If you want to keep your own horse happy and healthy in his golden years, then you need to know what aging horses go through physically and how to keep them comfortable through it. Simple changes to your usual treatment of your horse can also keep your companion from declining in health as quickly, ensuring you can enjoy each other longer. Much of what your senior horse will need is easy to provide on your own. However, you likely will need some help from a qualified vet and other professionals, too.

What is Considered Old Age in Horses?

Generally speaking, a horse is considered a senior or “old” when he is around 18 years old. Horses are not much different than people, however, in that they don’t always show their age the same way. You’ll see horses that still look beautiful and chipper into their 20s, while some horses start to appear more weathered as young as 15 or 16. Some of this is just genetics, with some horses having bodies that do extremely well in replacing cells, fighting disease, and keeping hormone balances necessary for a host of physiological processes. The way a horse is treated also makes a difference. A horse that isn’t treated well or that has to work very hard, for instance, might start to show his age earlier, as these types of factors stress the body.

What Does Aging Mean for General Horse Care?

Simply put, you cannot care for an aging horse the same way you would a young one. As horses age, they often are not able to perform with the same strength or endurance levels they once had. They might need lighter loads, changes in diet, and more sensitive or frequent farrier and dental sessions. Movements might be more limited, and the horse might experience some anxiety from not being able to see as well. If you retire the animal without making these adjustments, its health can decline rapidly, injury risk can go up, or pain levels quickly can increase.

What are Some of the Most Common Issues Seen in Aging Horses?

Outwardly, one of the most common and obvious signs of aging in horses is the sinking of the saddle area and rise in prominence of the withers. The tendons and ligaments that support the spine tend to weaken and stretch out over time, and eventually they can’t do their job and fully stabilize the spine against the force of gravity. You might find that, as your horse’s back dips, it gets harder and harder to fit its saddle properly. This goes hand in hand with a loss of muscle, which happens even when horses are well fed. This is often due not only to physiological changes, but also to a lack of use after being retired. The coat may grow duller and grayer. Dental issues are common, as the horse’s teeth start to angle forward, develop hooks, or fall out. This can result in some degree of weight loss. Many aging horses also end up having digestive troubles that result in mushy stools or diarrhea, and both this and the dental issues can result in weight loss and necessitate food changes. Some horses get sick more often, too, as their immune systems start to lose their pep.

How can You Address the Effects of Aging on Horses?

As your horse starts to lose his strength and stiffen up in his joints, you can help him out by adjusting the exercise or other work he is doing. Temporary wrapping of the legs can provide some additional support and protection when your horse is performing activities that might be more stressful, although you should never keep your horse’s legs wrapped for extended periods. The horse can come to rely too much on the support, so they actually weaken faster. Faster farrier sessions and changes to shoes can alleviate strain, as well. If pain or other symptoms are more severe, medicine injections can help.

Dental work

It is also advantageous to get your older animal more frequent dental work, at least once or twice a year. Good grooming can keep its coat looking the best possible and it provides a chance for you to keep a high level of physical contact with the horse, helping to reassure it and maintain your bond. Some horse owners find that using a feed specifically designed for senior animals makes a big difference in avoiding intestinal troubles. The diet should be balanced enough to keep the immune system as strong as possible, but your vet also might recommend supplements for immune and other age-related issues.

“old” around age 18

Just like people, horses don’t stay young forever. They’re considered “old” around age 18, although they don’t necessarily look like senior animals at that point. You must treat an aging horse differently than a young one because of the physical changes that occur. They routinely experience a loss of strength (most obvious in a dipping of the back), joint and immune system problems, a lack of mobility or decreased range of motion, dental problems, dulling and greying of the coat, weight loss, and other issues. You can help your aging animal in many different ways, simply by following the above steps.


About Author: Joslyn Fresay is a certified writer of EasyWayPaper – paper writing service that specializes in tutoring, writing paper, test prep and helps writing a term paper for students. Joslyn is interested in researching new methods of treatment and prevention of age-related degenerative diseases, as well as promoting optimal health and productivity of domestic animals.

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