What to Consider When Caring for Senior Horses & Ponies



What to Consider When Caring for Senior Horses & Ponies

As our equine companions age, their needs will evolve, which will require a thoughtful approach to their care. In this guide, we’ll explore the essential aspects of looking after elderly horses, ensuring they enjoy their golden years with comfort and dignity. Plus, we’ll delve into the importance of specialised horse and pony insurance tailored for our veteran equine friends.

Nutritional Needs of Elderly Horses

Senior horses often face challenges in maintaining optimal weight as well as keeping good dental health. This includes ensuring that they aren’t carrying too much weight which will affect not only their joints but predispose them to hormonal issues such as Insulin Resistance (Equine Metabolic Syndrome). You will likely need to adjust their diet to include senior-specific feeds that are easier to chew and digest. Be sure to consult with a professional when changing a horse’s diet, and do so gradually so as not to cause any stomach distress. Alongside an adjusted diet, regular dental check-ups will be crucial, and consider adding soaked or steamed hay to their meals for easier consumption and reducing the amount of dust being inhaled. 

Joint Health for Horses

Ageing often brings stiffness and joint discomfort for horses. To help mitigate this, you can incorporate joint supplements rich in glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate into their diet. Veterinary intervention including joint medication with Corticosteroids or Hydrogels such as Arthramid can prolong the older horse’s working life when arthritis starts to trouble them. Weight is another important factor to be considered concerning joint strain in older horses. In addition, providing a comfortable and well-padded living space can ease the strain on their joints; this can be done by adding rubber mats to stables along with additional bedding. 

Regular Farriery Care

Obviously, when your Golden Oldie is in work, regular shoeing and trimming will continue to be required to keep them sound and their feet in good health. The old adage ‘No foot; no Horse’ applies at any age. Even those fully retired will need regular trimming to maintain good foot balance for soundness and to prevent splits in the hoof wall from becoming an issue or leading to the hoof wall being broken away. 

Regular Vet Check-ups

Frequent veterinary check-ups will become even more critical as horses age. Horses around 15 to 18 are generally considered to be ageing, whereas a 20-year-old horse would certainly be considered a senior. Regular health assessments, dental exams, and vaccinations should be part of their routine from this age. Blood tests might be necessary to diagnose conditions such as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), known as Cushing’s Disease, which might start to affect the health of your horse as he ages. Discuss with your vet about creating a tailored wellness plan suited to your senior horse’s specific needs.

Equine Dental Care

Equine dental health plays a pivotal role in the well-being of senior horses as their teeth must be able to chew and grind down plant matter and their food. Older horses can encounter more issues with their oral health such as losing the occasional tooth, fractures or evidence of dental disease. These problems can make it difficult to chew hard food such as pellets or fresh fruit and vegetables. It is important to ensure routine dental examinations, and if needed, schedule floating to address sharp teeth. 

Exercise for Older Horses

While they may not be as sprightly as foals or even adult horses, senior horses will still benefit from exercise. The amount of work will depend on how your horse is ageing, as like people they all age differently! It is important to listen to your horse: if they start to show signs of finding their current workload difficult. Regular, low-impact activities such as hacking, trotting poles, lunging, or turnout in a safe area should help to maintain mobility and prevent stiffness. Plan your exercise levels around your horse’s condition and medical needs. 

Specialised Insurance for Senior Horses

Understanding the unique needs of senior horses, it’s crucial to consider specialised insurance coverage. Veteran horse and pony insurance enables you to continue to insure your horses until they reach 23 years and some insurance providers will offer cover after this age. There are limitations to Veteran Death and Veterinary fee cover in line with conditions seen more generally in ageing horses. These include Degenerative Diseases such as Arthritis and also Cushing’s Disease, again more prevalent in older horses. Some policies are limited to Accidental and External injury cover only, so it is worth being sure what you are purchasing before you go ahead. The types of Veteran cover available are:

  • Death or Theft: Whilst theft is obvious, the death section applies if your horse is put down following an emergency or if treatment has failed or the condition deteriorated such that your Vet confirms that euthanasia is necessitated on welfare grounds. The cover under this section is for the financial sum insured and includes an amount towards the disposal of your horse.
  • Veterinary Fees: Comprehensive coverage for vet visits, investigations, treatments and medications subject to the veteran-related exclusions mentioned above.
  • Third-Party Liability: Coverage in case your senior horse causes injury or damage, providing peace of mind during outings or interactions.

Caring for senior horses is a big responsibility, but we owe it to them to ensure their twilight years are filled with comfort and love. From tailored nutrition to tailored veterinary care and the safeguarding offered by veteran equine insurance, every aspect contributes to their well-being. If you would like any additional information regarding veteran horse insurance please contact us to see how we can help or call us on 01206 337388.