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Elderly Horses

Why do we include Vitamins in Our Formulas?









Pictured here is Persil Beaucoup at 28yrs.
On the left is Persil before he started on the Calm Healthy Horses Diet, on the right is a year later having been on the Calm Healthy Horses program...

He was getting a mineral lick in the paddock and being fed enough 'fuel' (equine Fast Food) to feed a race horse in full work.

Cathy could not figure out what was going on and blood tests repeatedly came back as 'normal'. He had the vets stumped and Cathy was worried.








Persil here is 30 years old, muscular and fit thanks to supplementation with Premium NZ Horse Minerals and salt.

Vitamins are just as important as minerals and interact with other nutrients to perform thousands of essential life processes.

A vitamin is an organic substance, present in minute amounts in natural food, that is essential to normal metabolism; Basically, your body needs vitamins in order to work properly, and it needs different vitamins to help perform specific activities like produce energy, protect cells from damage, guide mineral utilization, and regulate cell and tissue growth. If your horse doesn’t get enough of the vitamins it needs, it can lead to deficiencies and disease.

Take one example: Vitamin E which is abundant in fresh, green grass which many people cannot feed their horses enough of because they become grass-affected in some way, not to mention obese and laminitic. Since hay is not a great source of Vitamin E and it is not synthesized by the horse it is therefore an essential component of your Vitamin & Mineral supplement in order to maintain cell membrane integrity and maintain proper function of the reproductive, muscular, nervous, circulatory, and immune systems.

Lack of Vitamin E will cause muscle degeneration especially in foals, young horses, lactating mares and horses in intense work.
Similarly with Vitamin A which keeps tissues and skin healthy , which if deficient will cause problems with eyesight

Vitamins are either Fat soluble or water soluble

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the fat tissues of our bodies, as well as the liver. Fat-soluble vitamins are easier to store than water-soluble ones, and can stay in the body as reserves for days, some of them for months.

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble and are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of fats.

Water-soluble vitamins do not get stored in the body for long - they soon get passed out urine and therefore need to be replaced more often than fat-soluble ones.

Vitamins C and all the B vitamins are water-soluble.

Whilst minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc have a shelf life of years, Vitamins do tend to degrade but only very slowly and since our Premium NZ Horse Minerals & Supreme Vit & Min (for Australian horses) are made fresh every month and are well packaged and stored your horse will get all the benefits.

Premium and Supreme contain ALL the Vitamins including ALL the B Vitamins, even Inositol (Vitamin B8)

Inositol benefits your horse in a number of ways: transporting fat, aiding the neurons in your central nervous system to make sure everything is running smoothly, and promoting strong, healthy hair and hooves.

Older Horses and Vitamin C

Younger horses are able to produce all the Vitamin C they need for every-day health, but with age horses are less able to manufacture their own Vitamin C. Decline of liver function is the major reason.

Vitamin C is very important because it is an effective anti-oxidant. It prevents free radical damage to tissues and organs. Such damage tends to accelerate with age. Vitamin C is one of the body’s best defences against free radicals, it ‘neutralises’ them, rendering them harmless to health.


It is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, staving off infections and tissue repair.

Believe it or not, because it is involved in Collagen synthesis Vitamin C is also absolutely essential to maintaining GOOD STRONG BONES.

Collagen lives in bones, joints, blood vessel walls as well as skin. When collagen breaks down all these are detrimentally affected.

Vitamin C is also handy as an anti-histamine which is more important later in life when they become more susceptible to respiratory and skin allergies.


Along with this, Vitamin C helps by regenerating vitamin E, is needed for hormone synthesis, conversion of vitamin D3 to calcitriol, and bone calcification.


Vitamin C deficiency results in poor hair coat, depressed immune system, hemorrhage, delayed wound healing, and deterioration of the function of the adrenal glands.

Another name for VitaminC is ‘ascorbic acid’. It comes from plants, fruit, vegetables and sometimes flowers (e.g., rose hips). The synthetically manufactured variety is just as good as natural sources.


Premium/Supreme and GrazeEzy all contain Vitamin C and this is one of the reasons they help to ‘retain vital minerals for a longer, useful life’. GrazeEzy contains ‘unbuffered’ Vitamin C in order to ‘buffer’ alkalinity which causes ‘increased excitability’ as evidenced by a high urine pH.

Buffered Vitamin C is less acidic but therefore less helpful to pasture fed horses.


Vitamin C is water soluble so excess amounts are easily excreted in the urine.

persil before and after diet changes
thirty year old Persil - still playing
Danny Boy, fit and happy in his late twenties

Danny Boy in great health in his late 20s.

Photo Cathy Dee

older horses racing around their track

Age is just a number to little B.B. here who gives our big horses are run for their money, having arrived barely able to walk, B.B. is a prime example of what great nutrition can do.

Aged mare
At What age is a Horse ‘Old’?

Horses are generally considered ‘old’ when they approach twenty. Wouldn’t it be good if we could push that out to more like 30? Thoroughbreds seem to age more rapidly than some other breeds and ponies who regularly live to see their 40's..

In fact Miniature horses make excellent ‘guide horses’ (as opposed to guide dogs) for blind or disabled people, because unlike the dog who may live for ten or so years, the miniature horse is expected to live until about age 40.


Aging Horses


Apparently Morgans and Lipizzaners on average live well into their 30's.
Whatever the breed it makes good sense to extend their useful life. Many horses in NZ are past their ‘use by’ date before they are twenty because they have developed degenerative diseases.
They become stiff, develop a ‘dippy’ back, show signs of arthritis, lose condition or Cushing’s sets in!

Improving their nutrition much earlier in life will delay the onset of these diseases and because they stay healthier you will enjoy their company for much longer.

Be diligent with the fibre content of their diet in order to look after the hind-gut flora. A horse that predominantly consumes over-grazed paddocks is NOT ingesting enough fibre.

Keep up the Premium/Supreme vitamins and minerals and salt because the horses digestive ability declines with age. Feed Premium MVA with amino acids if the horse is showing signs of muscle wastage . Adding fat in the form of oils (like Zeaola or coconut or flaxseed) will assist with maintaining good body condition in latter years.

If your elderly horse is in a herd, it is a good idea to accustom him to eat from a nose-bag because older horses not only drop down the pecking order but eat more slowly than the other horses. Prebiotics will benefit the hind-gut flora thereby improving fibre digestion.






Why might thoroughbreds not last as long as other horses?

This is most likely due to their nutritionally unbalanced start to life. We attended a talk by the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders Association and were aghast to learn that almost 100% of young thoroughbred horses have some degree of developmental orthopedic diseases (DODs) by the time they are yearlings. Nobody seems to think there is anything amiss with these statistics. It is a case of – because it is so common it must be normal!
This, despite following the latest scientific advice which ensures proper copper supplementation and the restricting carbohydrate intake until at least 4-6 weeks prior to the sales.

On the majority of studs, the mares live on lush fertilised rye and clover pastures throughout their pregnancy and on into lactation.

In readiness for the sales – to have them looking as mature as possible, the weanlings are fed large quantities of sugars, carbs & protein( molassed grains and legume forages). They are required to undergo extensive x-rays before they are a year old so that they have time to recover from any operations needed in time for the sales in January. (We kid you not).

While these horses look great on the outside – skeletally they are not great and means they are destined not to last.

Thoroughbreds should stay as healthy and live as long as any other horses – at least 30 years. It is never too late to start a high fibre, minerally balanced nutrition regime essential components of which are the addition of salt, Premium NZ Horse Minerals (Supreme Vit & Min) and XtraCal to ensure the longest, most useful and comfortable life possible.

It makes good sense and is good economics to invest in your horses future by feeding him correctly, preferably since conception. You will potentially enjoy another 5 – 10 years riding rather than have him succumb to degenerative diseases including sway backs, arthritis and Cushings.

Aging Horses and Teeth


A very good reason to have regular dentistry visits – especially when they reach their later years. Whilst plenty of people cherish their old horses like they are part of the family, a lot of people tend to spend LESS on their older horses. Keeping them in optimal health for as long as possible is not only better for the horse but means you can enjoy them as riding horses for longer.

Looking after their teeth over their lifetime means ensuring a good high fibre diet that does not lack minerals like Calcium, Phosphorous, Boron, Magnesium and Vit D all necessary to maintain good strong bones and teeth,

Sadly there are old horses who actually slowly starve to death because of their teeth. The horse looks like he is grazing but really is only sucking on the grass and spitting it out because they are no longer able to chew it. Consequently they get thinner and thinner. They are now in the ‘special needs’ category and a lot of SUITABLE supplementary feed is required to maintain their condition. Otherwise it is kinder to put them down. None of us would really want our horses to slowly starve to death.

What constitutes ‘suitable’ feed is that which doesn’t require chewing as such. One option is to give them good quality Lucerne hay (yes Lucerne hay but not chaff!) because they can safely suck off the leaves and leave the stalks thereby getting some good nutrition.

Any other feed they consume must be the sized particles that the teeth would have ground them down to eg beet, copra, gum nuts (all of these soaked) + Premium NZ Horse Minerals (Supreme Vit & Min – Australia) and salt.

Don’t feed horses who are unable to chew properly ‘short chop’ like chaffs as they are liable to accidentally swallow an unchewed piece that can cause an impaction in one of the hair pin bends of the digestive tract which can result in serious colic.

Examples of truly elderly (and remarkable horses) ..…

Old Billy: Born in England in 1760, he died on 27/11/1822 at the age of 62 years. He lived as a barge horse that pulled barges up and down canals, reportedly actively working until the age of 59. Old Billy was said to look like a big cob/shire horse

Sugar Puff: The oldest living pony in modern times. Died in 2007 at the age of 56 years.


Danny Boy, elderly and happy and fit
Merlot in her mid twenties - still fit and happy

Merlot, seen here at 25 years
Cathy Dee Photographer

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