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.

Grooming

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.

Feet

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.

Teeth

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.

Exercise

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