The Older Horse

Caring for your Older Horse

Advances in nutrition,management, and health care have helped our horses to live longer, fuller lives.  We are now seeing many horses in their thirties, whereas their lifespan used to run into early twenties.  Although genetics play a role,you the owner can have an impact as well.  Proper nutrition, care, and exercise help your horse thrive.  Below are guidelines, also recommended by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), to develop a management plan for your older horse.

Monitor and observe your horse on a regular basis.  Address any problems, even minor ones,immediately.  Watch for changes in body condition (weight, muscle mass, hair coat), behavior, and attitude.  Feed a high quality diet, while avoiding dusty and moldy feeds.  As your horse ages you will also need to supplement with a complete feed (grain) diet because they will wear down their teeth.  Regular oral examinations and dentals by your veterinarian will help you assess how much to feed.  It is also a good idea to feed your older horse away from any younger, more aggressive horses so it won't have to compete for feed.  Frequency of feeding is important.  More frequent intervals help the digestive tract.  At least two to three times daily is best.  Adjust and balance the rations of feed to maintain proper body conditions.  You should be able to feel the ribs, but not see them. Provide plenty of fresh, clean, and tepid water at all times.  If the water is excessively cold it will reduce consumption, leading to colic and other problems.  It is especially important to check water once to twice daily in the winter when it can freeze over, not allowing any water for consumption.  To maintain good muscle tone, flexibility, and mobility,please provide adequate and appropriate exercise.  Groom your horse consistently to promote circulation and skin health.  This will also help you assess your horse because you're putting your hands on it.  Especially because your horse is older and more prone to tumors, look for any unusual lumps or bumps from head to tail as well as beneath the tail.  Make sure you are properly deworming your horse, alternating types of dewormers every two months.  And last, but certainly not least, schedule routine physical examinations with your veterinarian (every 6-12 months).  Always call immediately if any problem is suspected.

Your horse is older,but it doesn't mean he or she still doesn't have a lot of verve for life left.  Don't ignore them and just put them out to pasture.  It is now when they require even more attention and care.  Then they will live out a longer and better quality of life.

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