It takes a long time to make a good horse. So how do you keep him/her in the best of shape?
As a horse ages, he needs more care, not less. The factors below affect the longevity of your horse:
- Environment/Management – Horses require fresh air or good ventilation, good footing (difficult footing can harm soft tissue) plus good access to quality fodder/grass and clean water.
- Dental Care – Regular dental care helps maintain a healthy mouth so the horse can chew properly. If he cannot chew properly, then he cannot break down the food, and his digestive system is unable to absorb vital nutrients.
- Diet/Weight Management – Older horses, just like people, do well when they are not overweight. Be aware of and test for metabolic issues such as Cushing’s Disease and hormonal imbalances.
- Exercise – In younger years give your horse occasional breaks from work, but keep him in regular exercise when he is older. Use it or lose it applies to our senior friends!!
- Hoof Care – This is vital for overall support as your horse ages. Barefoot would seem to make sense but may not be the best option for all.
- Preventive Medical Care – Vaccinations, deworming, and maintenance for joint issues and arthritis. Dietary improvements and growth of veterinarian knowledge help us keep our equine partners healthy and happy longer.
Some additional things you can do to help your aging equine partner:
- Space out vaccinations (rather than give all at the same time) along with spacing other stressful events such as shoeing, traveling, deworming, etc.
- Deworming needs may change; perhaps pull a fecal to verify needs.
- Soak hay, soak grain (a senior formula), soak hay cubes.
- Be vigilant to adjust feeding needs.
- Adjust for seasonal issues – such as clipping, blanketing, protection from the bugs/heat etc.
- Herd management – the older horse may not be able to handle the herd dominance during feeding and with shelter arrangements.