Caring for Your Senior Horse

Caring for Your Senior Horse

Thanks to advances in nutrition, management and health care, horses are living longer, more useful lives. It’s not uncommon to find horses and ponies living well into their late 20s and 30s.

Many senior horses can continue to be useful riding partners. Some senior horses may need to have a new job as a trail or lesson horse while others horses including show horses, jumpers and barrel racers may need to compete at a lower division. Horses like people age better when they receive regular exercise to maintain muscle mass and joint flexibility.

Here are some tips to keep enjoying your senior horse for as long as possible

  1. Your senior horse should have a thorough Senior Wellness exam every year. We’ll be looking for changes in the eyes for issues such as cataracts that might require a change of stabling, heart murmurs that might indicate a change of riding style and lameness that may require treatment or pain control.
  2. A simple yearly blood chemistry test to make sure the kidneys and liver are functioning properly. When the kidneys are affected we need to change feeds to a kidney-friendly diet.
  3. A yearly screen for Pituitary Pars Intemedia Dysfunction (PPID) is a must do. We can catch this problem early before your horse has laminitis or worse.
  4. Aging brings a decline in the immune system. This makes your senior horse more susceptible to infections. Your senior horse needs to be well vaccinated for the diseases that he is at risk for to prevent problems. Some medications interfere with vaccines and we are prepared to handle that.
  5. Horse teeth are designed to last a lifetime but only when the horse receives regular dental care. Your senior horse needs to have his teeth checked and floated if needed every year. Senior horses that have received regular care are frequently able to eat hay, pasture and normal feed for their entire lifetime. The horse that loses his teeth will require a much more expensive diet. Some senior horses eat much slower than younger horses. Your senior horse may need to be fed in a separate area.
  6. Parasites are more common in senior horses. A McMaster’s fecal exam should be done twice a year to detect parasites before your horse has lost weight, develops colic or diarrhea.
  7. Your senior horse should have regular visits with the farrier.
  8. Your senior horse may need a shelter, stall or blanket for very cold or wet weather.

Take advantage of all the training and experience that your senior horse has accumulated, stay active and enjoy those senior years!