In recent years, a large selection of feeds targeting senior equines has become available at most feed stores. These feeds are specifically developed for our senior equine friends who may have dental, digestive and weight maintenance issues. After years of training and experience under saddle, these horses are predictable mounts that are easy to have around and pleasant to ride. With an increase in horse recreation and the awareness of the value in senior equines, there is a need for products that prolong their usability.
Caring for senior horses can be more expensive and specialized than for younger horses but is often well worth it. When caring for senior horses, the focus should be on feeds that are easy to chew and digest, physical comfort in the form of wind and rain protection, joint and muscle supplements to ease aches and pains, and saddles that fit an aging back.
There are many reasons why older horses are great to keep around:
- Older horses are usually settled, quiet and steady. This makes them ideal partners for beginner riders of all ages, great teachers for therapeutic work and excellent mentors for young horses.
- While caring for senior horses may require special feeds that can be expensive, senior horses are generally calmer and safer to feed than a group of unruly youngsters.
- Older horses may quit hay, but it is easy to buy bagged hay pellets or cubes to soak, and there are many fortified high fiber feeds available that are formulated for horses with aging teeth. Bags are less messy than hay and easy to haul in a car.
- Older horses are excellent mentors and companions at shows and other events. Their calm attitude can be a comfort to an inexperienced or co-dependent horse, and this calm attitude can make the day easier for the owners.
Older horses "know the ropes" and are great for kids to use in competition.
- Senior horses are less likely to chew wood, destroy fencing or fight with other horses, which makes having them around much less work!
- Senior horses often need fewer hoof trims per year due to slower hoof growth. With the cost of farrier work climbing, this can be a significant saving.
When you own a great senior horse, you realize the intangible value that they bring to many situations. What can you do as an owner to make your senior horse more comfortable? When housing seniors, keep in mind that being confined to small spaces can cause muscle atrophy, slowing of the digestive system, and less joint movement. It is best to house seniors in a larger area with access to shelter or give them many hours of turnout time.
When caring for senior horses, consider a waterproof sheet or blanket so they can stay dry and avoid wind chill. With a long coat of hair, an insulated blanket may be too warm, but if a horse can stay dry and out of the wind they can usually maintain adequate body heat.
If your senior horse can no longer be ridden, consider walking your horse on a regular basis. The exercise is good for both of you and will help alleviate boredom.
When caring for senior horses, they may need to be separated at feeding time, but they will do better being part of a safe herd than being isolated. However, if a senior horse seems to be off its feed, some competition may encourage better food intake. If you have a senior horse that has a hard time maintaining weight, consider feeding supplements such as Formula 707 Weight Gain, Digestive Health and Daily Essentials Fresh Packs. These three formulas will help ensure that your horse is getting what it needs for vitamins, minerals, and calories while being supported by probiotics to enhance absorption of nutrients.
It's time to gear up for the change in seasons. I hope you have fun playing with your senior equine friends.
Thanks for reading, if you have any questions you can contact us! Happy trails from southwest Colorado.
About the Author
I currently reside in Durango Colorado. Durango is in the Four Corners area of southwest Colorado. Living in this corner of Colorado allows me access to riding in three states within an hour drive. Horses have been a passion in my life for 35 years. I currently have seven equines in my care, including a five-year-old mustang in for training, a feisty grade mare I bought eight months ago, a talented Arab/Mustang mare and a blue dun Icelandic pony. —Phoebe Bechtolt