Tuesday, July 21, 2015

5 Myths about Senior Horses

A huge part of life with my horses is devoted to caring for them; ensuring their comfort, and keeping them safe. Outside of riding, I am often found repairing fences, scrubbing water troughs, refilling haynets, or making up Suzie's next mash. And in the time Suzie has been in my life, I have compiled a list of necessary things every rider and owner should consider if they are faced with caring for an older horse. Things that may not necessarily come into play with a younger, more athletic partner.

She's not filling out like she used to last year, that's for sure.
(Future post on this to come!)

Myth 1: Their condition won't really change much year to year.

A once solid topline will appear looser and looser as the years go by, no matter how many exercises you do to build it back up again. It is a part of getting older - much like with humans and how things start to "sag" and lose their shape.This isn't to say that an older horse can't be in shape and still functioning - they just won't look the same as a working five year old. It just is not possible.

In addition to this point, it is important to keep an eye on your senior to ensure that your feeding regime is acceptable. What was working last year to keep weight on may not work this year. Keeping a small diary of any changes you notice and the feed you are giving is a good idea (also helpful to look back on in future years to see if there are trends).

She look ready to retire to you?
Nah, me either.
Myth 2: "My horse is ____ years old now so we're retiring him to pasture."

I know a lot of riders will "retire" their senior horses to live out their days in the pasture and enjoy their freedom. While this can be relaxing for a previous show horse, it can also be detrimental. Older horses still require exercise and while it may not be at the same level they previously once were, it is so important to keep them moving and active. Arthritis can be  crippling and debilitating to a senior horse's future, and I am a firm believer in keeping an old horse moving.

If you do intend to ride your older horse, be aware that you may need to tailor your riding regime and possibly go much slower than usual. Muscles that are under-worked or weakened will take much longer to build up!

The deceptive red mares.

Myth 3: "My horse is old and won't ever put a toe out of line!"

I know dozens of older horses who are just downright cheeky! It doesn't matter if they've been broke to ride for the last 15 years; they can (and will!) act a fool every so often. It's important to remember that although they are older, they still should be abiding by the same rules as the other herd members. Tempting as it is to baby them, I've seen this back-fire on more than one occassion (*cough* Suzie *cough*).

I'm a hypocrite, but I'm ok with that.
 Myth 4: An old horse needs to be blanketed in the Winter.

It may be beneficial for some horses, but not all. I've known 28 year olds who do not require a blanket simply because they grow enough hair for it and the horse is smart about utilizing it's shelter. It may make an owner feel better to blanket, which is fine and I'm sure the oldies appreciate the effort we go through but it is important to know that not ALL old horses need them.

In the cases of inclement weather, blanketing would be a good option. And honestly, since I blanket my own senior horse (because I'm the owner that feels bad lol), I don't have too much to add into the topic despite knowing that she doesn't really need it.

Myth 5: They aren't useful past a certain age and it's best to just get rid of them.

Does that face look useless to you?


  1. THANK YOU for this! Sharing this on my Facebook, lol! As an owner of a 20+ year old formerly starved and abused TWH, I'm so tired of hearing all of these things. These people are shocked when they see videos of my senior playing with me in the pasture and galloping around. She has more "go" in her than my 13 year old ex rodeo horse. And she's definitely not a beginners horse, unless it's a kid (she knows the difference, for sure.) because of her motor. She's my first senior horse, and honestly, she makes me appreciate older horses so much.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post :)

      And I can agree with you there - a lot of older horses have "paid their dues" so to speak, and deserve some form of pampering, but at the same time they don't necessarily need to be pasture puffs. They still want your love and attention all the same!

  2. All of these are SO true. Horses are just like people -- no two are alike in physical ability or personality ... No matter what the age!

  3. awesome post! if there's one thing i've learned from horses, it's that they can tell us when they're ready to slow down. and more often than not, if we listen closely - they're more likely to tell us what they need to keep GOING, rather than asking to quit. Suzie is so lucky to have you :)