Unlike people, horses’ health depends upon what they eat and the care and exercise they receive. Studies show that there are several key factors that have increased horses’ healthy lifespans that allow them to remain productive and content as they grow older.
As horses age, chewing becomes difficult, so owners must find alternatives to mixed grain, oat feeds, and alfalfa pellets. Senior feeds have the right balance of minerals and vitamins for the increasing demands of these horses’ bodies. If the older horse has “insulin resistance” or metabolic syndrome, feeding a low-carbohydrate concentrate may help. Also, if the horse shows weight loss along its top line, it may require more protein to maintain its muscles. Supplements for horses’ various conditions, ranging from arthritis to various ailments such as airway disease, are also available, and they can keep an older horse in good condition. Senior feeds have more protein for maintaining muscle. It is also important to make sure that the older horse is not being pushed away from water by other horses and that it gets enough water to drink.
Exercise, beginning with warm-ups, is as important for horses as it is for other animals and humans. Because the horse ranks among the top ten animals in intelligence, they enjoy the variety in their lives that exercise provides. The cardiovascular systems and muscles of older horses will benefit from exercise, along with their mental attitudes. This movement that is so natural for horses is really essential as it functions to increase the horse’s intestinal mobility and helps to reduce stress. Both of these benefits assist in preventing colic, the biggest killer of horses of any age.
Variety in Life
Just as various exercises are beneficial, stimulating the older horse mentally is also good for its health. Warm-ups help to engage the horse’s mind as well as stretch its muscles. Going in circles or serpentine movements, stepping over logs, and other variations offer challenges and mental exercise.
It is wise for owners to have a vet check their horses, especially as they grow older. Senior horses can develop Cushing’s disease (a condition resulting from dysfunction of the pituitary gland) and kidney failure. Luckily, special diets can improve the horses’ health and lower the risk of disease.