By Chelsy Ranard
Your senior horse might not be leaping around like a colt anymore, but many senior horses are still great, loving animals that are looking forward to their golden years. Whether your horse is a working horse or not, your horse has paid their dues and it’s time for them to take it easy and enjoy the comfortable side of life in order to keep them healthy and happy. This doesn’t mean your horse should remain inactive or have unhealthy eating habits; it just means that the lifestyle of your horse should change. Senior horses can still be happy - their needs are just different than they once were.
Keeping your horse comfortable is more important in their senior years than it is in their adult years. Better shelter and better defense against the elements are needed as your horse ages. It seems to be the case in humans as well, but senior horses have a more difficult time handling extreme temperatures in their old age. Having adequate refuge from the sun and black flies is important as is a nice horse blanket and shelter from the cold and wind. Horses that once had an easy time handling the heat or cold may have a more difficult time as a senior.
Managing pain is another way to make sure your senior horse is comfortable. Make sure you have a vet visit your horse to determine what is needed to keep them pain free. Depending on what your vet recommends, you may need to introduce a pain medication or joint supplement into your horse’s diet.
Your senior horse’s health is vitally important to their happiness. Keeping them at a healthy weight is an essential aspect to senior horse health. Obesity is an issue facing senior horses that aren’t as active as they once were that can have a negative effect on their joint health as well. For their feed, focus more on fiber and less on grains and oils as your veterinarian recommends. Keep their feet properly trimmed, keep them moving, and keep their weight in a healthy range. Their dental health should be watched as well. A healthy horse is a happy horse and it’s important to keep up with their health and vet checkups in order to make sure their health is in check. Watch for swelling, quidding, dramatic weight fluctuations, sore feet, or any other changes in your horse’s personality and consult your vet with any concerns you have.
Horses love being out and active and senior horses are no different. Not only to they enjoy moving being active, but it’s vital to keep them happy and healthy. Exercise helps alleviate pain, helps joint health, keeps weight down, and helps their respiration. Even if they are not able to race or run while ridden, they should still be ridden if they are able to safely. If not, having time out of their stall to roam and graze is a great way to keep them moving. Many horses are now being used for equine therapy for addiction centers, children with disabilities, patients with PTSD, among others. This is a job perfect for senior or retired horses so that they will be able to remain active and working – and we know how much horses love having a job to do. Before exercise be sure to spend extra time warming up and cooling down in order to keep the joints comfortable. Keep the horse’s cues in mind and don’t make them do too much or become dehydrated.
For your senior horse’s mental well-being, be sure to give them extra loves, pats, and nuzzles. Make up for the time you lose riding or working them with brushing them, talking to them, and giving them snacks. They will love the extra attention from you and it’s important they still feel that closeness to you as they age.
Senior horses are aging to perfection and it’s important to enjoy each stage of your horse’s life, not just their adorable nature as colts or athletic abilities as adults. Each horse requires something a little different as they age, so there’s no exact science to their comfort, health needs, or happiness, but paying attention to them and the changes in their body and demeanor is essential to gauge what they need from you in order to be happy. Make sure they are comfortable, watch their health, keep them active, and show them you love them and they will be happy long into their senior years.
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