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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

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All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Old Age

Hi everyone! I recently purchased a 28 year old QH gelding. When I first got him he was full of lice, thin, and ragged looking. He is now lice free, has a great coat, is UTD on all shots, has beautiful feet, on a regular worming schedule, and has been deemed healthy by the local veterinarian. Old Man has also had his teeth floated and is only missing one tooth so far. I had him Buckey Senior/Maturity Formula, with 6 oz of weight builder daily. I worked him up to 10lbs of senior feed per day. 5 in the morning and 5 in the evening, along with getting 2 majesty flex wafers per day for his joints. He was steadily gaining weight and I was able to start doing some light riding on him to help build back the muscle he had lost...but we have recently hit a heat wave.
The heat index somedays has exceeded over 106..HOT for our northern MN area! And he has lost the weight that I have gained on him! I've been making my way towards a beet pulp diet with the senior feed each day. I have also considered adding Probios or some other probiotics after hearing that they were great for older horses in utilizing grain. I have also started soaking alfalfa cubes to soften them up for him. Now with the heat and the flys being awful he is inside with a sheet, spray, and mask with a fan to keep him cool. He has free choice water, gets his grain a.m. and p.m. and has free choice hay so he never has to be hungry. He has turnout all day and on cooler days where the horses dont' need to be in the barn. I just don't know what else to do for him! Winter is fast approaching us here in the borderland..and I can't have Old Man dying on me! He's sucha sweety pie and loves life. Always nudging you and happy to see you every day! Plus he's quite active for an old guy. I have now refrained again from doing any excercising on him other than hand walking.

This is some of the contents of his Buckeye Senior Feed:
Crude Protein Min: 12%, Lysine Min: .60%, Crude Fat: 5.00% min, Crude Fiber Max: 15.00%. And is made up of Crimped oats, Steam crimped barley, wheat middlings, dried beet pulp, dehydtrated alfalfa meal, soybean hull, flaxseed, ect.. Those are just a few..obviously not everything. Just some basics off the bag. Buckeye Senior feed also contains:

Ground Beat Pulp
No Corn Formula (low starch)
Heat Processed (cooked) grains
Digestible Fiber Sources
Added veggie oils
Yeast Culture
Fortified with Gro 'N' Win

Please help if you can! And I'm sorry it took so long! Hopefully anyone..or even you doc..can help me!!!!

Where are you from? Minnesota

How did you locate this forum?

Re: Old Age

no help for my old guy???

Re: Old Age

Hello Ashley,

So sorry for the delay in getting to your request. I try to answer these forum messages within 7 days. We're on schedule, but I certainly understand your need to get your old guy on track.

You're doing well with him though I have a few suggestions.

First, be very careful about meal size -- you mentioned that he's getting 5 lbs at each meal. This is far too large for him to adequately digest and can lead to colic. It can also endanger him for laminitis since this amount of feed will reach the hind gut and be fermented by the bacterial flora. So, either feed him 3 meals per day or lessen the amount to no more than 4 lbs per meal.

Next, give him Ration Plus. This is not a probiotic but rather a prebiotic which will boost the health of the bacterial flora in his hindgut, making it easier for him to digest hay and therefore, gain weight. I would suggest 2 tablespoons per day until you see him get to his correct weight and then give him a maintenance dose of 1 teaspoon per day.

Give him a weight builder that is high in fat. At his age, he likely requires a joint supplement, too, then give him Actiflex Senior which also provides fat. Otherwise, I recommend Hard Keeper.

Flaxseed meal is also very helpful, not only for adding extra fat to his diet, but also for the omega 3 fatty acids that will boost his immune function, support his joints, blood vessels, hooves, and hair growth, just to name a few benefits. I recommend Nutra Flax.

And lastly, make sure he has all the good quality pasture and/or hay he wants, 24/7 -- at all times. This is true for any horse and he is certainly no exception to that rule.

Oh, did I say, "lastly?" Well, there actually is another thing... salt. Make sure he has a plain white salt lick available and that he licks it regularly. Or, better yet, add 1 Tablespoon of plain, white non-iodized (he gets iodine in his commercial feed), salt (that you buy in the grocery store) to each meal. And, he should have easy access to all the fresh, clean water he wants.

I know this is a lot, but your goal is to add fat, in a nutritious way, boost the health of his hindgut bacteria, and make sure that he's getting lots of forage.

Keep me posted!

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO

Re: Old Age

Okay...Before I read your post I had down graded his feed to 4lbs twice per day instead of 5lb. 5lbs looked just like waaay to much I will try the joint supplements and everything you have suggested. Also..I was wondering what the difference is between a PRObiotic and a PREbiotic? Everyone had suggested a Probiotic so that was why I had mentioned it...i had no idea of a Prebiotic..and I was just wondering what the difference is and why one would be better than the other? (I'm not questioning you..I just don't know. I'm not used to taking care of senior horses. ) Also I was wondering what you thought of bran in a horses diet? I feed the regular 4lbs of Senior Feed and just a handful of rolled oats with 1 cup of Vegetable oil. (vet suggested it.. I guess for weight and his coat) In the evening I feed 1lb of bran with his senior feed and NO oats or oil. Is this going to harm him? I also feed the bran to my 7 yr old horse as well daily but also only in the evening. Is this okay for my old guy or 7yr old as long as it's daily? or is this a no go for both? They both LOVE it and a few other people feed it too (they have had horses for 40+ years) and had suggested it. Thanks for the help and I will definately keep you posted.

Re: Old Age

Hi Ashley,

A prebiotic is different than a probiotic because a prebiotic does not contain any live microbes. Instead, it contains fermentation products that feed the existing bacteria in the hind gut, making them healthy, in larger numbers, and better capable of digesting forage and producing B vitamins.

Probiotics (live microbes) are useful in situations when the number of microbes in the hind gut are diminishing. This can occur when a horse is taking antibiotics, for example.

So, to keep the hind gut healthy, I would go with a prebiotic such as Ration Plus.

Regarding bran -- if you are feeding a bran product that does not have added calcium, you may be providing too much phosphorus in the diet. It is very important that there be more calcium than phosphorus in the diet and since you are not feeding alfalfa, this could be a concern. I would be happy to crunch some numbers if you think you'd find that service helpful.

Also, if you are going to feed bran, make sure it's on a daily basis, not once in a while or every few days. Consistency is the key toward keeping the bacterial flora in the hind gut healthy. Some horseowners like to give a bran mash every few days, but this can be dangerous and lead to colic.

Thanks for writing!

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO