We all have our favorite horses, which we could ride forever. Unfortunately, horses are just like any animal — they age and begin to lose their abilities. As a horse owner, it is difficult to navigate through the aging process, and you may not understand how to properly care for a horse that is past its prime. The following steps are crucial for every horse owner to follow.
Any good horse owner will be able to accept that their horse is aging. However, some owners may overlook the signs for too long, as they are in denial of aging. It is important to not assume a horse is just having an off-day if they are beginning to show signs of sickness or physical wear and tear. Consult with your horse’s vet to find out if this is signaling old age.
Although you may not be able to ride your horse anymore, it is still important for it to get regular exercise. Just like humans, horses thrive when exercising daily, even into old age. Yet, there are extra considerations you need to keep in mind, such as duration and difficulty of the exercise. A horse with joint pain will not be able to exercise as hard as a horse that has no major issues. Stamina also decreases over time, so while a young horse may be able to ride for several hours, an older horse may only be able to exercise for an hour at home. Speak with your horse’s care team to find the right exercise plan for your horse.
As your horse gets older and you are not riding it, or not riding it as often, you will need to cut back on the amount you are feeding it. Horses become used to eating a hearty diet when they are riding regularly, but that excess food can fatten up horses who are not as active. This can lead to health problems, so it is a good idea to begin weaning horses off of the large meals as soon as you stop riding regularly. You should do this gradually, so your horse becomes accustomed to less food over time.
On the other hand, you have to ensure your horse has enough to eat each day. They may eat more slowly as they age, and other horses may try to bully them away from their food or water. Be sure to provide adequate grazing time and extra hay that only they have access to. Also be sure to give extra attention to how much water they are drinking, as dehydration is a serious issue for older horses.
A horse’s entire lifestyle will naturally be affected by aging. Don’t be surprised by sudden, drastic changes; instead, find ways to ease your horse into a new routine that suits its needs.