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Care and Signs of an Aging Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   25th Feb 2014   •   3,016 views   •   0 comments
Care and Signs of an Aging Horse

I just realized that my horse is eighteen years old now! That means she's entering her senior years. Many regard fifteen as senior. Most horses don't know this however, and continue to preform with the vigor of a youngster. But inside, things are changing and it may be time to pay a little more attention to care and feeding.

Signs of Aging
Not all horses age at the same rate. Genetics and the care they've received throughout their lives may play a role. Here are signs your horse is in its senior years.

†●†Grey hair around the eyes and muzzle.
†●†Looser, coarser skin tone
†●†Choppier gaits caused by muscle loses, and arthritic joints
†●†Slower healing
†●†Appetite changes
†●†Very long, very worn or missing teeth
†●†Dropped back
†●†Hollow depression over the eyes
†●†Decreased energy

Dental Care
Many people believe that a horse's teeth continue to grow throughout its lifetime. However, that's not true. Teeth have a lifespan of their own that a horse may outlive. As teeth get worn very short, and don't grow to replace the wear, or fall out completely, it can be hard for your horse to chew. Regular dental care is important throughout your horse's life, and an equine dentist can help remedy sharp edges on worn teeth that may make chewing uncomfortable.

Hoof Care
Hoof growth slows as your horse ages. But, regular hoof cleaning and care are still important for hoof health, and to prevent strain on joints. Your senior horse may have problems holding up its hooves for long periods during cleaning and trimming. Patience and pain relievers can help your horse stay comfortable.

Stabling
Senior horses have more difficulty regulating and maintaining body temperature. Protect your older horse from extremes in weather. A snug blanket and a shelter where it can escape wind chill and wet may become more important. Extra feed may help keep your older horse more comfortable in cold weather as it expends energy trying to keep warm. Bedding should be deep, or flooring should be comfortable to reduce the impact of the cold and hard floors on joints.

Feeding
Your Senior horse may need extra rations, especially if dental issues cause chewing problems. Good quality, easy to chew (fine) hay or good pasture is essential. The digestive process in older horses starts to lose efficiency. For older horses that are losing weight, or have dental problems, large pellets or cubes should be avoided. Special senior feeds and supplements, soaked hay cubes and beet pulp can help an older horse stay in good condition. Too much weight gain, as well as being hard on the joints, can indicate health problems too.

Work and Exercise
Regular exercise is very important for older horses, because it keeps joints moving and muscles strong and supple. Becoming a complete pasture potato isn't ideal, so some work is better than nothing. Slow and steady is best for your senior horse, who might not be able to jump, gallop for miles or preform sliding stops like it used to. Light rides or drives a few times a week will help your horse stay fit, without over-stressing it. If your horse has arthritis, ask your veterinarian about using pain medication.

Problems to Watch For
As your horse ages, it may become more prone to some health problems. Watch for unusual weight changes. A change of feed or dental care may be the solution. Thyroid and cancer can cause problems in older horses. Have unusual lumps checked by a vet. If your horse hangs onto its long winter coat, Cushings Disease may be the problem. Older horses are more susceptible to colic. Keep meals small, frequent and easy to digest and always have fresh water available.

Older horses have a lot to offer, and it's not hard to adjust their care to ensure they have many happy senior years ahead.
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