What age qualifies a horse as "senior"?
We typically think of a senior horse as one that is in its teens, but individual horses become seniors at different ages. The age at which a horse’s nutritional needs shift from those of a mature adult horse to those of a geriatric horse is determined by genetics and the way that horse was managed throughout its life. Basically, the horse itself determines when it becomes a senior. Some common indications of changing nutritional needs can help determine when to start addressing the needs of a geriatric horse. For instance, it becomes more difficult to maintain body weight on a senior horse with a traditional diet of hay or grass and feed. A senior horse may also start dropping wads of partially chewed hay on the ground (quidding).
What are common problems with senior horses?
These may include worn or missing teeth, decreasing digestive efficiency, respiratory problems, difficulty maintaining body weight, poor haircoat and chronic lameness. Working with your veterinarian will help determine when to begin addressing concerns of the aging horse, to ensure its continued good health and longevity.
Why is dental care so important to older horses?
As a horse ages, the grinding motion of chewing wears the teeth down, and the teeth then erupt to replace what has worn away. At some point in a horse’s life, there is not enough tooth left to replace the wear, and the horse can no longer chew properly. Further, as the teeth wear, they can develop sharp edges or points that can lacerate the cheeks and tongue. Finally, inadequate chewing can cause lack of salivation, which may result in poor lubrication for swallowing, thus increasing the possibility of choke. Yearly dental exams are recommended, more often if issues are found.
Do older horses need extra shelter?
Just like older people, a horses's ability to sense and regulate temperature may deteriorate as they age. Your older horse may need more energy to keep himself warm in cold weather. Expending energy on staying warm means that your horse will need extra feed and access to high quality forage. A stall, covered run, or other shelter from the rain and wind will go a long way in keeping an older horse in good condition through the cold season. In the hot Texas summer, a shade source is essential to help your older horse stay cool.
Do older horses need special hoof care?
Good hoof care is important throughout the life of the horse. Hoof growth may slow slightly as the horse ages, making proper care more important even if it may be less frequently needed. Sometimes arthritis may make hoof care uncomfortable for the horse, which can be remedied with pain medication. If the horse has developed lameness, laminitis, or other hoof issues, regular, professional farrier work is even more important.
See more posts about horse care on our blog or learn more at http://horse.purinamills.com.