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Tips for Taking Care of an Older Horse


elderly horseMost horses eventually get old. Okay, actually the statistic is somewhere like %100 of animals eventually age and become older. It’s just a fact of life, but even with this inevitability, have you prepared yourself to care for an elderly horse? Have you taken any steps to teach their specific condition differently than a young one? The longer you wait, the older your horse will become, so take some time and consider how to properly care for an older horse.

Thankfully for both us and our horses, they can prove to live quite a long time. The average lifespan for a horse is 25 to 30 years where around 20-years-old you’ll really see the effects of age kick in. Still, becoming elderly isn’t a death sentence, though it should be noted that a race horse or other sort of horse that’s lived a high-impact life will have a longer life expectancy and entirely different problems when they get older.

The big indicators of reaching “elderly” status are grey hairs appearing around the eyes, muzzle, and forehead, a sagging topline, or prominent withers. You may also notice cataracts developing in their eyes. Of course, arthritis will become a major issue as well, though that isn’t necessarily exclusive to old age.

Not all signs of aging are exclusive to the visible either. The older a horse before, the less effective their immune system will be, same with all their internal organs such as their heart and liver. Muscles loose much of their elasticity and become stiffer and less powerful. Bones get weaker and far more brittle. Your horse may even have difficulty eating either because they just don’t feel up to it or their jaws are sore.

Strangely, one of the most important things to do with an older horse is to use the kid gloves, so to speak. You can’t run or work them as hard anymore because they’re past their prime. They won’t be able to carry as much weight or walk as far anymore, so plan accordingly and give them a break when necessary.

Also, make sure to increase how regularly they are sent to the vet. Have their teeth inspected at least twice a year or more to check for problems there. Generally be more aware of everything going on with them. Don’t treat everything they do as an indicator that something serious is wrong, but certainly don’t neglect to look into any odd behaviors they are displaying.

With their new stage of life, their diet also needs to change. Talk to your vet and figure out what you should be supplementing their food with as some older horses require more fiber, protein, or vitamins in general. No matter what, ensure that the food they receive is easy to chew and swallow and is dust free. So, basically feed them healthy food rather than junk.

An old horse doesn’t have to be a sad horse. Taking the time to embrace their age and celebrate it can go a long way to turn a few more years into 10. Treat them with respect and know what they can and can’t still do anymore. Remain caring in your attitude and your can still live a long and happy life.


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