Friends will soon be sending their 24 year old stallion to my stables for retirement. I haven’t seen him for a while but was told that he has lost quite a bit of weight in the last year or so when he was stabled at someone else. I was told that he was dewormed regularly and fed good quality hay and concentrate, his teeth was also checked recently. I will also have him checked over by the vet as soon as he arrives but I would appreciate some advice on what to feed him and how much and which supplement to use to help him gain weight and to keep him in general good health. I got advice to use the following products to help clear up the diarrhea and to help him on his way to recovery: Brewer’s Yeast and Fenu’shine. Are these products good or are there better recommended ones? Also what is the recommended amount of lusern to feed to a horse? I currently use the chopped lusern and all my horses are fat, maybe to fat, but I’m scared to just give this old stallion the same amount not being sure if it is good for him in his current state. Could any one please advice me on this matter.
I agree with Paul here. Teeth and Deworming are vital and are often brushed aside. Deworming on its own is not always enough if the management of the yard is not up to scratch. New horses often get introduced to the crowd without first being properly dewormed and kept apart so that any droppings can be removed until the dewormer has done its job. Also, often horses receive the same dewormer every time. That will not control the population well either. Different active ingredients should be used at different times of the year to ensure that the correct population is being targeted. Dropings should be picked up regularly in paddocks to prevent the ingestion of eggs. Once he gets to your yard, have the vet check his teeth and give him a dewormer drench.
Introduce him to your chosen feed regime very slowly, and he should be fine. Probiotics are definitely more effective than yeasts, as they supplement the actual microflora that he needs in his gut. I would start him off on a high dose, gradually decreasing it to a maintenace level as he picks up weight.
One of the big problems with older stallions is that they tend to be kept on their own on one corner of the yard and pace up and down in their paddocks all day, especially if they can see other horses and mares in particular and it gets worse when a mare might be in season. Make sure that he has some kind of companion and do not isolate him as it will make the pacing really bad and he will burn a huge amount of calories every day which will cause him to lose weight. Get creative and hang treats in his paddock, make sure he has access to good quality roughage while outside and see that he has enough mental stimulation.
Another problem with older horses is that their teeth are sometimes so worn that they cannot chew food properly and much of it can pass through the digestive tract undigested. They often have a low level of microbes in the gut, which means that nutrients are not as readily absorbed. Lucerne can be hard to chew and digest, as can other high fibre products. Fibre in the diet, however is very important and should not be decreased! To help with this problem, feed a slightly softer hay, like teff, which is easier digested and chewed. Good quality Eragrostis should also be great.
Older horses cannot take in the high volume of hard feed that may be required to keep them in good condition. To assist with this, supplement him with oils - you can feed up to 2 cups of vegetable oil per day if you introduce it very slowly and monitor him carefully to make sure he is coping with the amounts. It is the perfect way of increasing the caloric value of his feed without actually increasing the amount of feed he has to chew! The probiotic will also help tremendously to improve his digestion of roughage. Feeds can also be softened with water so help with chewing.
There are concentrate feeds specially formulated for older horses that are easier to chew and digest, and you may consider feeding one of those until he picks up enough weight. If he responds well to that type of feed, keep him on it if possible. Rather feed many smaller meals than one or two bigger ones.
Because he is underweight, he may also struggle to stay warm in winter. Make sure that he has protection from the elements, and if it is very cold, you might even want to turn him out with a light rug during the day until he picks up weight. If it is raining, keep him out of the wet if you can - either with a rug or by keeping him inside with lots of teff to chew on. Horses in general don't mind getting wet, but because he is underweight he will struggle with the elements and will burn up the extra calories you are giving him to pick up weight.
Remember that your aim is for him to pick up weight slowly - picking up weight too quickly can be bad for him too. I would aim for him to return to a good weight over 4 to 5 months. If you follow these giudelines, he should pick up weight slowly and steadily, and what you are also looking for is an improvement in his health and condition - in other words a shine to his coat, more spark in his eyes and his hooves should improve in quality too.
Good luck, and do let us know if there is anything else you need help with!