Just like people, horses age with the passage of time and can eventually die from old age. Due to the improvement of veterinary practices, technology, and horse care, horses now reach their golden years much more often than they did previously. An aging horse is likely to experience some of the unpleasant symptoms with aging, and in this post, we’re going to discuss how to properly care for your horse friends as they age.
Aging In Horses
Signs of aging in horses are not always all that different from aging in people, for example, horses’ fur and manes will often lighten in color and turn gray with age and they may experience lameness, arthritis, a loss of muscle mass, poorer eyesight. An addition, aging horses may have drooping fetlocks, prominent withers, sunken eyes, hearing loss, weight loss, weakened immune systems, and more.
Horses that are elderly are also more prone to developing certain diseases, such as Cushing’s Disease, Osteoarthritis, and general cardiovascular, digestive, and endocrine issues.
Caring for an Elderly Horse
Older horses may require special diets. Sometimes, older horses have damaged teeth, and require special food that does not need to be chewed as much. As horses age, and therefore naturally experience declines in the performance of their gastrointestinal tract, they may have a more difficult time getting all the nutrients they need from their food. Because of this, it is common to give older horses vitamins and supplements.
If you believe your horse is experiencing joint pain, a veterinarian may recommend specialized horseshoes to help with it, treatments with NSAIDs such as flunixin, or even injections of anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids or hyaluronic acids.
As horses get older, and their immune systems naturally decline, keeping up with routine vaccinations and deworming becomes even more important. Some suggest that when deworming, or testing for the need to deworm, it is a good idea to quarantine older horses to reduce the risks of parasites spreading while you work to get them under control.
How to Know When to Stop Riding
No one likes giving up riding time with their horses, but at a certain point, it is necessary to because it may just be too hard on an older horse’s body. While there is no exact, hard and fast number, many veterinarians recommend that you stop riding your horse somewhere when he or she is 18-25 years old. This number can change a bit depending on the health of the horse, and how well they are adjusting to aging.
Up until this point, you may have ridden, but noticed that your horse is riding slower. This is perfectly normal and to be expected for older horses.
It is also important to remember that just because a horse is too old to be ridden, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need exercise still. It is very important to continue to give older horses exercise, it might just be at a bit of a slower pace.
Equus Magazine did a great job going into full detail about what to expect when caring for an aging horse in this article, so we recommend giving it a read it you wanted more details.
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