Garbage in, garbage out, or so I hear from the humans. Here I sit munching on a nice grasshopper. They have a great flavor; I recommend you try them, especially roasted with a bit of salt and pepper! Great nutritional choices like this are what keep this cat in top physical condition. Senior feeding strategies for your horse will keep them running at peak performance, too.
You sang it, didn’t you? I know I did. Then I had images of the movie Shrek play through my head. OK, back on track. You have made wise decisions for your horse’s diet (your own, not so much) and things have been going great. However, as horses get older, their diet needs change, and those changes are very different from the ones humans experience. Doing a very thorough evaluation of body condition score, muscle quality, and diet should be done at least every six months on every horse. (Need help? My minion, Beth, has tons of nutrition experience and can help you formulate a custom plan. In fact, Wellness Plans include this!) If you notice topline shrinking, maybe the ribs are a little easier (or harder) to find, or eating is taking a long time, it may be time to adjust the diet.
Protein, Protein, Protein
You’ve been monitoring your horse’s condition, and have noticed the muscles on the topline are slowly fading away. Maybe there are fat pads cropping up by the top of the tail and behind the shoulder blades. It’s just plain harder to maintain condition. Protein is the answer. Well, part of the answer, anyway.
We have been well trained not to increase protein for older people and animals, but, as usual, horses are weird. It’s important to remember that basic diets for horses are pretty low in protein, usually around 10-12%, versus cat diets which hover around 30-32% protein. This means adding protein to equine diets is a relative thing. The easiest way to add protein is with a ration balancer. Just about every major feed company makes a ration balancer. Enrich Plus, Triple Crown 30, Equalizer, and Empower Balance are all examples of ration balancers. Adding a pound or two of one of these to every feeding is often all the older guys need.
When do I switch to Senior Feed?
Maybe never. While 15 years old is our guideline for Super Senior, it’s just that: a guideline. Dr. Lacher’s 27 year old horse is still on a “regular” feed, SafeChoice Maintenance. Full on Senior concentrates are best suited for horses with very bad teeth. These diets are designed to meet all the nutritional needs of a horse: grain, roughage, vitamins, and minerals. Most of our Seniors have pretty good teeth which means they can get loads of nutrition from hay. As long as your Super Senior is doing well on a regular diet, there’s no need to switch to senior feed.
If not Senior feed, then what?
Okay, you’re having some trouble maintaining topline, but there’s also some fat pads creeping up beside your horse’s tailhead, and you currently feed SafeChoice Maintenance and coastal hay, along with 4-5 pounds of alfalfa hay. Oh, and your horse just turned 17 years old. You ride 3-5 days every week and would put yourself in the moderately in-shape category. Now what?
There’s loads of options out there, but a little tweaking will go a long way here. First, let’s increase the quality and quantity of protein. Dropping back on the amount of SafeChoice Maintenance and adding Empower Balance will increase protein while decreasing calories overall. Trying this simple change for 30 days, while monitoring body condition, may be all the adjusting that’s needed. However, if you aren’t satisfied after 30 days, we can tweak the hay choices, or even switch concentrates all together. My point is: You’ve got options and I’ve got minions to help you with those options.
Want even more information? Want my pawtograph? Come out to the Super Senior Seminar April 19th, 2017 at 6:30pm!
See you there!
Ever have problems loading your horse on the trailer? Tony reveals all the tricks of the trade!
So, I have a complaint. On Saturday morning my minions came to feed me as usual. But then, as they all headed off eagerly to Canterbury Showplace to set up for my Trailering Seminar, they slammed the door in my face! That’s right, they left me here at the clinic with stinky Teanie! Can you believe it? I do all the work designing and promoting the event, then they leave me behind and take all the credit. Well, in case you too got locked behind your kitty door, here is a recap of what you missed.
How NOT to load a horse
Hanging out and observing all the goings on at the clinic, I have seen many methods of loading a horse on a trailer that are fantastically ineffective. If you stand in front of your horse pulling on the leadrope, making lots of noise, rushing, and trying to force your horse into a dark scary hole, I guarantee you it is not going to work. Other poor choices I have seen include shaking a bucket of grain in the trailer while your horse stands outside terrified of the noisy echo coming from inside the hole where he was already convinced monsters were lurking. Also, using short crops on the shoulder or lip chains on the leadrope, both of which tend to drive horses backwards rather than forwards. Another good way to set yourself up for failure is to try to load a horse that does not yet know how to lead, and to move forward when you ask.
If you’re not bored, you’re doing it wrong
Now I am going to share with you and only you, my adoring fans, the great, big, awesome, mind-blowing, earth-shattering, best-kept-secret-in-the-world for loading a horse on the trailer: patience. If you put a very patient person at the horse’s head (like Nancy, who perfectly demonstrated this at my seminar), chances are very good your horse will get on the trailer. Now first, Nancy will have to make sure your horse knows to move forward when asked. Then, your horse will have to get comfortable being close to the trailer, to convince himself that the horse-eating monsters that live inside have left for the day. Finally, Nancy will ask your horse to step into the trailer, immediately rewarding any motion or even a hint of moving in the right direction. For this part, it is helpful to have your second-most-patient friend behind the horse with a longe whip to gently encourage that forward motion, and to immediately release pressure when the forward motion is achieved.
How to haul a horse trailer
Well, I guess I would know what to tell you here if they had invited me to my own event! Apparently Justin did a killer job giving demonstrations, explanations, and hands-on training to the attendees. He taught them how to do this fancy move called an L-turn for backing your trailer into a tight spot. He warned against passenger-side backing, and advised using a ground person to watch your blind spots whenever possible. The biggest take home message that was passed along to me was safety first when hauling: always think about what you are going to do before you do it. Don’t pull into that gas station without thinking about your exit strategy. Don’t pull forward into a narrow spot if you are not comfortable turning your trailer around. Don’t hesitate to get out and walk around the back of the trailer instead of just backing up until you hear a crunch!
I hope everyone other than me was able to make it to this amazing event. But if you missed it, save the date for my next seminar, Wednesday April 19th on Geriatrics! Don’t worry, I won’t let them keep me away next time.
It’s that time of year when you humans like to work on some goals for the upcoming year. I listed mine out to show you how easy it can be: 1. Improve human response time to food demands, 2. Get better at using the computer so I can order my own cat treats, 3. Continue to find new and improved sleeping locations. Now see how easy that was? Look at what’s going on that you feel needs to change or improve and write down a goal to address it. OK, here we go.
Eat better. Beth looks at equine diets all the time and her mantra: simplify, simplify, simplify. Most of you humans like to make life sooo complicated. Go with quality hay, then add quality concentrate, then add supplements only if your horse needs them for a specific problem. This plan makes life easier and so much less expensive. Don’t believe me? Check your inbox later this week for Beth’s amazing breakdown on how much cheap feed costs!
Exercise more for the fat horses (like this cat). I struggle with this one, mostly because I hate to exercise. As a black cat living in Florida, it gets hot and I whine a lot and I end up spending the day laying around in the air conditioning. And that’s how I ended up with diabetes. The average horse needs to slow jog for about 15 minutes 3 times weekly to prevent founder and other serious fat horse problems. Commit to that time with your horse and you will stop so many problems in their tracks.
Exercise more for those show horses. Injuries happen at exhaustion. When your horse gets tired, muscles don’t respond like they should, legs end up going weird directions, and BAM! an injury occurs. Do your horse a favor and put in the time needed to have them truly fit for what you want to do. A good general guideline is to be able to do twice as much as you need to do in the show ring. Be sure you aren’t just drilling on “horse show moves.” Cross training is important! Riding horses on different types of terrain and footing helps them learn how to handle anything you crazy humans throw at them. Jumping your dressage horse, or trail riding your western pleasure horse helps keep the brain engaged and builds up different muscles than their normal, everyday work.
Learn something new. This is mostly for you humans. There is always a ton of research out there about the equine athlete. Oddly, there’s not much on the feline athlete. Look for a new exercise for you and/or your horse, read the latest science research on horses, get a lesson or sign up for a clinic. Step outside your comfort zone. You will be a better human for it.
One last New Year’s Resolution: Get your horse a Wellness Plan. With one simple call, e-mail, even text you can cross Better Health and Save Money off the list. You won’t have to remember when your Coggins is due, wonder if you have all the right vaccines, and you have freed up time and energy to eat better, exercise more, and learn something new.
Whew, boy am I sore! Kevan Knudsen, personal trainer extraordinaire, had us doing squats, lunges, stretches, and all manner of exercises at our “Exercise for Equestrians” event on Saturday. Technically, I am not an equestrian, so I thought I should have been exempt. But the humans demanded my participation *eye roll.*
Kevan also taught us a great deal about nutrition– one of my least favorite subjects. Turns out lean meats, fruits, and vegetables should make up the majority of your diet if you are a human. Tuna is a lean meat, right? I’m totally in! Your macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) need to be in the right ratio for your body to function properly. Most Americans are eating foods they are intolerant to on a regular basis (dairy, white bread, and artificial sweeteners, for example). Simply eliminating these foods from your diet can result in significant weight loss and better health. As Kevan summed it up, “don’t eat processed crap!”
Of course your mental health is as important as your physical health, especially for riding horses. Horseback riding is one of the only sports requiring the participation of another sentient being. It’s not like running where you can take your frustration out on the track. You need to be in the right frame of mind before you set foot in the saddle. Kevan recommended working on positive self-affirmation, realistic goal-setting, anxiety management, and interpersonal communication. I already practice most of these on a daily basis, in between cat naps.
If you missed me at this enlightening event and would like more information on personal training from someone experienced in working with equestrians, contact Kevan Knudsen at (971) 221-5451, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Your horse will thank you for getting fit and healthy! As for me, I’m just fine with my current lifestyle of eating, sleeping, and occasionally walking out to the end of the driveway. Now to ice these sore quads…