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Feeding the veteran with Baileys Horse Feeds

SINCE horses age at different rates, changing feed just because they’re in their teens may not be appropriate, in fact, the best advice is to continue to feed each one as an individual, as Baileys Nutritionist, Emma Short BSc (Hons) explains.

When should I feed a Senior Feed?

As a horse gets older, his digestive system becomes less efficient, so he may no longer obtain the full nutritional benefit from the feed he gets. If you notice that he’s not looking quite as good as he did on his current feed, now could be the time to step up to a specially formulated ‘veteran feed’ like Baileys Senior Mix.

These are designed to provide readily digestible, non-heating calories, so should promote a little more condition than a high fibre, low energy feed and help to give the older horse just that little extra he needs to stay looking and feeling good. If however your horse or pony is still looking good and performing well on his current diet, there is probably no need to change; you will soon know, if he starts to lose weight and condition, that it is time to change.

What if he’s really lost weight?

To promote serious weight gain, a conditioning feed is the most effective (and cost effective) choice, as these are more energy dense than veteran feeds, so will contain more calories per kilo. This means that meal sizes can be kept manageable and you will get better results than adding ‘conditioning straights’, like barley and beet pulp, to your existing feed.

Veterans who have been diagnosed with PPID (Cush-ing’s) present a dilemma when they need calories to maintain condition, as their diets must remain low in starch, so ‘traditional’ conditioning feeds may not be appropriate. Low starch conditioning options are now available, however, in the form of Meadow Sweet with Turmeric, Keep Calm (both ‘moderately’ conditioning) or Ease & Excel and Ease & Excel Cubes (both high in calories).

These feeds supply dig-estible calories from fibre and oil and contain no whole cereals, which helps keep starch levels very low. At Baileys, we would strongly recommend consulting a Nutritionist, however, when feeding a PPID horse or pony, as they are at increased risk of laminitis and generally need careful management.

Oil is also a useful source of concentrated non-heating ‘no starch’ calories and can be added to an existing balanced diet to increase the overall energy content without significantly adding to the volume fed. 250 -500ml per day would be necessary to make a real difference but, at these levels, additional antioxidant supplementation is also desirable. A high oil supplement, like Baileys Outshine, already contains the necessary supporting nutrients and is less messy to use.

And if he’s overweight?

Many older horses re-

main ‘good-doers’ through-out their lives and must be fed and managed accordingly.

Controlling calorie intake is a priority, but this should not be at the expense of the other nutrients required to make up a balanced diet. Naturally, fibre is vital for the healthy functioning of the digestive system and should remain the basis of the horse’s diet, however, older horses especially, need a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals to maintain their health and well-being and this can best be provided by a balancer, like Baileys Lo-Cal or Performance Balancer, which supply these nutrients but without any calories.

Lo-Cal Balancer is form-ulated for those at rest or in light work, while Performance Balancer supports up to the highest workloads. It is also particularly appropriate for

the older equine, who needs higher levels of quality protein, to support muscle tone and top line, as well as boosted vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support health, hoof growth and immunity.

Common Problems – PPID (Cushing’s Disease)

This is most commonly associated with older hor-ses and ponies and stems from the growth of a tumour on the pituitary gland, situated in the brain, and which causes hormonal dis-turbances. Horses suffering from PPID exhibit a number of symptoms, including a coarse wavy coat, excessive thirst coupled with excessive urination, increased appetite without corresponding we-ight gain, loss of muscle and top line and, most importantly, they are more susceptible to laminitis.

For any horse prone to laminitis, the diet must be low in starch and fructans and low starch options include balancers, for the good-doers, and low starch conditioning feeds as outlined above. Correct nutrition is vital to provide support for the weakened digestive and immune systems and it may also be worth considering the use of prebiotics, like Baileys Digest Plus, and probiotics, especially if the animal is receiving medication. Each horse is an individual, how-ever, and we would always recommend talking to a member of our Nutrition Team, when dealing with a PPID horse or pony.

Loose droppings

As the older horse’s digestive tract is not as efficient in dealing with change, and is more sus-ceptible to disruption, adding a prebiotic to the diet when making any changes in feed or routine, should help the horse adjust more smoothly. Prebiotics, like Baileys Digest Plus, help by feeding the beneficial bacteria in the hindgut, which are involved in fibre digestion and B – vitamin production, but are also responsible for keeping harmful bacteria at bay. By keeping the gut healthy, we can help combat any disruptions and keep our horses happy and healthy for longer.

Poor teeth

Loose and worn teeth can make it difficult for oldies to chew properly, so what is swallowed is less easily digested and can be one reason why a horse is not thriving even on the correct diet. The biggest difficulty for horses whose teeth are really failing, is consuming sufficient forage and fibre to maintain a healthy digestive system. Alfalfa, and other chaffs, may be easier to chew, and can be fed as full or partial hay/ haylage replacers, along with soaked Speedi- or Fibre-Beet, while Fibre Plus Nuggets or Everyday High Fibre Cubes are also useful and can be softened with water or soaked beet pulp.

n For advice on feeding your ‘golden oldie’, contact Baileys Horse Feeds on + 44 (0)1371 850247 (option 2), +44 (0)7885 065531 or visit

Bree Rutledge

If you would like to find out more about Horse Week, Bree Rutledge can be contacted by email: or or by telephone: +44 (0) 28 9033 4493.




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