Caring for an older horse

Embracing the Golden Years: Caring for an older horse

Caring for an older horse is not something to be worried about. With the right knowledge and support a horse can enjoy old age with dignity and comfort – much like their human counterparts!

In this blog, we’ll explore the crucial aspects of caring for an older horse to ensure optimal health and well-being. From regular vet checks to specialised nutrition and dental care, every element allows our senior horses to enjoy their golden years to the fullest.

Vet visits are more than just a checkup.

Just as humans require regular check-ups as they age, senior horses benefit immensely from routine veterinary examinations. Caring for an older horse means these check-ups should monitor overall health, dental condition, and mobility and include essential blood work.

Ageing horses experience decreased immunity, making them more susceptible to infections. Regular vaccinations, particularly for Flu and Tetanus, are crucial.

Routine blood work can flag chronic infections, organ dysfunctions and Equine Cushing’s Disease, ensuring timely intervention and preserving the quality of life when caring for an older horse. Remember, age is not a disease! We often hear clients saying things such as ‘they are getting a bit stiff’, ‘they are stiff in the mornings’, ‘they have lost muscle’, and ‘they are showing their age’, and these can all be red flags that the horse is in discomfort or has other health conditions going on. A poor performance examination is essential at this time.

Caring for an older horse means nutrition tailored to their needs.

As horses age, their nutritional requirements change. Metabolism, dental health, and digestive efficiency all undergo shifts. Older horses may struggle with poor dentition, leading to inadequate mastication and poor absorption of essential vitamins, minerals and proteins. This often leads to muscle wasting and weight loss. Monitoring weight and body condition is essential when caring for an older horse, and adjustments to their diet may be necessary. High-quality forage, easily digestible feeds and proper supplementation are vital components of a senior horse’s diet. Discuss your horse’s needs with one of our equine vets if you have any concerns or want any advice.

Dental Care: More Than Meets the Mouth

Dental issues are common among senior horses and can significantly impact their ability to chew and digest food properly. Horses have hypsodont teeth, meaning they have continually erupted throughout their life. Eventually, the root will run out, and horses start to lose teeth, leaving gaps or sharp points in the mouth.

Horses are often surprisingly good at hiding symptoms from dental pain, for example, one common dental condition in older horses is development of diastema (gaps between their teeth), which can lead to food packing, dental and gum disease, decay and pain. Routine dental work every six months is imperative to prevent issues like quidding, infection discomfort, weight loss, and even colic. Soaking feeds or providing softer alternatives can also make mealtimes more comfortable for horses with existing dental problems.

Mobility & Exercise when caring for an older horse

Providing a comfortable living environment, regular movement, and soft bedding can all help to maintain joint health in senior horses. While intense activity may not be suitable, regular gentle exercise to keep joints flexible and maintain muscle tone is highly beneficial. Additionally, mental stimulation is highly undervalued for their overall well-being. Consider activities such as in-hand walking or light hacking (if possible).

Arthritis and joint issues become more prevalent when caring for an older horse. Discuss pain management with our vets at South Moor to find out how best to support your horse during its later years.

Our vets will ensure your horse has a healthy old age

Caring for a senior horse requires dedication, awareness, and a proactive approach. By understanding and addressing the unique needs of ageing equine companions, we can give them the respect and care they deserve later. This commitment allows senior horses to thrive and enjoy their older years.

caring for an older horse