Care of the elderly horse

A horse or pony of 18 to 20 years of age is entering the golden years. Some horses remain in excellent condition until the moment they pass, while others deteriorate quickly or slowly over time. Horses are living longer and often live healthy lives into their early thirties. Because of the physiological changes normally associated with aging, older horses require a more stringent healthcare routine, environment and diet.

Nutrition & Supplements

Adapting nutrition is essential for maintaining the health of the older horse. Foods which are good quality and easy to digest should be given. Advancing years will affect a horse’s ability to chew and digest cereals, this can trigger problems such as laminitis. Some feeds are specially formulated to suit older horses and a mix of meadow grasses rather than seed hay will prove more palatable.

You may want to consider digestive or joint supplements, speak to one of our vets for more information about supplements.


Regular grooming gives you the opportunity to check your horses body condition. Loss of weight can indicate a number of things including dental issues, worm burden or reduced digestive ability.


Older feet can grow more slowly so regular visits by your farrier to ensure that the foot remains balanced is very important. An unbalanced hoof can put additional strain on the leg joints and exacerbate degenerative conditions. Pick out your horse’s feet every day and make sure they are clean and free from infection.


Dental health checks for older horses should be carried out every 6 months. Tooth problems can limit the horse’s ability to chew and graze effectively and may inhibit them from pulling hay from a net. Hay should be fed soaked to increase its palatability and it is best fed from a pile at ground level.

Have you noticed your horse has bad breath? This can be a sign of food collecting in gaps in the teeth or perhaps an infection. Broken teeth and root abscesses are also more common in older horses. Good dental care promotes improved health and savings in feed costs.


Older horses can happily exercise for as long as they are fit and healthy. We actively encourage this for improving mental stimulation and to maintain healthy circulation and gut movement. If your horse has officially retired, make sure he is turned out as much as possible, it is important for socialising and quality of life. Over-stabling and little movement can lead to depression and circulatory or gut health problems.

Common age-related challenges to look out for:

1. Arthritis

2. Liver and kidneys

3. Cataracts

4. Sarcoids and melanomas

5. Degenerative joint disease

6. Loss of body condition

7. Cushings and Laminitis

Make sure you know your horse’s normal temperature, pulse and respiration levels, any changes in these could be significant. Regular check-ups by your vet, dentist and farrier are extremely important. If you have any concerns in between checks, give us a call on 01572 722647

As you will be aware from Friday 24th July facemasks become mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England. As much of our COVID-19 secure guidance has been taken from the Governments Working safely during COVID-19 documents, we will also require clients to wear face coverings when visiting our practice.

For us in the equine department, this means that anyone wishing to enter equine reception or visit an inpatient will be asked to wear a face covering. A one way system is now in place for clients entering both SA and Equine reception and clients will be asked to make use of the hand sanitisers available upon entry. Once admitted to the equine lorry park you will NOT be asked to continue wearing a face covering. The fact that we mitigate risk using other methods such as social distancing and that we can interact with clients in an outdoor space means coverings are unnecessary in this environment.

If you have any questions please ask our reception team. We thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Computed Tomography

Computed Tomography (CT) is the latest specialist imaging equipment to be added at Oakham Veterinary Hospital. The CT scanner takes multiple, single slice x-rays and is able to create a highly detailed 3-dimensional reconstruction of the patient. Using sophisticated software, we can use the acquired images to fully visualise and understand the location of the pathology. CT imaging is ideal for examining bone or soft tissue structures of the head, neck and limbs of horses, or anywhere in a dog or cat.

At Oakham Veterinary Hospital we are passionate about the promotion of preventative healthcare. Part of this is to make sure your horse’s vaccinations are kept up to date. Horses need to be vaccinated to prevent unnecessary suffering and to promote horse health. The consequences of lapsed vaccinations can be expensive and disruptive.

We have implemented strict protocols for clients bringing horses to the hospital for appointments. We ask that clients please observe the following for the safety of both yourselves and our staff.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic. The British governments position since the introduction of ‘lockdown’ has been very clear and has not changed at the 3-week review. ‘’Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives”. At OVH Equine we have taken every measure we can to adhere to this advice, whilst maintaining our commitment to equine health and welfare. But we must respect that Covid 19 can infect anyone and every effort must be taken to limit the spread of the infection.

In an update posted April 2, the British Horseracing Authority(BHA) and the British Equestrian Federation(BEF) have attempted to provide clarification on equine influenza vaccination requirements for horses racing under BHA rules and for horses competing under the BEFmember bodies (BSJA, BD and BE).

***OVH Equine Coronavirus policy as of March 17***

With government advice changing on an almost daily basis, OVH Equine would like to update our clients on our current policies regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

We are doing everything we can to limit the spread of the disease, but we do require your assistance and we ask that you read and adhere to the following guidelines.

Eventing pre-season evaluations

Managing the modern day sport horse involves working in close conjunction with riders, owners, trainers and para-professionals to optimise fitness and performance to enable the horse to perform at a high level. Our vets understand the demands of competition and the desire to peak for specific events.

Postgraduate Certificate Studentships (Clinical Internship) in Equine Studies

The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham and Oakham Veterinary Hospital has developed an exciting 12 month postgraduate certificate (PG Cert) programme for early career veterinary surgeons interested in developing their clinical skills in equine studies combining clinical training with a formal qualification. Two scholarships are available beginning in September 2020 and February 2021. Both positions will be suitable for recent graduates or students currently in their final year.

Postgraduate Certificate Studentships (Clinical Internship) in Equine Studies

The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham and Oakham Veterinary Hospital has developed an exciting 12 month postgraduate certificate (PG Cert) programme for early career veterinary surgeons interested in developing their clinical skills in equine studies combining clinical training with a formal qualification. Two scholarships are available beginning in September 2020 and February 2021. Both positions will be suitable for recent graduates or students currently in their final year.

The internships will be based at Oakham Veterinary Hospital, a clinical associate practice of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, where students have an opportunity to experience both first opinion and referral cases during their final year rotations. A team of nine practice veterinary surgeons is assisted by University staff specialising in equine medicine and equine surgery. The hospital provides a diverse case load to support clinical training supported by excellent clinical facilities. Clinical training will be provided in areas such as in-patient care, poor performance examination, diagnostic imaging and anaesthesia. The scholar will be expected to complement the teaching of University of Nottingham veterinary undergraduates.

Each position is offered for twelve months subject to satisfactory progress. Accommodation is provided consisting of a large two-bedroom flat situated on-site shared with the second intern, together with a generous stipend.


Applicants from outside the UK/EU/EAA will not normally be considered. Applicants whose first language is not English must present evidence of having achieved an IELTS score of at least 7.5 (with a minimum of 7.0 in each component) alongside initial expression of interest. Graduates must have completed at least 26 weeks of clinical training outside their university. This may include clinical EMS, student externships or post graduate employment.

 Application process

Further details can be found at

Expressions of interest comprising a CV and covering letter should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 10th January 2020

An applicant's day, including an opportunity to meet with both university and practice partners will be held in mid-February. 

As many of you will be aware, outbreaks of equine influenza continue to be reported throughout the UK. The number of individual cases is still growing on a monthly basis and the total number of reported cases in 2019 is now over 200. The majority of cases have been in unvaccinated horses and the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is calling on owners to maintain their vigilance and ensure vaccinations are up to date. In accordance with current guidance from the BEF and AHT, Oakham Veterinary Hospital Equine continue to strongly recommend booster vaccinations for any horses that have not been vaccinated in the last 6 months. For many of those who responded quickly to the initial outbreak in February 2019, now is the time for a booster.

It is thought that the continuing high number of positive diagnoses is due to the increased movement and mixing of horses that typically occurs during this time of year, with these horses then returning to their home yards and mixing with unvaccinated individuals.

At Oakham Veterinary Hospital Equine, we recognise that we have a large number of clients competing in many different disciplines and each governing body has different vaccination rules in place. In light of that, please find below a guide to each governing bodies current guidelines.

FEI – Horses must have been vaccinated within 6 months + 21 days of arriving at the event. Horses must not have been vaccinated within 7 days of arriving at an event venue.

British Eventing – Horses must have had a booster within 6 months of the event. Vaccinations must not have been given on the day of the event, but the day before is allowed.

British Dressage – Boosters no more than 1 year apart, no vaccine within 7 days of competing. Six monthly boosters are strongly recommended.

British Showjumping – Boosters must be no more than 1 year apart.

Pony Club – For all competitions at area level and above – Boosters must be no more than 1 year apart but 6 monthly boosters are recommended. Rallies/Camp/training – vaccination policy specific to venue.

Riding Club – Boosters no more than 1 year apart. Vaccinations are not permitted within 7 days prior to competition.

British Horseracing Authority – Horses must have been vaccinated within the last 8 months. There is currently a one month grace period but this will be removed as of January 1, 2020.

*** Please note, these guidelines are correct as of June 1, 2019 and are subject to change. Please check with your regulatory body before competition. ***

If you would like to make an appointment or book a visit for a 6 monthly booster, please contact our reception team.