Your Senior Horse Guide

Senior Horse Care

This is your reliable resource for all aspects of senior horse care and health

The good news is that horses are living longer. It’s not uncommon for horses to live well into their 30’s.

And just like us humans, your horse has new concerns and issues as they age. While you can’t stop your horse form aging, you can do a lot to lessen the impacts of age-related conditions.

In this senior horse guide, we’ve pulled together our top resources on senior horse health, care, and management – we want you to have easy access to trusted content about your senior horse.

Before making any changes to your horse’s diet, exercise routine, or medication, please consult your veterinarian.

Remember, your horse is very smart – they will hide any discomfort or issues from you as long as possible. Even the smallest change in their behavior may be a sign of a larger underlying issue – do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian.

Your horse expects you to keep very close tabs on their health!

What Is a Senior Horse?

While there isn’t a fixed age that classifies a horse as senior, the general age is 18 – 20. Of course, for some horses, like humans, they may show signs of aging earlier or later – this really is unique to your horse.

Several factors including genetics, horse care management, how your horse is exercised and ridden, underlying health conditions, diet quality, and more can impact how your horse ages.

Consistent horse care management best practices are key to ensuring your horse ages well. Take advantage of these Grand Meadows resources:

  • 9 Signs of a Healthy Horse You Need to Know
    Learn how to monitor your horse’s vital signs, appetite and water consumption, bowel movements, gum color, hoof health, mood and behavior, gut noises, coat health, and body weight.
  • How to Check Your Horse’s Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration Rate
    When you have a baseline for your horse’s temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR) rate you can more easily and quickly catch health problems. Learn why you need to check your horse’s TPR and how to safely monitor these vital signs.
  • Horse First Aid Basics You Need to Know
    Having a horse first aid kit and understanding the basics of horse health is the first step in ensuring your horse remains in good health. Learn how to setup a horse first aid kit and how to be ready for horse emergencies.

9 Signs You Have a Senior Horse

While every horse is different, these 9 signs may indicate you have a senior horse:

  1. Changes in coat quality
  2. Reduced stamina and energy
  3. Gray hair around their ears, eyes, muzzle, tail, and forehead
  4. Weight loss
  5. A sway back or loss of topline
  6. A change in their gait
  7. Walking and moving more stiffly
  8. Slower to chew and eat their food
  9. Not as excited to go out for a walk or ride

Remember to contact your veterinarian as soon as you notice any of these signs of aging in your horse. Your veterinarian may recommend changes to your horse’s diet, exercise routine, or schedule an exam to ensure there aren’t any underlying health conditions.

It’s always best to be proactive when it comes your horse’s health.

How to Care for a Senior Horse

The key to caring for your senior horse is in being diligent about their care.

Just as you spent a lot of time training and bonding with your horse when they were young, you need to dedicate the same amount of time (if not more) to keeping your senior horse feeling their best.

Remember these essential senior horse health care strategies:

  • Feed your horse the food they need for their age, activity level, weight, and unique digestion needs. Do not assume that there is only one way to feed your horse.
  • Don’t assume your horse is drinking enough. Check your horse’s hydration levels daily and pay attention to any changes.
  • The right shelter at the right time. Just like us humans, your horse’s tolerance to heat and cold changes as they age.
  • Provide consistent hoof care. A small hoof problem can quickly become a large issue – prevention is the best way to keep your horse’s hooves healthy.
  • Look inside your horse’s mouth. The health of your horse’s teeth and gums can tell you a lot about their overall health and wellness.

You know your horse better than anyone. Look for any changes in their behavior and mood. Be aware of the signals your horse gives you during rides and grooming and how your horse responds when you walk into the barn.

For more on senior horse care strategies, read:
How to Care for Your Senior Horse: Learn the essentials to senior horse management
Rely on this senior horse management blog for the facts on what to know about senior horse care and strategies to keep your horse feeling their best.

6 Senior Horse Health Challenges You Need to Know

Your horse relies on you for every aspect of their health and wellness.

Make sure you know these 6 senior horse health challenges:

  1. Eye and vision problems
    Your senior horse may develop cataracts or problems with their retinas. This is a completely normal part of the aging process. The good news is – it’s very rare for your horse to become blind or have severe vision loss.
  2. Teeth and dental challenges
    The years of constant chewing and grinding put a lot of stress on your horse’s teeth. This can cause teeth to wear down unevenly, create sharp jagged edges, and may cause teeth to loosen. This might create cuts and tears inside your horse’s mouth.
  3. Endocrine concerns
    Cushing’s Disease is common in senior horses. This health condition is caused by a benign tumor in the pituitary gland. This tumor can affect your horse’s hormones, resulting in a range of symptoms including weight loss, foot problems, fatigue, laminitis, and more.
  4. Weight and digestion challenges
    When your horse has trouble digesting food or absorbing nutrients, this can trickle over into a range of health challenges including weight loss, nutrient deficiencies, constipation, diarrhea, and other intestinal issues.
  5. Joint issues
    Joint health issues are a constant for horses of any age, and for senior horses, joint health needs to be a top priority. Unfortunately, most senior horses do have some type of age-related joint condition, such as arthritis.
  6. Hoof health issues
    As your horse ages, their body composition changes, including muscle loss, weight fluctuations, and bone health. These changes can impact the health of your horse’s hooves and feet. Talk to your farrier about signs of hoof and foot concerns.

For more on these senior horse health challenges, read:
How to Care for your Senior Horse – Top 6 Things You Need to Know About Senior Horse Health
Keeping your senior horse healthy and active requires a good balance of regular exercise, nutrition, and weight management.

How to Be Proactive with Senior Horse Health and Wellness

Keeping your horse healthy and living well into their senior years requires a strong foundation of horse care best practices.

Use these Grand Meadows horse care resources to learn more about horse care best practices:

Take advantage of your horse care network of veterinarians, trainers, farriers, and others to help guide you and provide you with first-hand advice about how best to care for your senior horse.

Browse and follow the Grand Meadows blog for our latest articles about horse health, horse science, horse training, and horse life.

by Nick Hartog

In 1994, Nick Hartog became an owner and President of Grand Meadows Equine Supplements bringing his talents and extensive background in domestic and international equine sales and manufacturing. He has a reputation for plain speaking of the truth. In 1997, when the US horse supplement market was something akin to the Wild West with a complete lack of standards, Nick personally tested 32 different horse joint supplements to see if they matched the label. Unsurprisingly, to him at least, only 2 products matched the label claim. Read more...