Everyone ages, including our horses. And much like ourselves, a horse’s strength and flexibility may diminish, along with his ability to ward off infection and illness with ease as he did in his younger years. But this doesn’t mean it’s time to look into a retirement home for your horse; rather, adjust his lifestyle to account for his golden years.
When compared to companion animals and other livestock, horses have a long lifespan, often into their late 20s and early 30s. But with age, come changing needs in your horse’s everyday lifestyle.
Nutritional needs will vary from horse to horse, with some senior horses never needing dietary changes from their younger years. His dental care needs will also change and affect his nutrition. Regularly keeping his teeth filed down once or twice each year will improve his ability to chew and digest food as he ages. Senior horses should be fed highly digestible, high energy foods, regardless of any other health concerns.
Older horses have more difficulty adapting to extreme temperature changes. In warm weather, keep him cool with fans and body clippings if necessary; provide shelter and blanketing in cold weather.
Provide him with regular exercise as much as possible, as opposed to occasional trail rides or outings. Exercise in the form of hand walking, lunging and riding is recommended year round, as it takes him longer to become re-conditioned after downtime. If he has developed arthritis, we can develop a management plan that will still allow him regular exercise with less pain.
Immunity will change as he ages, necessitating regular preventive care throughout the year. Commonly seen issues in senior horses include anemia, respiratory problems, tumors and metabolic disorders. With lowered immunity, he will be more susceptible to external and internal parasites; following a regular vaccination and deworming routine is critical to his overall health.
Positive social settings are a boon to a senior horse’s mental health. Pairing him with friendly, but not pushy, pasture mates will reduce the risk of being kicked and otherwise injured in addition to maintaining his access to food, shade and shelter.
Understanding the changing needs of your senior horse is the first step in helping him have many long and productive golden years. If you have questions regarding senior care or would like more information on helping him age gracefully, contact us!