An American physicist, Charles H Townes, once said, “We can’t avoid age. However, we can avoid some aging. Continue to do things. Be active. Life is fantastic in the way it adjusts to demands; if you use your muscles and mind, they stay there much longer.” The same basic concept applies to your senior horse. With these 5 tips, you can keep your senior equine companion feeling young and comfortable.
Regular Dental Check-ups
Years of grinding down hay and feed takes its toll on a horse’s mouth. Sharp points can cause a lot of discomfort which can prevent them from eating. Ensure your senior horse sees an equine dentist at least yearly for floats and dental health assessments. Missing teeth are almost inevitable but seeing a dentist regularly can give you more of a plan on what to feed based on your horse’s ability to chew their food.
Proper Diet and Nutrition
Just as our nutritional needs change as we age, so does that of a horse. Their metabolic rates change and sometimes they are unable to absorb nutrients as well as when they were younger. Grass and good quality hay are what should make up most of a senior horse’s diet. Add in a senior feed that is easy to chew and a vitamin supplement to fill in the gaps. Keep an eye on the horse’s topline for a baseline and adjust the feed amount if it changes. When switching to a different feed, be sure to not change it all at once, because this can increase a chance of colic or digestion upsets.
Keep the Motion Going
Arthritis is inevitable in senior horses and can start early in horses that were hard-working in their prime. Just like humans, the best treatment for arthritis is movement. Do not keep a senior horse in a stall because when they are turned out to pasture, they will have difficulty moving. Exercise them regularly, but do not cause over-exhaustion. It is always a good idea to add a glucosamine supplement as well. Find a supplement with MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) and glucosamine to help with pain and inflammation.
Aid in Immunity
A horse’s immune defense decreases as they get older. This makes them more susceptible to parasites and other diseases. Don’t skip out on yearly vaccinations and regular deworming. Continuing to vaccinate can help boost their immune system. Parasites can cause more threatening health conditions in older horses such as colic. Have the veterinarian take a fecal sample to analyze under the microscope to find out what parasites they may have and come up with a regular deworming schedule.
Don’t Lag on Routine Care
It is important for a senior horse to continue routine checkups with the veterinarian and have them take a blood sample to acquire a baseline of organ function. Even if a senior horse is retired, hoof care is still very important; as the saying goes, “No hoof, no horse.” Keeping a senior horse’s hooves trimmed can also help alleviate pressure on their joints.
Horses are living well into their golden years of thirty and up because of the care they are receiving. Just like humans, they can age gracefully and comfortably – age is only a number.