So you are thinking about buying an older horse, but you are a bit worried. How many years will you get with an older horse? Will an older horse have too many special needs for you to handle? The first thing to keep in mind is that horses are unique and do not come with a guarantee at any age, but it is safe to say that a 15 year old horse could easily live for another 15 years, so you can tentatively scratch longevity off the worry list. As for worry number two, whether you can deal with an older horse’s special needs, rest assured. Many older horses’s needs have to do with you adjusting their diet to help them maintain their condition. Some older horses struggle with absorbing enough nutrition because they aren’t as long in the tooth as they used to be and others struggle to keep their weight down, because they are not as active as they used to be. The good news is that you won’t necessarily be dealing with an actual geriatric condition when you buy an older horse and that most conditions can be managed without you becoming totally overwhelmed.
One of the many advantages of buying an older horse is that they are affordable. You can buy an amazing animal at the age of 15, that you once could only dreamed of owning a couple of years previously. In general, older horses are safe and sensible (though you get those who will never be) and preferable if you have a young and inexperienced rider or if you simply don’t have time to ride very often. Older horses also make great teachers. Many owners of older horses agree that their horses have an innate sense of their rider’s ability and act accordingly. Slow and steady for those who are not particularly confident and spunky for the more experienced rider.
As a general rule, a good diet, regular visits from the vet, good dental care and hoof care, will keep your older horse going for a long time. Also remember that by the time a horse gets close to 30, their teeth are just about worn down to the roots, so it’s a good idea to wet down feeds and to look into buying a commercial feed for senior horses to eliminate nutritional intake problems, because of chewing issues. Also make sure that your horse’s feeds are mold and dust free. Dust in an older horse’s hay can aggravate respiratory conditions and should be wetted down to get rid of any excess dust. Also, hay that is not harvested at the right time can be hard to digest and hamper your horse’s nutritional intake, so make sure you only buy quality feed and be careful not to just put your horse out to pasture, since what is available will probably not be enough to meet an older horse’s nutritional needs.
Many older horses suffer from arthritis, and although it cannot be prevented, it can be managed. Joint function and pain alleviation can be improved by feed supplements or injectable products. Also, a good farrier can help combat arthritis by taking care of those hoofs. Be sure not to fall into the trap of neglecting your horse’s hoofs because they are not worked or ridden as much. Unbalanced hoofs can cause soft tissue damage and aggravate arthritis or lead to laminitis.
Some older horses have a hard time maintaining their condition. If that is the case, you can put them on highly digestible, high-energy feeds and supplement their diet with fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. You can buy a commercial feed specifically designed for senior horses, like a grain mix with a high fat content, or you can pour vegetable oil over your horse’s grain. Another good idea might be to give your horse beet pulp, which is a good source of highly digestible fiber. Just be cautious to first do blood work to check your horse’s liver and kidney function, before you add anything to their feed.
If your horse has a dull coat, shows signs of weight loss, attitude change, and reluctance to train, it may be suffering from Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS), which is very common in off the track thoroughbreds.
The Long and the Short
Buying an older horse is not a fool proof science. Some horses are old at 17 and some at 27 and others keep going until 6 months before their 36th birthday. What is important is that you are very likely to find a beautiful teenage horse who has the potential to become your friend and teacher and stay with you for many years to come, so check your worries at the door, do some investigating and take a chance.
This article brought to you by Abler Equine Pharmaceuticals providing horse owners with an Affordable Solution since 2008 .