Any passionate horse owner can tell you that horses can grow old all too fast. It may seem like yesterday that your beloved pet was a playful young foal with his whole feature ahead of him, but now he’s getting a bit long in the tooth and slowing down with every passing day.
While it may not be as full of excitement as the younger years, owning a senior horse is still one of life’s great joys. Older horses are calm, gentle and loving companions that love nothing more than spending time with you. All the love you give them is returned ten times over and the bond you share is one that has taken years to develop.
Unfortunately, old age also brings with it a fair few potential ailments and health problems for our horses. Here’s what you can do to help your senior stallion feel young, healthy and full of life.
5 senior horse care tips
- Keep exercising. Although your horse or pony may no longer be as quick or as energetic as they once were, that doesn’t mean it’s time to lock her up and let her waste away. No matter what their age, horses can still enjoy many benefits of regular exercise. Not only can it ward off obesity, arthritis and obesity problems, but the simple act of getting moving can work wonders for your pet’s mood and mental wellbeing. Just make sure to start slowly and to never push your pet to do anything too strenuous or that they are physically incapable of doing.
- Review their diet. Unfortunately, older horses aren’t quite as good as digesting food as their younger counterparts. As they age, their digestive systems become less effective at absorbing all the essential nutrients they need from the food they eat. With this in mind, it’s important that you feed your ageing pet a high-quality diet that is also easily digestible. Good pasture grass and hay are essential, while you may also need to choose a feed specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of senior horses. Your equine vet will be able to advise you if this is the case.
- Take special care in winter. Is your horse getting enough calories to help him stay warm and healthy during winter? Does he feel the pain of arthritis more in his aching joints when the mercury drops? Winter can be a difficult time of year for older horses so it’s important that you take extra-special care of your pet. Making sure he’s well fed, has a place where he can shelter from the elements and has a blanket to keep him sufficiently warm can make a world of difference.
- Dental care. Older horses need to have their teeth check at least one a year. While dental health is one area of horse care that’s often overlooked, any issues in the mouth need to be dealt with as quickly as possible to prevent discomfort and also stop other health issues developing. As well as performing a dental float, your vet will check for worn and missing teeth and any other signs of periodontal disease. You can also keep an eye out to make sure your horse isn’t having trouble chewing or possibly losing weight, both of which can indicate dental problems.
- Keep an eye out. When you see your animal every day over a number of years, sometimes you may not notice the slight changes that could indicate he is suffering from a health problem. So make it part of your daily routine to give your horse a once-over: is he eating normally, moving freely and behaving like his usual self? If not, this could be a sign that all is not well with your pet’s health. A regular vet check-up is also recommended to give an expert a chance to run their eye over your horse. If there are any underlying health issues, your vet will be able to pick them up and tell you what needs to be done to combat them.
With the right approach to these golden years, your horse can maintain excellent quality of life for as long as possible — and spend plenty more quality time right by your side. Who knows? Just by following these simple tips you could end up adding years to your horse’s life.