Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price
Horses can nip and tear feedstuffs with great efficiency if their teeth are healthy. This prepares them for the digestion that takes place further down the digestive tract. Horses can sometimes drop food from their mouths if they have damaged, discolored, or lost teeth. This is known as “quidding” in cattle, but it is not connected to dental health.
Sometimes, quidding can occur in horses with all their teeth but need to correct sharp points . It is also common in cases of tongue paralysis. Quidding can be caused by old age or loose teeth. Quidding should not be considered a problem, but a sign that the horse’s diet needs to be altered in order to get optimal nutrition. Horsemen believe that quidding is caused by the horse’s inherent knowledge that it cannot safely eat large, unchewed boluses forage. This safety feature protects against choke.
Catherine Whitehouse M.S. is a nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research.
- A soft, leafy, alfalfa (lucerne), hay. This would seem to be an inappropriate feedstuff choice for older horses with poor teeth. Horses quickly learn to shake, paw and stir alfalfa to separate preferred leaves from stems. These leaves are small and easy to grasp by horses’ lips. Alfalfa Hay can be easily stripped from older horses. The leaves are easily dissolved once they reach the horse’s lips. Whitehouse stated that leaves are not only delicious, but also provide a lot of nutrition.
- Hay pellets. This is an excellent alternative forage that can be used to care for older horses. The pellets are usually made from high-quality hay, which has been pulverized before being pelleted. Horses will find the pellets easy to chew and are able to swallow them whole as long as they don’t have a history of bolting. She said that hay pellets are often recommended for older horses. If a horse has trouble chewing, she recommends wetting the pellets to make a mush.
- Senior feeds. These feeds contain a variety of energy sources that are easy to digest, such as vegetable oil and stabilized rice bran. Also, they have fermentable fibers like soybean hulls or beet pulp. Senior feeds that are textured or pelleted are acceptable to most horses.
- Vegetable oils. Horses love vegetable oils. These oils include soybean oil and canola oil as well as corn oil, soybean oil and rice oil. Whitehouse noted that oils are caloric and can be drizzled over hay pellets or senior feed to increase energy. This is especially true if the senior horse has trouble maintaining their body weight. Although fish oil is the best way to add omega-3s to a diet (see EO-3), soybean or canola oil are better options.
Equine nutritionists can help owners create a diet that provides all the nutrients they need for their horses’ optimal health. Get in touch with a KER nutritionist right away.
Horses with missing or loose teeth may not be able long-stem feeds. However, horse owners often allow their horses access to forage and hay to give them “chew time,” which horses are just as likely to enjoy as chasing away insects. It will enjoy grazing as long as it has learned to quit and is satisfied by simple-to-chew foods.
Supplements can help with skin and feet problems in older horses. A biotin supplement can often improve hooves, skin and hair. To strengthen hooves, a daily intake of 20mg of biotin per day is recommended. BIO-Bloom PS ( BIO-Bloom HF) in Australia not only contains the recommended amount of biotin, but also provides methionine, which is an essential amino acid for keratin production.
Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid supplements, particularly the marine omega-3s docosahexaenoic (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) could help to strengthen immunity in older horses. EO-3 is a marine-derived source for DHA and EPA. Horse owners have reported that it is effective in treating skin conditions.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!