Is my 

horse getting old?

Recognise the signs

Do you ever wonder whether your horse could now be classed as an ‘old horse’? Or whether there are any things you should be adjusting because of his age? There are signs which will help you recognise that your horse is getting ‘old’. It’s important to recognise these, as responding to these signs in time will help prevent a general decline in his health.

A short checklist

My horse:

  • Is 18+
  • Is becoming slower during training
  • Is displaying different behaviour
  • Has descended in rank in the herd
  • Has difficulty shedding
  • Has hollow dimples above his eyes
  • Has grey hair on his head
  • Has a slightly sagging back
  • Is more susceptible to diseases, has reduced resistance
  • Has lost weight without any apparent medical reason
  • Is not eating well, is creating ‘clumps‘

If one of more of these things apply to your horse without a medical reason and your horse is of a certain age, then you would be well advised to check whether there are any things you need to adjust where your nutrition or management are concerned. Your horse is becoming a ‘senior’.

“Some horses will age faster than others. One horse will reach proper retirement by the time he turns 20, whilst another can still be ridden as much as in his earlier years”

Harrit van der Meer, veterinarian De Paardenkamp

How old is your horse in human years?

Do you actually know how old your horse is when you compare it to human years? You’ll find a comparison in the following table.

What will be changing?

Older horses will be able to get fewer good nutrients from their food. Plus an older horse will have a higher need for protein, almost equal to that of a growing horse. The energy need is higher because the digestive system works less well and older horses can therefore make less efficient use of the nutrients on offer.

We also know that the digestion of sugars and starches is less efficient in older horses. So you are best off not feeding your older horse too much of this. Waste products produced by all bodily processes are broken down less efficiently, which is why old horses need more and more powerful antioxidants in their rations (Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Selenium and natural antioxidants like polyphenols).

Both the roughage and the concentrate will need to be adjusted in line with your older horse’s needs. Where the quantity is concerned, but also the composition. You can read more about this further on in the special.

You need to come up with a tailor-made solution in order to put together a good ration for your older horse. Your horse’s dental function forms a very important part of this. We will tell you more about this further on in this special.