When it comes to aging horses, many people think that turning their golden oldie out to pasture is the best thing for them. However, some horses prefer to stay active well into their senior years. Whatever you do, don’t abandon your horse. Proper nutrition, care, and exercise will help senior animals thrive. Use the following guidelines to develop a total management plan for your senior horse:
Provide a safe and comfortable environment, free of hazards and with adequate shelter from wind, rain, snow, sun, and biting insects.
Keep on top of all dental appointments; seniors need to have their teeth checked more frequently than their younger herd mates.
Observe your horse on a regular basis. Watch for changes in body condition, behavior, and attitude. Address problems, even seemingly minor ones, right away.
Feed a high-quality diet. Avoid dusty and moldy feeds.
Feed your older horse away from younger, more aggressive ones so it won’t have to compete for feed. This sometimes involves putting one horse in a locked stall during meal time.
For horses with chewing problems, wet the feed to soften it or add enough water to make a soup-like meal. Many horses that have trouble keeping on weight can be fed a bran mash that may assist them in digesting the forage component of their diet.
Feed at more frequent intervals to keep your horse’s digestive system happy; two to three times daily is best.
Provide plenty of fresh, clean water. Excessively cold water reduces consumption, which can lead to colic and other problems. Most horses tend to prefer room temperature water. In colder months, a bucket heater or insulated bucket will help.
Adjust and balance rations to maintain proper body conditions. A good rule of thumb is to be able to feel the ribs but not see them.
Provide adequate, appropriate exercise to maintain muscle tone, flexibility, and mobility.
Be vigilant in controlling pests and parasites. Establish a deworming schedule with your veterinarian.
Manage pastures and facilities to reduce parasite infestations.
Provide regular hoof care. Your farrier should trim or shoe the horse to maintain proper hoof shape and movement. This will help prevent lameness and injuries.
Groom your horse frequently to promote circulation and skin health.
Be aware that older horses are prone to tumors. Check for any unusual lumps or growths from head to tail as well as beneath the tail (especially on gray horses).
Provide adequate ventilation in barns. Keep pastures mowed and weed-free to reduce allergens. Reduce dust in paddocks as much as possible to prevent respiratory distress.
Schedule routine checkups with your veterinarian. Call immediately if you suspect any problems with your horse.
Need More Guidance on Senior Equine Care?
Carolina Equine Hospital offers general and advanced veterinary care for all ages of horses. We can help owners determine individual care needed for horses as they age. Contact us to learn more or request an appointment with our online form or by calling 336-349-4080.