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Caring for a Senior Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   21st Jan 2015   •   2,836 views   •   0 comments
Caring for a Senior Horse

We often hear that senior horses are best for kids and beginner adults. These ‘been there, done that’ horses have a lot to offer. But what exactly is a senior horse? Horses don’t just start out one day as a young or mature horse, and the next day become a senior horse. Exactly when you’ll start caring for your horse as a senior depends on the individual horse, it’s previous and current condition and workload. Like people, horses age at different rates. And some seniors may be far younger or older than their chronological years.

Feeding
As a horse ages, it’s digestive system might not be as efficient as it once was. It may have difficulty chewing, digesting and absorbing various nutrients. Feed companies sometimes recommend feeding a horse senior feed beginning at fifteen. But, with horses living longer, and with the huge range in activity levels in the over 15 age range, this should only be regarded as a very general guideline, not a rule. Some senior feed might be too high in carbohydrates, some might not have enough protein or other nutrients needed by an individual horse. However, if your senior horse is very active, some senior feeds might not have enough carbs. When choosing feed, you’re better off reading the ingredients tag, rather than the advertising.

Related: How Old are You in Horse Years
Related: How Old is the Oldest Horse You Know
Related: Care and Signs of an Aging Horse
Related: The Golden Years - Caring For An Older Horse

Dental Health
Dental health is a huge factor in ensuring older horses are getting the nutrients they need. Good dental care throughout a horse’s life ensures that it is able to chew properly and this is more important as the horse grows older. Sharp edges, long or missing teeth can cause a horse to quid. Quidding is when a horse gathers up the bolus of hay or grass with it’s teeth, and either spits it out or tucks it against its cheek. Eventually, you will find the little quids lying on the ground, or the horse can choke on them. Either way it’s a problem, because choke is an emergency, and spit out feed means its not getting into your horse.

Respiration
Keeping your senior horse’s air clean is very important. All horses are prone to airway problems, and these increase as your horse gets older. An aging respiratory system and declining immunities can exacerbate things like COPD and make a horse more prone to bacterial and viral infections. The best place for any horse is outdoors, as the air quality in most stables is less fresh than outdoors. The one place outside that the air quality might be poor is the inside of a round bale. Make sure that your hay is dust free, and feed it in a way that your horse doesn’t have to stick its face into the bale to eat.

Hoof Care
As a horse ages, it’s hoof growth may slow, but that doesn’t mean hoof care can be ignored. It’s important to keep the hoof at proper angles, and not stress, arthritic joints, tendons and other soft tissue that might not be as supple as it once was. Because an older horse’s immunity may be declining, any infections in the hooves may take longer to heal. The earlier problems are caught, the less damage they may do.
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