Having a horse to love, ride and care for is a true gift. They can teach you so much about patience and trust. As your relationship develops over the years, you will notice that things may not be as easy to maintain in their older years as they were when they were younger. Some of these issues can be a decreased immune system, dental issues, weight management and possible orthopedic issues (depending on their riding discipline).
As your horse ages, it becomes even more important to maintain consistency in their vaccination schedule and deworming routine. An older horses’ immune system is not as strong as a young horse, so it is important to continue to vaccinate.
Horses can develop parasite resistance over time with regular use of the same dewormer, so it is important to check fecal samples and make sure you are controlling parasites appropriately.
Regular dental care is also critical because older horses are getting the end of tooth roots and they have a greater probability of losing teeth and developing oral problems. They should have a dental exam yearly and again if you notice chewing problems. You may also notice weight loss or a difficulty in maintaining weight. This can be due to dental problems or a decreased ability of the gut to absorb nutrients. A dental exam is a great time to talk with your vet about an appropriate feed for your senior horse.
As with people, horses can develop arthritis or other lameness issues over time with strenuous exercise or genetic predisposition. If you notice any change in gate, a decreased willingness to move around or a change in behavior, talk with your vet. Mild lameness can be managed with a variety of joint supplements or anti-inflammatories.
Age shouldn’t decrease the quality of your relationship or your horse’s health. Talk with your veterinarian and you will be able to enjoy your horse long into their 20s and 30s.