Hard Keepers and Seniors
There are a number of factors that can make a horse a “hard keeper.” In some cases, the horse is elderly and doesn’t have the chewing capacity it once did. Even with dental work, it can sometimes be difficult for these horses to properly masticate their food so that it can be digested and utilized optimally. In other instances, a horse may have higher caloric needs that are not being met or may have a metabolic disease. In yet other instances a horse can develop ulcers and not show any classic signs or symptoms. They may, however, not be able to digest their feedstuffs or may have less appetite.
Injuries and illnesses can also cause a once-thriving horse to become a “hard keeper”. Pain and immobility have a major impact on gut motility and can increase a horse’s chances of developing ulcers or other gastric issues.
Regardless of the reasons, the first line of defense against emaciation is for a horse to receive adequate nutrition. By fostering the gut flora and promoting a balanced pH, the gut lining will heal and be capable of absorbing more nutrients and allowing the horse to gain weight.
A hard keeper can lose weight rapidly, is prone to be thin and finds it difficult to gain weight. Obviously, hard keepers have special nutritional needs that must be met in order to attain and maintain the normal weight for a horse of its breed and conformation.
Inadequate weight gain in hard keepers isn’t always due to a poor appetite. While it’s vital that a horse is encouraged to consume adequate amounts of feed, it’s also essential to know how to supplement a horse’s diet for better feed digestion and utilization.
Through the use of natural products and supplements, older horses can more easily fight off infection during a disease outbreak. This is due to the increased absorption of essential nutrients the horse may have previously had difficulty assimilating. The following tip can help you improve the feeding habits of hard keepers.
- Increase the Forage
A horse’s digestive system is designed for continuous grazing, so providing adequate access to forage is the best way to help your horse gain weight. However, while good pasture may be available in spring and summer, you may not be able to count on this throughout the year.
This means you must have a substitute ready in form of high-quality hay. Place the hay in front of your old horse round the clock when you don’t have good pasture available. In addition, you need to increase the amount of roughage your horse eats. You can supplement it with beet pulp, hay cubes and alfalfa.
- Prevent Gastric Ulcers
Gastric ulcers may occur in a larger population of race and performance horses but any horse is susceptible. They’re caused by exposure of the delicate mucosal lining to excess acid in the horse’s stomach. Usually, ulcers are accompanied by signs of discomfort such as stretching or biting at the flanks. In addition, other sigsn include reduced appetite, poor body condition, and diarrhea.
Zesterra® works to neutralize this acid, healing existing ulcers and reducing the possibility of ulcers developing.
- Avoid Development of Hindgut Acidosis
Increasing a horse’s caloric intake by adding a little more concentrated feed such as grain is a common practice, but horses find it difficult to digest large grain meals. The undigested grain can easily ferment in the large intestine, leading to acidosis. This disorder usually increases the risk of developing colic and laminitis.
To boost your horse’s grain intake in a safe way, it’s vital to opt for processed grains that will digest faster. Examples include extruded feed and crimped oats. Grain intake should occur divided into smaller quantities included with each feeding.
- Boost Gut Microbiome
Improved gut health will help the horse digest and absorb the nutrients from food better and faster. A supplement that increases the population of beneficial bacteria will prevent leaky gut syndrome and digest food effectively. This will lead to better utilization of nutrients obtained from the horse’s diet.
- Increase Fat in the Diet
Certain fats are an excellent addition to the horse’s diet and they are digested easily. Zesterra® contains good sources of fat, including corn oil, soy oil and other vegetable fatty acids.
Fat is calorie-dense, providing double the number of calories in the same weight of grain. Because a horse can only eat about 2% of its body weight daily, it’s essential to supplement grass and hay with more energy-dense, healthy fat sources to help a horse gain and maintain weight.
- Dental Care
It’s important for a veterinarian to regularly examine a horse’s teeth. Some older horses may have lost some teeth or may have trouble while chewing because of impacted food material, worn chewing surfaces or misalignment. Chewing may also be uncomfortable due to periodontitis or some other type of tooth infection or abscess.
All teeth disorders will hinder the proper mastication (grinding of food) and restrict the digestion of nutrients as food passes through the gastrointestinal tract. A hard keeper that’s experiencing mouth pain may also refuse to eat. In such cases, providing soaked beet pulp or pelleted feed will make it easy for the horse to eat with minimal pain.
When a horse has poor dentition, discuss the possibility of increasing the volume of gruels and mashes, so it can consume a larger amount of food without the discomfort of long and laborious chewing.
- Reduce Parasites in the Gut
A horse with a large population of parasites in the gut will find it difficult to get the required nutrients from the food it eats. The population of internal parasites can be evaluated through the fecal egg count. If a horse is found to have parasites in its stool, it must be placed on a deworming schedule.
In addition to deworming, a regular dose of Zesterra® will help support the growth of beneficial gut flora. Thriving colonies of beneficial bacteria improve the digestion of grass, hay and other roughage horses consume to promote weight gain. It also contains colloidal silver, which prevents the spread of single-cell organisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi in the gut.
- Boost Food Quality
Increasing the quality of feed is more important than increasing the quantity for a hard keeper. Feed quality refers to the nutrient density in feedstuffs, type of nutrients present, their availability and ease of digestion.
The most important type of feed to offer a horse is forage. In addition to forage, provide concentrated feeds to increase caloric intake. If feeding hay or alfalfa, consider soaking in warm water to increase the palatability.
- Change the Horse’s Environment
Various factors can increase the horse’s stress level and result in a decreased appetite or lower feed consumption. For instance, if a horse is housed with aggressive or overbearing stablemates, stress may increase.
Also, if a horse is more submissive, fellow band-mates who are more aggressive may be keeping him or her from receiving adequate feed.
Start Increasing the Weight of Your Hard Keepers Now
Get all the details you need to begin a sustainable weight gain program for your hard keepers. 100% natural Zesterra is effective and convenient to use. You can also contact us if you have more questions or would like more information about any of the products we provide for equine health and performance.