Caring for Senior Horses

Image of an old horse.

With proactive veterinary care, horses can live well into their late 20s and early 30s. In fact, the average life expectancy for most horses is now between 28 and 33 years. Basic senior wellness care includes dental care, balanced nutrition, and hoof care. This care ensures horses remain healthy and active.

Exercise

Older horses can still be active; in fact, regular exercise is essential for horses to maintain their health. However, it is important to keep in mind that older horses may not be as agile as they once were, so all day trail rides, jumping or sliding stops should be avoided. Rather than a long hard ride once per week, senior horses will benefit from several short rides throughout the week. However, if a horse becomes arthritic or otherwise unsound due to lameness, the owner may need to significantly cut back on load-bearing exercise.

Diet

As a horse ages, his diet will also need to be adjusted. Older horses do not absorb nutrients as readily as younger horses, so horse feed needs to be of a higher quality that can easily be digested. Hay cubes and other course forms of hay may be especially difficult for older horses to chew. As workload or exercise levels decrease, senior horses are also at risk for weight gain. Feeding should be carefully regulated to maintain your horse’s balanced nutrition intake and a healthy weight.

Dental Care

Older horses’ teeth also require additional care. Some teeth may wear into painful points or fall out, which can make it difficult and uncomfortable for your horse to chew. If a lot of grain or hay falls from a horse’s mouth while chewing, this is symptomatic that the horse may need their teeth checked. In general, a horse should have their teeth checked at least once every year; senior horses may require additional dental care.

Other Common Issues

Horse owners should keep a close eye on their horses’ overall health. For example, lumps under the skin could be indicative of tumors. Melanomas are increasingly common on light colored horses. Horses that do not shed out in the spring may have Cushings Disease, a pituitary gland dysfunction. Older horses are also more susceptible to colic. The earlier health problems are diagnosed, the more treatment options are available, which will lessen the impact on your horse’s health. A regular wellness evaluation by your equine veterinarian will help ensure your senior horse remains healthy and active.

Source:

Johnson,Edward L.; Duberstein, Kylee Jo; and Shuffitt, Mark. “Caring for the Older Horse: Common Problems and Solutions.” University of Florida.

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Colorado Springs Office

Monday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Tuesday:

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Wednesday:

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Testimonials

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  • "I've been using Dr. Andersen as my equine vet for almost 3 years. She is smart and professional, and always has my horses' (and my) best interest in mind. She thoroughly evaluates each animal and takes the time to explain treatment options. She is also an outstanding chiropractor; my good barrel horse Danny loves her! An added bonus to the practice is Dr. Calvacanti. She is hard working, well educated and eager to learn. I trust my horses' health to Rocky Mountain Equine Clinic."
    Mandy M. D.
  • "I have my horse in retirement and went away to London for a week. On the second day of my trip I got the dreaded phone call that my mare was colicing. With a team effort London was trailered to Rocky Mt equine clinic. The staff was fantastic about keeping me up to date and keeping me sane. They were upfront about the situation and very supportive with my decision. They also were more then happy to allow my mares companion donkey to spend the night. THANK YOU ALL!"
    Hannah D.
  • "Dr Shiloh has been AMAZING with my mare. She has been so informative and so kind to not just me but to my baby as well. Talk about incredible patience and awesome bedside manners!! The work she’s done and her ability to explain it and do what’s best for the animal has me in awe. I am So glad she was recommended to me. I will always call her or recommend her and this clinic to anyone. Beautiful facility. Wonderful people. The best care my horse could have ever gotten."
    Chelsey W.