When people refer to caring for the older horse, they are talking about horses that are 15 years or older. The definition of a senior horse though differs from person to person. Like any animal, or person for that matter, you can be old in age and young at heart. Horses are no different. Modern health technologies have increased the living age for horses, and 30-year-old horses are not uncommon these days. The only way to determine their age is by their teeth. The teeth don’t lie.
Care requirements for senior horses can be determined by several factors such as the jobs or activities it was involved in, its past working load, and any previous health conditions. All these factors will determine your horse’s health and longevity in retirement. Sometimes even the best-kept horses can still suffer medical ailments over their lifetime.
There are a few extra items to be aware of when you retire your horse or have purchased a horse ready for retirement.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Well in the case of horses it’s the veterinarian, but you get my drift. Have your veterinarian do a complete physical check up including blood tests and if you have any extra concerns x-rays. A thorough check up is no small job but could avoid some heartache down the track. While your horse is having a check up enlist the expertise of an equine dentist to check off all the boxes. Your veterinarian will be able to do a basic dental check, however, enlisting an expert can save you time and money down the track. Young horses require bi-annual dental checkups until they are five years age, and then you can reduce it down to 1 per year. Senior horses will need to increase back up to the biannual checkups again. One of the biggest medical concerns for competition horses is Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS). The stress of travelling, competing and training takes a toll on their system. Products such as Abler Abprazole can be given to ease the discomfort and at the same time will balance the gut. Signs that your retiree is suffering from EGUS can be a change in attitude, dull coat decreases in weight, teeth grinding and a reluctance to train or perform. All if these symptoms can be signs that your horse is suffering. Abprazole comes in easy to feed enteric coated granules of omeprazole that are flavorless. The signature blue granule assists you in ensuring that they have consumed the full dosage.
You are what you eat
If you have taken on a retired competition or performance horse, then it is vital that you adjust their performing feed schedule slowly. The same way you would transition a horse out of winter and back into their competition season diet. A retired horse may need additional supplements to combat any wear and tear they have had from their younger days. Feeding a balance of hay and oats and adding in beet pulp or a vegetable oil will keep your horse from getting bored while at the same time covering all their nutritional needs. Always go for quality of feed over quantity. Hay needs to be free from mould and dust. Hydration is just as important. Clean, ample access to water at all time should keep your senior having a great life.
Training and exercise
So maybe your senior horse isn’t going out to pasture just yet. Many racehorses have a successful second career as eventing horses. Although it’s very much a different discipline, they seem to enjoy and adjust quite well. The temperament of a horse will dictate what type of “work” they are capable as the horse gets older. Some enjoy the great open pastures with the occasional hack and a lot of socializing and others enjoy the equestrian circuit. Keep in mind that your training schedule may need to adjust as your horse ages. Keeping their medical, nutritional and emotional well-being balanced will help you keep them training at their very best for as long as they can.
Everybody needs new shoes
By keeping up a close working relationship with your farrier, you can bet that your horse will love being a senior. Laminitis is a very real concern. Keep an eye out for symptoms and have your farrier and veterinarian work together to help minimise any long-term suffering. Catching the signs of laminitis in the early days can make a world of difference in the horses well being. Some of the common symptoms of laminitis are walking very tenderly as if on egg shells, the tendency to lie whenever possible, sweating, flared nostrils and anxiety to name a few.
A happy retirement
Caring for your senior horse as they age comes down to commons sense, compassion and trust. Just as a human winds down with age, you too should expect that at some stage your senior horse will want to do the same. Keep on top of their health and well being and make sure they enjoy retirement.