Young and active horses are used for a variety of purposes. From racing, riding to simple grooming, the relationships between humans and horses are vast. However, not unlike human being, as horses get older, they also get feebler and become less able.
Additionally, conditions such as arthritis can easily set in and affect aging horses, causing them to have degenerative joints. Nonetheless, there are a few measures you can take to ensure that such conditions can be prevented or their impact lessened.
First and foremost, always try to keep your horses active. Although they might not be used for racing purposes anymore past a certain age, old horses still have a very agile and sharp mind. They can sense your concern for them and get disappointed if you start neglecting them in favour of the younger ones. Keep them active by showering them with care and concern in addition to bringing them out for regular walks. These walks not only serve to keep the horses in high spirits but stop arthritis from setting in too quickly as well. Slow walks and easy uphill climbs go a long way in helping the horse to prevent its joints from becoming sore and stiff.
Remember that older horses need gentle exercises. Do not ride them like you do the stronger, younger ones. Additionally, you might want to consider giving them a warm bath and rubbing them dry with a towel. It is important that you don’t shower them in cold weather or windy days, and that you dry them off as much as possible. At their kind of age, pampering them a little can easily make them feel good for the entire day.
Another main area that you might want to be wary about with older horses is their feet. Constant trimming and proper shoeing can help your horse prolong the number of years that he can stay competitive and active. Work with your farrier to get the best possible trimming or shoes for your horse. However, do also bear in mind that if you keep your horses on pasture, then going barefoot is far less strenuous on their joints. If your horse’s hooves are good, the ground is not too hard and you don’t ride him on rocky or bitumen roads, then it is best for your horse to be barefoot.
Unlike human beings, older horses also tend to loose weight as the years go by. This is mainly due to the reduced level of exercise and a slowed metabolism. Apart from ensuring that your equine undergoes a regular exercise routine, it is best advised that you keep a close eye on their diet as well. If your horse is losing condition, you will need to review his feed. Specialised feed to older horses are designed for better digestion so the nutrients are absorbed correctly. Read Part 1 to better understand this matter.
As your horse gets older, it is of utmost importance that you provide him with the right nutrients (vitamins and minerals) for his age, level of activity and any existing conditions. Although I am a believer of feeding animals naturally, I also recognise that it may be necessary to switch to commercially manufactured senior food. The main reasons are that the feed is balanced with the right amount and ratio of minerals, vitamins and trace minerals, and they are manufactured according to the ability of senior horses to digest.
To keep your older horse in shape, physically and mentally, it is important for him to be with other horses. However, take note on how the other horses treat him. As a horse ages and becomes less agile, quite often some horses in a herd will bully the older one, by constantly chasing him around or not allowing him access to water or food. In serious cases, it is necessary to separate the old one and find him a suitable companion.
If your old friend is stabled, ensure that the floor is not hard and always clean. You can use straw to cover it.
During winter, it is important that your old horse stays warm so see to it that he has an appropriate shelter. You might need to rug him during the colder months. By being warm, he will use less energy, therefore it will help in keeping his weight on. You can also treat him with a warm mash of copra and/or bran.
By providing the right care for your older equine, you will allow him to enjoy his golden years and you will have him by your side for many years to come.