Wellness Wednesday - Nutritional Considerations for the Senior Horse

Photo: Shirley McQuillan
Photo: Shirley McQuillan

This week's Wellness Wednesday is brought to you by Uckele Health & Nutrition. Considering the quality health care we have available for our horses today, there is no reason they shouldn’t be living to a ripe old age in the greatest of style. Jack Grogan, Certified Nutritionist and Chief Science Officer for Uckele Health & Nutrition, says that the senior horse can display both external and internal signs of aging. “Just being aware of some of the special nutritional considerations required by an older horse goes a long way toward enabling you to offer the best care.” Grogan provides a perspective on advances nutritional science has made, suggesting nutritional tools to keep our horses healthy longer and in the best case scenario, help them remain active and comfortable into old age.

He explains, “Depending on the lifestyle and genetics of the senior horse, the joints might show some wear and tear, and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, immune system and other body systems might be declining in efficiency. In addition, older horses have more nutritional challenges because of poor teeth and poor absorption of nutrients. However, there are ways to address all of these challenges through your nutritional program.”
 
Grogan explains that as horses age, their digestive and metabolic efficiency can decline, resulting in a decreased absorption of essential nutrients,  “Nutritional needs can also increase, leaving the horse with the potential for multiple nutritional deficiencies,” he says, “In addition, as the metabolism shifts during aging, normal stresses can be more difficult to manage metabolically and lead to an increased need for nutrients that are easily digested, absorbed and utilized by the tissues of the body.” Grogan suggests that all horses start with a foundation formula that includes the essential nutrients that are fundamental to all horses consisting of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and digestive aids specifically designed to meet the unique nutritional needs of the senior horse.

External Signs of Aging

Hair Coat and Weight - Because hair coat can become dull with age and start to thin, Grogan considers a fatty acid supplement a must-have addition to the diet, “In addition to conditioning the skin and coat to provide a healthy, shiny hair coat, it’s important in the support of the brain and nervous system. An Essential fatty acid (EFA) formula can also help keep weight on as the horse ages, when the older horse can demonstrate poor body condition or is seen to lose weight despite plenty of food and a good appetite.  EFAs are an important, dense source of calories that are efficient in providing calories to the equine diet.

Grogan points out that another benefit of EFAs properties is as a "calming" energy source, which results in stable weight gain while preventing blood sugar related mood swings. One of the more significant benefits to good quality fat supplementation is fat's ability to keep the blood sugar pattern steady, stable and predictable. Additional benefits for the senior horse include significant inflammatory response functions by the production of anti-inflammatory substances in the body, contributing to repair of tissues. It also may enhance feed palatability. 

Internal Signs of Aging

Photo: Shirley McQuillan
Photo: Shirley McQuillan

Hooves and Joints  - Many older horses have joint issues not only due to work or performance as a younger horse, but also due to the natural, cumulative wear and tear on the joints over time. In addition, cartilage may start to fail, tendons and ligaments may also lose strength. With age, the hooves can also be compromised, profoundly affected by imbalanced metabolic changes that can show as dry, cracked hooves, slow hoof growth, decreased hoof stability, uneven hoof growth and hoof connective tissue issues that can ultimately contribute to founder.

To support healthy hooves and joints for the aging horse, Grogan suggests a formula that includes Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM, Hyaluronic Acid, Silica, Yucca and Devils Claw, “Glucosamine is the key building block for tissue integrity, with studies showing that Glucosamine supplementation provides for more rapid recovery, and partial restoration of joint function. Chondroitin Sulfate’s key functions include the ability to inhibit enzymes that degrade cartilage tissue and decrease water retention for synovial fluid production.  Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is important for connective tissue production and repair and has been shown to reduce cartilage breakdown by protecting the cartilage tissue. Hyaluronic Acid (HA) gives elasticity to the joints and retains water in the cellular matrix. It is important for tissue hydration, lubrication and proper cellular function.

Grogan also points out that many herbs and botanical extracts have shown great promise in supporting senior joint health, “Yucca Schidigera Extract, Devils Claw Extract, Boswellia Serrata Extract, Turmeric Extract, Cat’s Claw, Fever Few, White Willow and Cayenne have proven to be a powerful group of joint supporting plants.”
 
Gastrointestinal Tract - The GI tract might lose efficiency as a horse ages, and with teeth and nutrient absorption issues, feed can travel through without being well digested. Senior horses no longer able to handle the roughage content of their diet can develop chronic diarrhea. A sluggish gut motility can also introduce or worsen colic issues. Grogan suggests feeding a high strength digestive aid that may help ease gut related stress from travel, sickness, training or medications, “A formula that supports a normal, healthy digestive system for the senior horse will combine probiotics, prebiotics, microbials and digestive enzymes that can optimize digestion and assimilation of nutrients from feed, forage and supplements.”

Immune System - The immune system’s role of protecting the body can be compromised with the onset of age. Grogan suggests supplementing for this with key ingredients known to support immune balance. He suggests a potent blend of antioxidants (including Glutathione and Super Oxide Dismutase), bioflavonoids, herbs and additional ingredients that provide support for optimal immune balance to help the body regulate excessive toxic free radicals and reduce the damaging effects of the oxidative processes.

Although there is little question that your senior horse might slow down a bit with age and require a little extra tender loving care, Grogan strongly believes that there is no reason for your horse to decline in health or experience any significant discomfort in old age with all of the nutritional information available. Your senior can feel great in his golden years!
Jack Grogan has considerable experience in the fields of biology, biochemistry and nutrition, is an expert in tissue mineral balancing, and has demonstrated considerable success in balancing equine mineral chemistry to strengthen the basic metabolism and improve efficiency in horses. Jack is a consultant to numerous veterinarians, chiropractors, trainers, naturopaths and nutritionists.

Uckele Health & Nutrition has been a trusted leader in the formulation, development and manufacture of quality nutritional supplements for fifty years. With leading edge experience in nutritional research and science, the Uckele team provides private label and custom manufacturing from concept to shelf, formulating a vast array of high potency, balanced nutritional supplements to support optimal health and performance at the highest level.




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