Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Caring For the Senior Horse

I'm venturing into a world unknown to me.  I've never had an"older" horse.  I was raised on a working farm in Michigan by my depression era grandparents.  If "it" couldn't be used, we didn't have room for it.  This included pets, which included horses.

My horses as a kid/teenager were a 10 year old Morgan/QH Mare who was absolutely INSANE when in season, but all other times perfect.  I learned how to care for horses with her.  At the same time my grandpa bought me a 2 year old 3/4 Egyptian Arabian mare (out of the fire and into pan?)   She taught me to ride.. no I mean TRUELY ride!  To this day I still have the "stick like glue no matter what" seat. That Arab teleport will teach you to just go with it.   Anyway the point to that is that they were both young horses.  I sold the Morgan/QH mare at a 4-H auction and kept my Arab until I moved away from home.  So I never learned how to care for the aging horse.

Bonnie is 18, she's not always had the easy life.  I don't know a heck of a lot about her past (prior to my friend D buying her).  I do know she's barrel raced, and pole weaved, and from her reaction to anything crop/whip she's been beat.   She's had hip surgery (got into a fight with Clyde and ended up with a bone chip).  When I bought her I did very basic flat work, and she's done some eventing, and cross country.  She LOVES to jump!  Not to mention many, many trail miles.

She's not moving so well these days.  Pretty stiff in the hind quarters and I want to do my best to make her as comfortable as possible.  Stall rest isn't for her.  She stocks up just from being in over night, so she gets as much turn out as weather permits.  Which means if it's raining she comes in, other than that she is out side.

I've been giving her for over a year now smart omega 3 from smartpak, but obviously that does nothing for joint health.   I'm thinking of moving her to some sort of Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplement but the choices are so overwhelming I'm lost.

Then there is the whole "senior feed" thing....  Reading everything I can find - but welcome any advice, what's worked, what's not worked, what to stay away from.  Oh.. and she's a super easy keeper with "whimpy" hooves.  I'll save the hoof issues for tomorrows blog post.


  1. If she's footy and prone to gaining weight, she may have some metabolic issues. You might want to consider putting her on Dcarb balance - the magnesium can be very helpful.

    And when you're evaluating senior feeds - you want to stay with the ones with the lowest NSC values - which the manufacturers don't always publicize. Some of the senior feeds have a lot of added sugars (for palatability and to be good smelling for humans) and most senior horses shouldn't have these. In some cases, you may have to call the manufacturer to get a NSC value.

  2. I don't have a lot of experience (actually none), but I totally agree with Kate on staying away from the senior feeds with sugars, molasses, etc. That can cause some bad hoof problems.

    Let us know what you learn. We'll be dealing with older horses some day.


  3. Echoing the above sentiments about senior feeds. If a horse is maintaining well on a normal feed, I don't see a reason to switch just because they hit a certain birthday. Willie was on a "Senior" feed for a while, because it just happened to work best for him, but now he's getting a the same "Performance" feed as Jabby. (Both are relatively low-NSC, and basically the same except for fat/protein/fiber content.)

    After trying joint supplements for myself, I'm a definite believer. It might take some experimentation to find what works best for each horse, though. Willie does really well with a higher amount of Hyaluronic Acid (HA), but something like Conquer alone isn't enough -- he needs the chondroitin and glucosamine, too.

    When I still used SmartPaks, Willie got SmartFlex Senior for a while. I remember it being a pretty affordable, well-rounded supplement with a little bit of everything, and he did pretty well on it.

  4. Becuase I am not familiar with the feeds available on the market where you are I cannot offer much . Other than keep her moving as much as she will tolerate. It sounds like you have the right plan for her. The grocery issue shouldn't change much at this age 18 is a middle aged horse in my mind , if she is holding condition well then...
    Kind if its not broke , dont fix it . As far as suplements that seem to help stiffness and joint issues .Corte-rx is one I have used with good success, pellet or liquid , and I believe it comes in an HA formula as well

  5. For supplements... For cheap try giving her 20,000mg MSM, and see if she improves in a couple of weeks. SmartPak powder, $18ish/month

    If you think it is age discomfort but don't want to spend the bigger bucks, try Smart TLC, which is their anti-inflammatory supplement, and still under $30. I like it a better than B&L pellets.

    You may try an Adequan (IM) series, if it is effective for her, it is often cheaper in than supplements, once you are past the loading period.

    I have lots of other boring advice/insights, as I've dealt with a lot of arthritic and older horses and have used several different products.

  6. My Divna is 15, so I am right behind you, and in the same boat. I have never owned a horse before getting her 11 years ago, so everything is new to me. Perhaps I can learn from your learning....

  7. My Divna is 15, so I am right behind you, and in the same boat. I have never owned a horse before getting her 11 years ago, so everything is new to me. Perhaps I can learn from your learning....

  8. Aiming for Grand PrixNovember 16, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    Keep her moving. Horses were meant to move. My guy was 24 when I put him down in March. For about a year he got 1 gram of bute every other day just to give him some relief. Some folks are against giving bute because of the gastric side effects, but there may come a point with Rosie when you pick the lesser of two evils. My guy was stiff behind and would stock up, but with the occasional bute he could still run around and hang with his friends. I never had any gastric issues because I gave it sparingly. When he had his feet trimmed I gave him a bute the night before and then one that morning to make standing on one leg easier. For me it was all about making him comfortable while keeping his quality of life. Eventually even the over the counter joint supplements will stop working. It wasn't old age that did him in, but rather internal melanoma tumors. He was happy and could still trot and canter (sort of) with his friends up to about 10 days before I put him down. Good luck and I hope you notice a difference with the supplement.
    Aiming For Grand Prix/
    In Search of Dressage

    Hopefully this will post!


Happy Trails!