For veteran horses and ponies winter can be tough and present owners with a challenge to ensure that they come through into spring in good condition. Horses and particularly ponies can live active lives well into their twenties and beyond, defying the age bracket where traditionally we would have classed them as a veteran.
As they age at different rates, feeding, exercise and general management regime may then differ for each individual case, for example some will need their level of exercise reduced to help ease arthritic joints, whilst other will carry on competing.
One of the biggest factors facing veteran horses and ponies is deteriorating dentition, which has a knock-on effect on body condition as they find it increasingly difficult to chew long forage. For this reason it is vital that your horse or pony is seen regularly by a qualified equine dentist.
Horses, whose teeth have been regularly looked after by a qualified equine dentist throughout their lives, tend to fair better in later years.
Horses’ teeth are primarily designed for the tearing and chewing of fibrous material, such as hay and grass. Over time they become worn away at the surface making it difficult to chew effectively. Efficient digestion and fermentation of fibre is very dependent on the effectiveness of the molars and cheek teeth.
If your horse drops its food (quidding), or suffers from choke this could be an indication of dental problems.
Keep an eye on your horse’s droppings as loose droppings could be a sign that they are not getting sufficient fibre, which could be due to their inability to chew properly.
Thick coats and winter rugs can hide a multitude of sins, so in winter it is important to take even more time and look even closer, as slight weight loss can be hidden under a winter coat.
Remove rugs every day and run your hands over his body, checking for areas where the rug may have rubbed and also to keep an eye on body condition.
For most horses and ponies, winter will mean spending more time indoors so to help ease stiff joints it is important to ensure that they are allowed the freedom to move about as much as possible. If daily turnout is not possible, walk them out in-hand a couple of times a day.
Ailments of the foot such as thrush and abscesses are more common in the winter months so try to practice good stable management, ensuring your horse or pony has a clean, dry bed.
Although horses and ponies of all ages can be affected by common problems associated with winter, as horses age their immune system declines making it harder for their body to heal and fight infection, so prevention is definitely much better than the cure.
Robinson Animal Healthcare has a wide range of products for all your first aid requirements including the market leading Animalintex®, which is the only VMD licensed multi-layered absorbent poultice available in the UK and the legendary Veterinary Gamgee®.
For more information contact Robinson Animal Healthcare on 01909 735000 or visit www.robinsonhealthcare.com