Senior Horse Health Care Guide

Senior Horse Health Care Guide

He has stood by you through thick and thin, he has been the one you cried with and the one you won your first blue ribbon on. Now, he still hangs out in your pasture but his friends are a little younger than him and they get most of the attention. You still love him and you plan on keeping him until the end, but what special needs does this aging equine need?

Senior horse is typically one that is twenty years old or older. They often begin needing specialized care around this part of their life, because things simply begin to wear out. Just like humans, things start to not work as well as they once did. Their eyes, teeth, joints, liver, gut and kidneys all begin to lose their functionality. These are the areas of the older horse that you must begin to pay more attention to.

Older horses may have a hard time breathing; they may also have a hard time walking if they are becoming arthritic. Not being able to walk as well means that it is harder to walk to the pasture and back to the barn to get a drink and then back out to the pasture. If your gut is wearing out, it becomes harder to absorb all of the nutrients that your body requires. This is where owners need to step in and make life a little easier.

You will first want to have your vet check your horse's liver and kidney function. They will do some blood work on your horse and check to see if there are any diseases or if they are malfunctioning. If there are any problems, your veterinarian will set you up with medication and a new diet for your horse. Your vet will then check your horse's teeth. They will file down any sharp edges and look to see if they are missing any. You should have their teeth checked at least once a year.

From there you will want to move on to your horse's digestive tract. As your horse gets older, he will have less efficiency in his digestive system and may require supplements to make up for any nutrients that he is not able to absorb properly. Generally, switching your horse to a senior diet will help him immensely as the nutrients are easier for the horse to digest. Senior feeds also have higher amounts of nutrients as well so that your horse has ample time to digest them. The key is finding one that your horse likes and then sticking with it. You will also want to evaluate the hay that your horse is eating. The best forage for your horse is grass as it is seventy percent water and hay is ninety percent dry matter. Most horse owners rely on hay for their horse's forage, but you may need to get better and higher-quality hay for your senior horse. Hay cubes and beet pulp are excellent sources of fiber and may be soaked in water for senior horses with teeth problems.

The horse should be on a regular deworming schedule for his whole life. This will prevent any parasite problems in the long run. You will want to be sure that your program that you used while the horse was a youngster is still efficient for him as a senior.

Colic is another common problem in senior horses. Many horses will colic due to being unable to chew their food all of the way or if they don't drink enough water. Some senior horses will not make the necessary trips to the water trough if they have to walk all the way across a large pasture. You may consider placing other sources of water in the pasture to aid your senior horse and insure that he doesn't colic due to dehydration.

Proper trimming is also an absolute must for the senior horse. Their bodies are getting old and you don't want them tripping over their long feet. You will also want to ensure that the younger horses in the pasture are allowing the senior horses to eat and drink. Many young horses will push them to the side at the feed trough or not allow them to stand under the shade tree. Vaccinations must also be followed on a regular basis to keep them from developing any other unnecessary stresses on their old bodies.

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