As the weather cools and the fall season advances toward winter, caring for the horse who is showing signs of aging takes on additional priorities to ensure he remains healthy and active.
Although there is some controversy as to when a horse becomes a senior - some say after age 15, others say after age 20 because of the extended lives of horses today. And many of horse owners have horses that are well into their 30's and continue to live healthy lives.
Weight loss, decreased body condition, loss of muscle mass, and changes in eating behavior coupled with less energy, become apparent as a horse ages. A little extra care can ensure that the horse has many serviceable years left.
Older horses are less energetic and more restricted in their scope of activities and this needs to be taken into consideration in their care. A decline in immune fiction may affect joint mobility and horse may not be as agile as they once were. Of course, this affects performance whether the horse is used for riding, in competitions or with every-day exercises.
Younger, more aggressive horses often displace the older horse when it comes to feeding and if this happens, the older horse should be fed separately. Provided with the easy-to-eat hay or pasture and regular exercise to keep muscles and joints from stiffening, older horses maintain healthier lives.
Older horses need to have their teeth checked frequently, at least twice a year since pain from overgrown teeth can cause a horse to lose condition quickly. In cases where horses have missing teeth, easy-to-chew feeds may need to be provided. Fortunately there are many 'senior' formula feeds on the market.
Aged horses don't tolerate change well and, if possible, the older horse should be kept in familiar surroundings and should not be boarded out or hospitalized if at all possible.
In addition to adequate feed, good dental care, and regular exercise, your veterinarian may recommend supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, or hyaluronic acid to help an older horse stay limber and comfortable.
An older horse makes a good companion for foals and other horses and for people who don't feel the need to "ride with the wind."
Pleasure horses continue to work until well into their 20's and are often known for their quiet gentleness when around children or younger riders, although some older horses show displeasure at having to work, especially when they don't feel on top of their game.
Shelter from wind, wet, and cold weather becomes even more important as a horse ages. Your older horse may be more comfortable in a warm winter turn-out blanket when temperatures go below 50 degrees. Careful monitoring of the older horse's condition is necessary to avoid or treat problems before they become life threatening.
An older horse makes a good companion for foals and other horses and for people who don't feel the need to "ride with the wind." A properly trained and well-treated horse usually grows more mellow and accepting with age, and as long as the horse is healthy and relatively pain-free,he will continue to bring joy to those around it.