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Always seek advice from an equine individual before changing or introducing feeds.

One of the most common problems is a wave mouth. This is where the dominant or long tooth will push on the smaller tooth so eventually, rather than a round and round grinding movement, the horse has to try to chew with no grinding so the jaw goes up and down. This is when you will find chewing from hay or grass, this is known as quiding.


This is not a feed for weight gain it will work in co-ordination with a hard feed to maintain weight.

It is extremely easy to feed with dental problems or little chew ability, where  hay may not be an option so you will need a hay-replacer. This is very simple to make and can make a huge difference to horses and ponies with limited chewing ability.

In a Large bucket place about 1/3 of Dengie Hi Fi Original, then a 1/2 or 1 scoop of Fast Fibre, add 3 round scoops of water and allow to stand for at least 2 hours.  For those who need additional forage or make it a little more exciting add 1 round scoop of speedy beet, already soaked.  This will look as if you are giving a large hard feed and maybe eaten quickly to start but they will soon realise it is not over tasty and soon slow down.  If the amount has all been eaten by morning more Dengie and water can be added.  For those who are considerably underweight and you may have concerns please call Head Office

Horse dentist

(the above photograph shows a 30 year old charity horse with extreme dental problems)

Horses aged over 25 usually start to show a poor dental condition and this will mean giving a slightly higher protein intake and supplement being adding to their feed.

Each veteran is very different in weight, height and breed and therefore before amending or changing any feed management please contact the charity, Veteran Horse Society or equine professional.

Hard feed

It is impossible to give amounts or feed products generally so we have tried to give simple basic information as a guide.  Feeding any horse can be complex but veterans more than most.  A well established routine is essential.

For those who need additional weight, it is always vital to contact the feed manufacturer to check the amount of protein and contents in relation to the age, breed and dental capabilities of your veteran.

Below is a general guide to feeding in relation to the their age - again this is general and depends on previous dental attention, turnout and of course breed.

15-20 years

Generally a veteran who is showing no signs of weight loss and is bright and healthy would be happy on a diet that is not too high in protein but gives them the vitamins and minerals needed through the year.

20 year+

Some veterans age very quickly, such as thoroughbreds, other more native breeds may not show their age until later in the lives.  For those starting to drop weight and needing extra condition a product such as Veteran Vitality is excellent for maintaining weight and giving more energy and warm.  This added with a small amount of molassed chaff will allow them to eat slowly and process their feed.


Generally this is the time to start considering introducing sugar beet or a higher energy feed during the winter or very dry summer months.  Many older veterans (like people) do require much more energy to keep warm and keep weight on, and fibre intake may now needed to be given as a hay replacer. 

Poor or no teeth


This is when the charity has found that feeding 3/4 times a day will be required and smaller amounts.  A high protein and energy diet will be required and no chaff with the hard feed as this makes if very difficult to digest or chew, so always offer a hay replacer.

It is simply a hay net in a bucket and large amounts maybe consumed with no harm, but please do not give a full bucket they simply do not need that much for an average horse.

For further information about fully qualified dentists in your area please visit British Association of Equine Dental Technicans.


Veterans in hard work will need to have an excellent feed routine. High protein feed ise vital as well as good supplements and regular turnout. Feeds such as Veteran Vitality, Calm and Condition or Power & Performance soaked before feeding are an excellent form of added protein. Not so long ago horses over 15 years would have not been in work; now top competition horses compete at the age of 20+. Careful feeding is vital as well as joint and immune system supplements.

It is important they have rest and turnout time and that planning is in place for their retirement.

These veterans will be treated as younger, companions in full work and if they are fit and healthy this is fine, BUT older horses need a close eye kept on them in relation to the breakdown of organs. So, despite looking like 'a youngster', their internal organs have taken more wear and tear. Respect their age and, if they look tired, then they usually are and don't push them too hard.

These veterans will be treated as younger, companions in full work and if they are fit and healthy this is fine, BUT older horses need a close eye kept on them in relation to the breakdown of organs. So, despite looking like 'a youngster', their internal organs have taken more wear and tear.

Should you have any problems with your veteran this winter, please contact Veteran Horse

Welfare on: 01239 881300.



As the environment changes, you may have experienced a change in your veteran's breathing especially in built-up areas or those close to motorways. After harvest or busy holiday travelling your veteran may have breathing problems going into winter, so an excellent product is Ventapulmin.


Dry hay or feed should never be offered.


Always soak hay and feed before feeding. Make sure your stable is well ventilated and draught-free. Avoid stabling next to a horse that is on dry hay as the spores of hay can be a real problem.

It is very important that veterans with breathing problems are turned out during the day and that dusty bedding or feed is avoided.

Keep a close eye on the pollen levels in the spring for tree pollen and summer for plant pollen, during harvest.  The rape plant (bright yellow and grown in abundance) can have a very high pollen count when in full flower.

Products can now be worn to help breathing and are also now accepted within the show ring.




Arthritis is very common in older horses, but many horses of all ages suffer from this ailment, below are some tips to help or assist owners to give their horses some pain relief or assistance in coping with this problem.


1. Turnout can cause many people confusion or problem.  Each horses’ arthritic condition must be assessed individually.  However, fields ideally should be:

Not boggy (muddy), with inaccessible gateways – so the pony or horse does not have to struggle through the gateway – this pulling action can lead to strain on arthritic joints.

The field should have natural shelter, enabling the pony to get out of the wind or rain,

Many joints may worsen the through bad or cold weather, so it is advisable to bandage when turning out in cold or wet weather, always make sure that the bandage is thoroughly dry and warm when using, as a cold or damp bandage can worsen their condition.   When you remove the bandage, brush the leg thoroughly with a soft brush so grease build up and hair loss does not occur.

Padding such a foam gamgee should be used.


2. Bandage when stabled.   It is impossible to feel the draft a horse can feel whilst stabled.  Stable bandages with foam gamgee should be used and bandage over the knee and under the fetlock.  Light bandaging is best for warm and support.  Always make sure that the joint is flexible.


3. If the ground is very hard due to frost the horse should be given time, to make its own way to even ground.  Many gate ways during heavy winter months can become uneven and the horse will be able to seek its own way through this, always remember the horse knows best in most situations.



4. Arthritis however, is an ailment, which may be ‘man made’ and sometimes the owner or carer should help the horse to overcome any difficult situations, such as turnout with other horses.  Now days, people tend to think of the horse as a ‘pet’ in actual fact the horse is a herd animal, which relies on its own kind for guidance and reassurance.  Sadly though, arthritis may raise it ugly head very early in horses life, this maybe through over work or injury, for what ever the reason the owner must access the situation.  At the Centre the horses were accessed on its’ personality and ability to mix in a herd.  The horse should have a good ability to move away from any other member of the herd, if this is not apparent then the horse will have a small ‘quiet’ paddock with another equine for company, that is gentle and will graze with this horse quietly.


5. Feeding – there are many supplements on the market for arthritis.   Minty’s Man of Peace’ – ‘Simon’, represented the V.H.S continuously and gained much recognition with the showing world at 22, he lead a very active life and is the Alfa male of the herd.


6. Windy conditions can cause a problem for veterans and natural shelter, should be available at all times.


7. Natural essential oils with help the arthritis.  Slow and gentle massage can be offered to relieve any discomfort.

The Charity does administer ‘bute’ if the condition of the veteran does give continued discomfort to the elderly horse or pony, but at no time would we recommend this product for a competition or able horse or pony.  When the veteran reaches a substantial age, and bute is the only form of pain relief, only then would it be offered.  All natural products are tried for a length of time previously.


8. Bedding should be shavings or wood pellets, as straw can lead to discomfort.  A horse with arthritis, may get it wrapped around it legs and fall, as their mobility weakens.  They are unable to lift their legs away the binding of straw and become stuck in one position.  Shaving and rubber matting is far better.  Never should the shavings be reduced due to matting, the same amount of shavings should be used and if there is ant gap under the stable door this should be padded with shavings or disused hay.   The matting is not only a form of heating but gives extra protection and suspension to the floor of any stable. Deep litter, should not be used, despite the warmth, this is very hazardous to veterans as the fume from the horses natural waist (such as urine) can give them breathing problems.  Always remember prevention is better than cure.


9. Remedial shoeing assists some horses.  Your farrier will be able to offer advise on this matter.



10. Arthritic horses in many cases can lead happy and healthy lives.  Arthritis give many owners and carers cause for real concern, but in many cases, with the correct management a happy and healthy life can be continued.


  1. Many horses are still ridden with arthritis, with the correct medication and vet, advise.

  2. The horse or pony can lead a normal life stile and still continue to enjoy life to the full.

  3. Don’t panic when your horse or pony is diagnosed with arthritis.  There are many products on the market, which can assist this ailment.

  4. Seek vet. Advice and call the Charity or V.H.S. for advice.

  5. Remember each horse has individual needs.

  6. Choose a yard that can accommodate you veteran’s needs.


  8. In many cases there is a natural herb that can assist a natural ailment. 

  9. Remember you know your veteran’s needs and requirements. 


Example of daily routine


Aged 41.  Es- Scottish Junior BSJA Champion – Injuries leave him with arthritis.

Feed and rug up.  Stable bandages changed.

Stable bandages consist of foam gamgee and stable bandages. 

8.00am groom all legs to remove any excessive grease build up – which happens in older horses. 

8.15 foam gamgee and exercise bandages.  Gamgee goes over exposed arthritic joints, where possible.

1.00pm  - Older horses are checked and given separate paddock or rest boxes, should they seem tired.  Haylage or hay is offered.

Muck out and re-bed down with clean and sufficient bedding

3.00pm afternoon feed. – if they are stabled

6.30pm night feed

7.30pm hay top up.



Equine Cushing’s disease / PPID

This condition which is becoming more and more common and which affects all equines is  an endocrine disorder and is more correctly known as Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) and involves the pituitary gland, situated at the base of the brain, and responsible for hormone production in response to brain signals.

In PPID normal hormone production is affected and inhibitory function is lost so there is excessive production of hormones from the pituitary.  The hormones enter the circulation and produce a host of symptoms of which increased coat length is just one.

What causes Cushing’s?

Cushing’s has traditionally been associated with enlargement of the pituitary gland and a subsequent deregulation of hormone production.  A recent study has shown however that although the pituitary is called the ‘master gland’ because it controls the endocrine system, it is actually the hypothalmus which regulates the release of hormones from the pituitary gland.  The hormone which restrains pituitary secretion is dopamine and when dopamine levels are reduced the pituitary releases high levels of hormones including ACTH and the adrenal gland responds by releasing high levels of cortisol.  It’s believed that a combination of the two hormones produces the symptoms associated with Cushing’s.

What are the symptoms of Cushing’s disease?

It is important to understand that all equines are individuals and not all animals will develop a long curly coat, some of the symptoms might be very subtle, so the only way to be sure is to consult your vet and have your horse or pony tested for Cushing’s.

Symptoms include:

  • Increased coat length and failure to shed in spring and summer

  • Weight loss

  • Muscle loss which can result in loss of ‘topline’

  • Abnormal fat pads above the eyes, the crest of the neck and at the base of the trail

  • Increased drinking and urination (polydipsia and polyuria)

  • A pot-bellied appearance

  • Lethargy and ‘depression’ – often manifested by a lack of interaction with field companions

  • Increased sweating

  • Chronic and relapsing laminitis

Affected animals are also more susceptible to recurrent infections such as sinusitis, skin infections and parasites.

How can I find out if my horse has Cushing’s?

You need to consult with your vet who will make a diagnosis based on the horse’s history, clinical signs and using specific hormone tests.  The two tests used are a measurement of ACTH concentrations or performing a TRH stimulation test – often called the dexamethasone suppression test. 

Diagnosis can be plagued by false negative results, particularly early in the disease and seasonal variation in hormone output.  Many vets (and owners) are reluctant to use the dexamethasone suppression test in horses and ponies with a history of laminitis as there is a perception that the dexamethasone can trigger laminitis. 

A recent study at Michigan State University has indicated that this risk is probably smaller than originally thought.

The test for elevated levels of ACTH is therefore the first port of call, however it is usually less accurate because levels fluctuate with the time of day and season.  Seasonal influences such as shorter days can result in elevated ACTH levels in normal horses, for this reason most vets avoid using this test between August and November.

The most effective test is to combine the dexamethasone suppression test with a similar analysis using thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH).  This test is less frequently used as it requires additional sampling and is costly, however researchers at the University of Tennessee have found that it is very accurate.

What treatment options are there?

Cushing’s cannot be cured, however management of the symptoms can be very effective in many cases.  The drug of choice for most veterinary professionals is pergolide mesylate (brand name in the UK is Praschend) which helps to regulate the pituitary gland.  Most Cushingoid animals will remain on the drug for life and there is some concern about resistance building up over time which means an inevitable increase in dosage.

It is worth, following discussion with your veterinary professional, investigating some complementary therapies which can be effective at managing symptoms either before pergolide treatment starts or in conjunction with the drug.  Field trials with the herb Vitex agnus castus which helps support hormonal balance have shown very positive results.

How can I manage the symptoms of Cushings in my horse?

  • Diet – low carb/high fat will help counter muscle loss where present and help reduce the risk of insulin resistance.  Limit access to rich pasture.

  • Parasite control – Cushing’s horses are more susceptible to internal parasites so discuss a deworming programme with a focus on worm counts with your veterinary professional.

  • Dental care – Cushing’s can increases the risk of dental disease and sinus infections so regular check-ups are recommended.

  • Farriery – hoof abcesses and laminitis are a frequent risk with PPID horses so regular farriery care is vital.

  • Grooming – a full body clip can help as shaggy-coated horses can struggle in warm weather.

  • Ask your veterinary professional to check your horse’s ACTH levels at least once a year to monitor the effectiveness of any treatments.


Note: Cushing’s Disease was named after a man called Cushing’s so the name should always have an apostrophe




Equus magazine


Spillers Horse Feeds


 Royal Veterinary College.


Link for Vitex (please delete out of article once it is uploaded and link functions)


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