and finding things harder? Perhaps they now take longer to warm up? Again, try to keep tabs on what is normal for them.

Meet the expert: Donna Case BSc (Hons) is an experienced, fully-insured independent equine nutritionist who runs her consultancy The Horse Feed Guru out of Newmarket. She works with a variety of horses and ponies, from competition horses through to retired veterans. 

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