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Research article2020Peer reviewed

Demographics, body condition scores and feeding of aged horses (>= 20 years of age) - a Swedish survey

Mueller, Cecilia Elisabeth; Lindberg, Jan Erik


The proportion of aged horses (>= 20 years old) is increasing in several horse populations, but knowledge of if any nutritional requirements change with age is scarce. An internet-based survey directed towards owners of horses >= 20 years of age was conducted, in order to collect data on demographics, body condition scores (BCS) and feeding practices of aged horses. Total complete responses included were 1443. Approximately 70% of the horses were 20-25 years old, 24% was 26-30 years old and the remaining proportion 31-42 years old. Approximately 40 different breeds were represented. Geldings comprised 57%, mares 42% and stallions 1% of the study population. A majority of the respondents reported moderate to ideal BCS in their horse. Validation of respondent assessment of BCS was performed for 21 horses, where kappa coefficient for agreement was 0.35. Respondents generally underestimated the BCS of their horse. Average age was higher in the lowest BCS compared to higher BCS. Average amount of forage fed daily was 1.5 kg DM per 100 kg BW (sd 0.48 kg per 100 kg BW), and average amount of concentrates fed daily was 0.11 kg per 100 kg BW (sd 0.160 kg per100 kg BW). Commonly used feeds were haylage and commercial concentrates. Horses with BCS 1 (n = 1), 2 (n = 19), 3 (n = 48) and 4 (n = 14) were calculated to be fed 64, 99, 108 and 127% of their estimated theoretical requirement of metabolisable energy (ME), indicating that aged horses may require about 1.1 the theoretical ME requirement to keep a desired BCS. However, controlled studies are required for further insights of if, and how, energy requirements change with increasing age in horses.


Elderly; Energy requirement; Equine; Forage; Geriatric

Published in

Livestock Science
2020, Volume: 233, article number: 103949
Publisher: ELSEVIER