Q. My native pony is now 35 years old and has very few teeth left. He is on a diet of ad-lib fibre cubes soaked in sugar beet pulp, with added oil and a supplement and is looking and feeling very well at present. What other extras can I feed him to try and keep him healthy and prolong his activity?

Nutritionist Christine Smy replies: Nowadays, many horses reach a ripe old age thanks to modern methods of veterinary care and feeding, and it sounds as if you are currently feeding a good balanced diet to your old boy.

However, here are a few extra ideas you could try:

  • Make sure you feed a good quality, broad spectrum supplement – one which is high in antioxidants. Antioxidants, found in minerals and vitamins, such as selenium and vitamin E, vitamin C and zinc, mop up free radicals which attack body tissue and damage cells.
  • Oil supplements containing linoleic and linolenic acid provide the essential fatty acids that must be present in the diet as the body is unable to make them. Usually found in unprocessed oils they are good for general health and help to ease stiffness in conditions such as chronic arthritis.
  • Older horses tend to have poor absorption of phosphorus, so make sure this mineral is present in your supplement or feed. And, if possible, provide a product that helps in the absorption and digestion of both fibre and minerals.
  • Supplements or feed containing chelated minerals (minerals that have been bound to proteins) tend to be more efficiently absorbed than inorganic minerals. They will be of benefit as your horse may have compromised digestion due to his age.
  • Herbal supplements containing burdock root, dandelion and gingko among other beneficial herbs can help respiration, digestion, liver and kidney functions as well as the immune and lymphatic system.