WELLNESS STARTS NOW
Now is always the best time to build a foundation for a long and active life for both you and your horses. The most common contributors to the demise of older animals is poor mobility, dental problems and laminitis. The good news is that these problems can be prevented or managed with good wellness care. While you can't roll back the clock for animals that already have health issues, the good care you give horses in their formative years will pay off in spades later in life.
Here's a "big five" list of health management goals
for a long and productive life;
1. Dental care
2. Weight control and metabolic health (think pituitary - Cushing's disease)
4. Parasite control
Dental care in horses should start in their youth. Just like us, every horse is different, some mouths will require more work than others to remain functional and healthy. Dental exams should ideally be performed at 6 month intervals. This doesn't mean every animal will need his/her teeth floated (for most animals floating once per year is enough), but it is important to assess them for damage, abnormal wear and changes that can be corrected early, before they impact overall health. If you wait until the older horse is quidding (dropping partially chewed feed) it's much harder to help them than if you address problems early. We believe in regular dental care so much that we are extending our annual Dental Deal for two months (November & December) this year. (see details below)
Overeating, eating the wrong stuff and not eating the right stuff is a national health disaster for humans if not their horses! Don't kill your animals with misplaced kindness. The health impacts of poor nutrition are just as bad for them as they are for us. Because we are an affluent society we tend to suffer more from over abundance, which can lead to significant metabolic problems and an early demise. Being over weight is not good for horses. Metabolic changes are a natural part of the aging process. It's the rare horse of advanced age (late teens/20's) that won't have some degree of pituitary dysfunction. (ie. PPID, aka. Cushing's disease) Whether it's severe enough to shorten their lifespan depends on each individual animal but treatment early in the disease process is always better than trying to catch up later when secondary problems like laminitis or immune disease ensue.
Use it or lose it is the mantra for physical fitness. Exercise, regular and at appropriate intensities, is an unsung hero of life long health. Right now, with seasonal and schedule changes, is an important time to address exercise levels for your horses. If they have been active all summer and now are relegated to a muddy pen, you need to manage their diet for these new conditions. Exercise is just as important for abdominal health as it is for musculoskeletal health and nobody wants to see their horse colic.
Speaking of abdominal health, don't forget about regular anti-parasite management. We've already had frost on the pumpkins so now is a good time to make sure your parasite control program is in place and implemented. Don't have one? call us, we are happy to help design one specifically for your animals. Parasite damage can be subtle but relentless and definitely carries a cumulative health threat over time.
Notice that nutrition comes up a couple of times here... you are what you eat and so are your animals. Besides curbing the carbohydrates (or at least managing them carefully in relation to activity and metabolic levels) there are important vitamins and minerals needed to maintain health. With soooo many feed supplements on the market it can be confusing. There's a difference between "designer supplements" and those that are vital to health. (Thinking seaweed vs. vitamin E/selenium here.) If you're having trouble discerning what's important, we can help with that too. If you have a flush pocketbook and want to try the newest "calming supplement" go ahead, but keep the "do no harm" rule of thumb in mind. (Also, check the regulated drug list if you plan to go horse showing under FEI rules - several herbal type supplements are banned during competition.)