My 28-year-old retired, arthritic mare seems to be holding her weight and is energetic. But I wondered if her diet was nutritionally sound. She’s getting: five lbs. Legends 12% sweet feed, 1/2 lb. Calf Manna, 4 oz. corn oil and the recommended adult doses of Bio-Flax 20, Grand Flex and Ration Plus. She gets whatever amount of timothy hay she’s willing to consume, which is about four flakes a day and is on pasture every day. She loves the Calf Manna, digging to the bottom of the feed tub if I forget to put it on top.
I give her Ration Plus to help her digest her feed well; Bio-Flax 20 for both the biotin for her hooves (she has a crack that won’t grow out) and flaxseed for her coat (she has a history of itchy skin); and the Grand Flex for her arthritic hocks. The Calf Manna was initially chosen to help make up for some poor hay a few years ago, but she loves it so much I hate to take it away from her.
I know older horses have special nutritional needs. She’s doing well, and I want to keep it that way.
Horse Journal Responds:
Older horses do have special dietary needs, but they’re not well defined yet. We do know they have decreased phosphorus absorption and likely need supplemental vitamin C. You’ve taken care of both of these with the vitamin C in Grand Flex and an overall phosphorus level in the diet that is 150% of the recommended minimum. Your calcium:phosphorus ratio is also right on the mark, at just under 2:1, and trace mineral levels are excellent, too. While selenium and iodine may be borderline, the key players copper, manganese and zinc are excellent and in the neighborhood of twice the recommended minimum. The yeast cultures in Legends 12 and Bioflax 20 also help with phosphorus absorption.
Protein quantity and quality are terrific, with plenty of lysine and methionine from the supplements and Legends 12. Fat-soluble vitamin levels are also good for A and D, although E could use some boosting. The omega-3 fatty acids from the Bio-Flax 20 round out the picture, essential for skin/hoof health, support of hormone production and for keeping inflammatory reactions in check.
Are your overdoing it’ No. Minimum recommendations are minimums. For example, you are feeding about 40% more calories than would be predicted to be needed for ideal weight. But, decreased digestive efficiency explains the need for the additional calories, from chewing/saliva production through decreased stomach acid and digestive enzymes and poor absorption of nutrients. They have less ability to synthesize needed vitamins, fatty acids and proteins.
Your mare’s diet is excellent, but you could add vitamin E and selenium, especially if she runs into any trouble with low thyroid function.