Older Horse Care

Many horses remain active, in one way or another, into their twenties, and their contributions are vital. Older horses are usually calmer than younger horses, and their experience, education, and wisdom make them wonderful teachers and fantastic friends. Ask anyone who owns an older horse; they will probably tell you he”s worth his weight in gold.

Lifespan for a Horse

The average lifespan of a horse tends to be about 24 years; but as with humans, a horse”s age in years isn”t always a good indicator of his true age. Some horses are still active at 30, while others show considerable signs of aging at 10 years. Genetics play a role in aging. Ponies, on the whole, live longer than horses, and certain breeds of horses like Arabians have a reputation for living long lives.

Good management is probably the most important factor in determining a horse”s lifespan. Those horses who have had the benefit of good preventive health care throughout their lives reap the benefits of old age.

Preventive Health Care

Your horse will age better if you take a preventive approach to his health. Make sure your horse receives regular vaccinations. Proper dental care throughout his life will mean your horse can eat on his own late into life. Proper nutrition along the way will prevent health problems later in life for your horse. And, a rigorous parasite control program will help your horse age comfortably and in good health.

Nutrition for the Older Horse

The importance of age appropriate nutrition for an older horse cannot be overstated. Older horses need more attention paid to their diet than younger horses. The following are some tips that will help you meet the nutritional needs of your older horse:

  • Don”t feed young horses with older horses. The young ones may chase away the older ones or eat faster than they do. Designate different times or separate locations for feeding.
  • Check your older horse”s manure. If whole grains are noticeable, try changing the horse”s diet or have the vet evaluate your horse”s teeth. Improper chewing causes choking or colic in older horses.
  • Coarse roughage and whole grains can also cause digestive problems for older horses.
  • Be careful when feeding pellet foods to older horses as hurried eating may cause choking.
  • If your horse has severe dental problems, soak his feed before feeding. This makes the food easier to chew and aids in digestion, assuring that your horse gets the most nutritional value from the feed.

Signs of Troubled Eating in Older Horses

If you notice any of the following, your older horse may be having trouble eating. Consult your veterinarian if your horse displays one or more of the following signs:

  • A lack of condition in the winter when the grass stops growing
  • loss of weight around the hips and withers
  • “quidding” or dropping feed while eating
  • stiffness when coming out of the stable in the morning or in general
  • worn or missing teeth
  • difficulty eating hay.

Dental Care and Health in Older Horses

Your older horse”s health is inseparable from the health of his teeth. The need for proper dental care in older horses cannot be stressed enough. The following are a few tips for dental care and how to adapt your horse”s feedings accordingly:

  • Float or file the teeth regularly so he has a proper grinding surface for eating.
  • Teeth should be checked by your vet at least twice a year.
  • If your horse eats dry grain more often than he grazes lush pastures, his teeth should be checked more often, as the roughness of grains wears down the teeth more quickly.