Spillers' equine nutritionist Clare Barfoot provides one H&H forum user with some helpful advice on how to feed a veteran to help promote overall health through the winter

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Q: Feeding a veteran horse to support joints and overall health: “I have a veteran horse that is 21-years-old. He is still very fit and active in light to medium work. He has no ailments or vices but I don’t want to feed him anything heating as he’s a sharp Arab. I also don’t want anything fattening as he’s a good doer. He’s mildly arthritic — a bit clicky and stiff at times but no obvious pain and has never been lame. He also has brittle hooves and his mane and tail grow very slowly. I’m looking for advice feed/supplements that will support an older horse and keep his joints mobile please.”

A: Knowing at what point to adjust your horse’s diet when they get older can be a worry for many owners but it needn’t be complicated.

For older horses that are not showing the signs of ageing that typically include loss of muscle tone, weight loss, dental problems and stiffness there is no need to change them from their ‘normal’ ration. In your horse’s case it sounds like he is still fit, active and maintaining his weight well but he may benefit from some joint support.

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Taking your horse’s needs into account, I suggest that during the winter months when the grass quality and quantity declines you base his diet on ad lib hay or haylage. Although if he puts on too much weight you may need restrict it, but always keep to 15g/kg bodyweight (dry weight) as a minimum.

In addition to forage, it is important to provide a balanced diet this will help ensure your horse’s long term well-being and should help to improve his coat and hoof health.

As your horse is a good doer he is unlikely to require the calories a traditional compound feed provides making a balancer the ideal way to supply the vitamins and minerals he needs without unnecessary calories.

If you opt for a senior balancer such as Spillers Supple + Senior Balancer this will provide the nutrients needed every day alongside joint support to help maintain comfortable and supple joints. It also contains live yeast and MOS to support digestive health and 15mg of biotin per serving to support hoof health. The balancer can be fed alongside Spillers Daily Fibre which is a low calorie blend of chopped straw and alfalfa or Spillers Speedy-Mash Fibre which is a soakable fibre. Both will bulk out your horse’s bucket and provide extra fibre without too many calories. This diet is also very low in sugar and starch so will help keep his brain sane during the colder winter months!

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For more advice on feeding call the SPILLERS Care-Line on 01908 22 66 26.