Nutritional supplements are not just for young equine athletes or even just horses in competition. Many older horses – even those living in retirement – can benefit from the boost a supplement can provide.
Here’s a look at some of the supplements that can serve older horses well:
A product designed to support joint health could help older, arthritic horses move more easily. These supplements generally contain some combination of glucosamine, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulphate. Other common ingredients that might be beneficial include methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), avocado/soybean extracts, yucca, Boswellia and resveratrol.
Most joint supplements are fed daily, and some may call for a larger loading dose at the start. Read the directions carefully to ensure your horse gets the greatest benefit possible from your chosen supplement.
Skin and coat
Your older horse may no longer need to look show-ring-ready, but coat supplements contain ingredients that support his overall health, not just his appearance. Common ingredients in coat and skin supplements include pyridoxine, biotin, riboflavin, folic acid, flaxseed, lysine and zinc.
A poor coat – including one that is slow to shed – can be a sign of systemic illness like pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, also known as Cushing’s disease), so check in with your vet if your older horse isn’t looking as good as he should.
Stress, illness, previous parasite infestations and medications can all interfere with an older horse’s digestive system. A supplement that supports his gut function can help set things right again. Many digestive supplements contain probiotics, which are a a combination of bacteria and yeasts that support the intestinal flora necessary for digestion.
Extreme or chronic digestive issues call for veterinary attention.
Weak, shelly hooves are problematic in horses of all ages. Feeding an older horse a supplement that supports hoof health can help keep him mobile, which in turn is good for his overall well-being. Most supplements contain some combination of biotin, methionine, lysine, zinc, copper and pyridoxine.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a horse needs less frequent farrier care as he ages. Regular trimming will keep his hooves balanced, an important part of preventing and managing arthritis. [end box]
Even a fully retired horse can experience emotional stress. For example, older horses who suffer from separation anxiety might benefit from a calming supplement. These types of products may include magnesium, thiamine, valerian, chamomile, inositol and L-tryptophan.
After the joy our older horses have given us, we owe it to them to make the last few years of their lives as comfortable and happy as possible. Supplements can improve the quality of life for some of these golden oldies, allowing them to enjoy more healthy years with us. So, no, no horse is ever too old for supplements.