Elder Horse Care Tips For Your Horse’s Golden Years
As your horse gets older, you may notice subtle changes in their health and behavior that indicate they’re getting old - or not. While some horses become elderly at just 15 years of age, others will make it to their early 20s and beyond with little to no signs of slowing down.
Caring for your elder horse depends on their individual health status. There is no one-size-fits-all diet, exercise routine, or care schedule that fits all horses of a certain age. However, you can look out for signs that horse is developing age-related health issues, take preventative steps, and work with your vet to keep your horse in riding shape.
Feeding Your Elder Horse
Many diseases that affect older horses can be prevented or managed with a healthy diet. As your horse gets older, they may begin to have digestive issues. However, old age does not guarantee problems with digestion. If your horse is doing well on a regular adult maintenance diet, you may not need to change their food, though they may benefit from a supplement like The Missing Link Equine Well Blend & Joint to help protect their joints and immune health.
Digestive issues in older horses are often attributed to poor dental health. This is why it’s more important than ever to have your horse’s teeth checked and floated every 6-12 months.
A senior horse feed is ideal for horses with dental and/or digestive issues. Complete senior feeds are extruded or made up of soft, easy to chew pellets. They also contain sufficient fiber for horses that grazing or eating hay can become optional.
Senior horses can be prone to choking when they are unable to adequately chew their food. You may need to soak their food to form a mash using about ½ gallon of water per pound of feed. Soaking food also increases water intake, and in turn, aids digestion.
Also, keep an eye on your horse’s body condition. An underweight horse may not be absorbing nutrients properly due to worms or dental problems, while an overweight horse may be experiencing excessive strain on their joints. Unexplained body condition changes should be evaluated by a veterinarian, as they can indicate an underlying health issue that may not be resolved through diet.
Keeping Your Elder Horse Active
If your horse suffers an injury or starts to show signs of arthritis, you may decide to limit their physical activity. But too much inactivity can make mobility issues worse and lead to complications like swayback.
More than ever, your senior horse needs time to warm up before periods of exercise. When they are no longer able to work, short, frequent rides will keep their joints strong. Plenty of turn-out time can also keep your horse fit and strong when they can no longer handle strenuous exercise.
Begin treating symptoms of arthritis as soon as you notice them. Joint supplements can help reduce mild pain and inflammation. Talk to your vet about treating your horse’s pain with homeopathic and prescription treatments to help extend your horse’s active years.
Keep in mind that horses are prey animals. They will do their best to hide signs of pain and injury, so by the time you notice symptoms of an age-related condition, it may be too late to treat it effectively. Regular wellness visits with your vet are the best way to keep an eye on your elder horse’s health, from teeth to hooves and everything in between.