Winter may still be weeks away, but now is the time to adjust your older horse’s diet to help prepare him for the cold weather ahead. There are two simple ways determine if changes are needed.

First, consider his body condition. It’s not unusual for an older horse to lose a bit of weight during the winter months as he naturally burns more calories to keep himself warm. If your horse is already on the lean side of the body condition scale, a score of 4 or lower, he doesn’t have any extra to lose. Determining your horse’s body condition score isn’t difficult—it entails looking at and feeling the fat deposits on specific locations on your horse’s body—but it does require an unbiased eye. If your older horse is underweight, there’s time to put some weight on him before the weather turns cold.

Consult with your veterinarian about ways you can safely increase his energy intake now. That may mean switching to calorie-dense senior feed or adding oil or another supplement to his existing ration.

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #468, September 2016.

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