How to Care for Old Horses: 7 Senior Horse Care Strategies

Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.

5 Tips for Caring for an Old Horse

Old horses serve an important purpose in the horse world. It seems that the majority of the time, horses don't begin to slow down until they are older—mid-teens to even horses in their 20s. My whole program rests on the backs of horses that are almost all senior citizens. They are all great at their jobs, and I hope to keep them all working as long as possible. Here are five tips for taking care of an older horse.

  1. Make changes in their schedule and workload.
  2. Be aware of your horse's physical condition.
  3. Provide supportive care for your senior horse.
  4. Change your horse's living conditions.
  5. Retire the horse from riding if needed.

1. Make Changes in Their Schedule and Workload

One of the best lesson horses I ever owned, Cory, lived to be 30. We used him for lessons up until a few days before he passed away (from colic, unexpectedly).

We got Cory in 2000, and supposedly he was about 12, though there were no registration papers to prove it. He could have been older or younger; who knows? Needless to say, he was stubborn and persnickety, but he was a wonderful lesson horse.

Gradually Reduce the Horse's Workload

In his early years, he worked hard doing walk, trot, and canter lessons. He even jumped and competed in eventing and dressage. He began showing signs of aging—things like generally getting slower. He had a harder time maintaining his weight in the hot weather and cold weather months. Luckily, Cory never seemed to have any sort of aches and pains; he was always sound.

Since he was comfortable, we continued using him in his later years. He just didn't work as hard. We gradually reduced his workload to reserve him only for brand-new riders or those in need of a confidence boost. His running and jumping days were over.

Earlier in the summer before he died, I realized that his trail-riding days needed to end because the trailer ride to the park was hard on him, and he would be so exhausted that he had trouble negotiating hills that earlier in his life, he would have trotted right up.

2. Be Aware of Your Horse's Physical Condition

Be aware of your horse's physical condition as they age. Do they still have their usual energy level? Are they able to maintain their appropriate weight? How is their muscle tone? All of these things are a good indication of how your horse is aging.

If your horse seems to be having trouble keeping weight on, there are many options to help with that. Chopped forage can allow horses without good teeth to get the forage they need. Sometimes, if they can chew it, alfalfa can help keep weight on them. I have also found ground soybeans help a lot with putting weight on and keeping it on. Your vet can advise you what will be best for your horse.

3. Provide Supportive Care for Your Senior Horse

When you begin to see signs of aging in your horse, there are a lot of measures that you can take to keep them working comfortably and hopefully slow the aging process.

What to Do If Your Horse Lacks Energy

A horse that seems to lack energy may need a change in the feed to something specifically made for seniors. There are supplements like red cell that can give older horses a little boost. It is very easy to administer on top of the feed, and most horses enjoy the taste of it.

What to Do If Your Horse Is Stiff or Arthritic

If your horse seems to be feeling arthritic and showing signs of stiff joints or joint pain, there are a lot of joint supplements on the market that can help. Look for products with glucosamine and chondroitin—they are known for their specific ability to aid in joint health.

There are also choices your vet can offer, like joint injections. Or medications like Bute or Previcox. Bute is good for short-term use, like an extra stiff or sore day, but can have negative long-term effects on the kidneys if overused. Your vet should be able to make some recommendations about what is right for your horse.

Your farrier is also a good resource and may be able to help some pain issues with corrective shoeing.

4. Change Your Horse's Living Conditions

If you have an older horse that tends to get stiff standing in a stall overnight, changing them to a field board situation where they can move around as they chose could be helpful. I have found it very helpful for some of my horses.

Just remember: If your horse tends to struggle with keeping weight on, especially in the winter, if you decide to go with field board, you may need to start blanketing them, depending on your climate.

5. Retire the Horse From Riding If Needed

Some horses, due to their particular ailments, may need to be totally retired from riding. Hopefully, if that is the case, you can find a nice pasture board situation for them and will still be able to spend time with them regularly.

In my experience, older horses do best if they are kept in work at whatever degree they can handle it. It is good to keep them moving and good for them to have a purpose.

Old Horses Are the Best Horses

Old horses are some of the kindest, most reliable horses of all. They are gentle, have been there and done that and are the best teachers. We owe it to them to meet their changing needs as they grow older.

Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on November 01, 2018:

Tons of them!! I had him for almost 16 years!

Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 01, 2018:

I saw his picture in your Haloween hub too. You must have built up a lot of photos of him over the years.

Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on November 01, 2018:

Thank you, I had Cory for so long, we went through a lot together. He was such a gentle soul. I was lucky to have him.

Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on October 28, 2018:

Thank you so much!! I got Cory when I was 15, then when I graduated to a fancier horse, he became a lesson horse, we had him for 15 years. He was a wonderful horse. Thanks for reading my article.

Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on October 28, 2018:

I couldn't do my job without my old horses! They deserve every bit of extra care they need. As I'm sure you feel the same way about your kittys!

Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 28, 2018:

That is a great picture of you and Cory at the top of the article. It really shows how much you care about all of his help over the years.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 27, 2018:

You love your old horses like I love my old cats. It’s wonderful to see someone who appreciates animals who are older and have medical problems that need attention.

Global Pet Hair Care Market (2021 to 2026) - Featuring Beaphar, The Himalaya Drug Company & Petkin Among Others

Dublin, March 01, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The "Pet Hair Care Market - Forecasts from 2021 to 2026" report has been added to's offering.

The global pet hair care market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.08% to reach US$1,528.434 million by 2026, from US$1,072.619 million in 2020.

Pet hair care products such as shampoo, conditioner, shedding, and trimming tools are used for the overall health and wellbeing of pets. Additionally, there is a rise in the adoption of pets such as dogs, cats, horses, and birds among others in the developing regions which have led to growth in the opportunities for the pet hair care market. The key drivers for this rise in adoption of pets are urbanization, rise in nuclear families, high disposable income, and the changing perceptions towards pets. The increase in the trend of the humanization of pets and the intense association between pets and pet owners are leading to acknowledging the pets' need for pampering and buying appropriate pet products has increased the growth of the pet hair care industry. Pet shampoo has become an essential product to maintain the pet's hygiene and to increase the shine and brightness of their coat.

Prominent market share

The Pet hair care market globally has been segmented on the basis of pet types, product types, distribution channel, and the need. The distribution channel is segmented into online distribution and offline distribution. Where, offline distribution is further divided into supermarkets, pet stores, hypermarkets, medical stores, etc. Concerning the product type, the pet hair market has been separated into combs, shampoos, conditioners, shedding and trimming tools, brushes, and serums. Pet owners have started considering their pets as part of their family.

Additionally, dogs are being adopted for psychological and therapeutic benefits that have, in turn, fuelled the market growth substantially. Adoption of pet dogs has increased in emerging countries such as India and China, on account of the growing awareness about dog's companionship and lifestyle changes. Dogs and cats are more common pets found in the household and the main beneficiaries of pet hair care. With the change in perceptions towards animals, owners have become more conscious regarding what is best for the pets. Due to this rise in consciousness, the manufacturers have launched the organic pet product range and are on the look out to improve their portfolio of pet hair care products.

With the pet care markets in Europe and North America headed for saturation, Asia (with potential markets like India) is witnessing the entry of major international brands. Several Indian brands are also scaling up to meet the demand. India is one of the fastest-growing pet care markets in the world. Growth is being noticed in every category that includes pet food, pet pharmaceuticals, grooming, toys, and accessories.

Demand based on the Regions

North America which comprises the U.S. and Canada has dominated the global pet hair care market. The main reason for the domination is due to the strong offline distribution channel in North America. The change in the perceptions of the population towards animals has increased the demand for premium quality products that have been boosting the global pet hair care market. Services such as spa for pets has also become popular among the developed and developing areas. Thus, product innovation has boosted the sales of pet grooming products. The Asia Pacific comprises China, India. Japan and Australia among other regions have also shown the fastest growth rate.

COVID-19 Impact

Covid-19 impacted every industry but had minimal impact on the pet care market and various advanced products have also been introduced in the market. The demand has even increased based on speculation and the business operations of the key players in the pet care industry were running 24/7 to meet the customer demand while implementing and taking safety measures for their employees and the customers. Some of the segments in the countries is expected to grow at a regular pace to neutralize the overall global impact of COVID-19.

Competitive Insights

The global pet hair care industry is fragmented in nature. The key players of the pet care industry are continuously engaged in research and development, to develop innovative technologies to create more opportunities in the industry, especially in the health sector. The frequency of vet visits has increased due to lower prices that further made the pet care more accessible to a larger audience. Key market players include Groomers Limited, The Himalaya Drug Company, Beaphar, Petkin Inc., and EM & EM Personal Care Pvt. Ltd.

The manufactures of pet care products are adopting e-commerce to build a better online experience for their consumers, thereby exploring huge sales opportunities. Online sales of pet care products have given the manufacturers the platform to expand their customer base and market share. Moreover, e-commerce websites are adopting various strategies such as subscription delivery programs which can range from monthly to yearly, and fresh food options to attract more customers. Additionally, the manufactures of the pet care industry are focused on various strategies such as mergers and acquisitions, partnerships, new product launches, market development strategies, and collaborations to strengthen the business position and the distribution channel. The acquisition also results in the improvement of the company's product portfolio.

Key Topics Covered:

1. Introduction
1.1. Market Definition
1.2. Market Segmentation

2. Research Methodology
2.1. Research Data
2.2. Assumptions

3. Executive Summary
3.1. Research Highlights

4. Market Dynamics
4.1. Market Drivers
4.2. Market Restraints
4.3. Porters Five Forces Analysis
4.3.1. Bargaining Power of Suppliers
4.3.2. Bargaining Power of Buyers
4.3.3. The threat of New Entrants
4.3.4. Threat of Substitutes
4.3.5. Competitive Rivalry in the Industry
4.4. Industry Value Chain Analysis

5. Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, Product Type
5.1. Introductions
5.2. Shampoo
5.3. Conditioner
5.4. Serum
5.5. Others

6. Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By Pet Types
6.1. Introduction
6.2. Dog
6.3. Cat
6.4. Horse
6.5. Others

7. Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By End-users
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Household
7.3 Commercial

8. Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, by Geography
8.1. Introduction
8.2. North America
8.2.1. North America Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By Type
8.2.2. North America Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By End-Users
8.2.3. By Country United States Canada Mexico
8.3. South America
8.3.1. South America Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By Type
8.3.2. South America Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By End-Users
8.3.3. By Country Brazil Argentina Others
8.4. Europe
8.4.1. Europe Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By Type
8.4.2. Europe Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By End-Users
8.4.3. By Country Germany Spain United Kingdom France Others
8.5. The Middle East and Africa
8.5.1. Middle East and Africa Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By Type
8.5.2. Middle East and Africa Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By End-Users
8.5.3. By Country Saudi Arabia South Africa Others
8.6. Asia Pacific
8.6.1. Asia Pacific Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By Type
8.6.2. Asia Pacific Pet Hair Care Market Analysis, By End-Users
8.6.3. By Country China Japan Australia India Others

9. Competitive Environment and Analysis
9.1. Major Players and Strategy Analysis
9.2. Emerging Players and Market Lucrativeness
9.3. Mergers, Acquisitions, Agreements, and Collaborations
9.4. Vendor Competitiveness Matrix

10. Company Profiles
10.1. Beaphar
10.2. The Himalaya Drug Company
10.3. Petkin Inc.
10.4. EM & EM Personal Care Pvt. Ltd
10.5. Groomers Limited
10.6. Zoetis Inc
10.7. Burt's Bees Products Company
10.8. Spectrum Brands Holdings, Inc
10.9. Bayer AG

Horse to Human Age Comparison Chart

Horse Age Stage of Life Human Age Stage of Life
1 Foal, Weanling, Yearling 6.5 Infancy, Babyhood, Toddlerhood, Preschooler
2 Two-Year-Old 13 Adolescence / Puberty,
3 Three Year Old 18 Teenager
4 Four Year Old 20.5 Young Adult
5 Physical Maturity 24.5 Adulthood
7 28
10 35.5
13 Middle Aged 43.5 Middle Aged
17 53
20 Senior 60 Senior
24 70.5
27 78 25%-/+ five years is an average lifespan.
30 Extreme Old Age 85.5
33 93
36 100.5

So when you look at this chart, remember that it isn't easy to make a comparison between you and your horse when it comes to aging. Human and horse development and lifespan is quite different.

Exercise With Your Senior Horse

Regular light exercise will help your horse maintain its health.   Your horse might not be as agile, nor as supple, as in its younger days, so keep this in mind. A horse that has worked all of its life, however, may not benefit from becoming a complete pasture potato either.

Sliding stops, all-day trail ride/drives or jumping may have to go by the wayside, but regular light riding may be beneficial. Just as with human seniors, exercise can help keep its muscles strong and its joints flexible. The activity even benefits its digestive system, as a bit of light exercise can help keep gut motility going.

Many people are only able to ride our horses on the weekends, but your senior horse would probably be better off ridden lightly a few times a week, rather than just one long, hard ride on Sunday afternoon. It may be time for a performance horse to become a kid’s horse that carries a lighter load a few times a week.

Perhaps an older rider that just wants a quiet hack is a good match for a horse nearing retirement. Of course, some horses don’t know they are older and act like silly 2-year-olds. So, the type of semi-retirement suitable for any given horse has to be based on its capabilities. Most often, light work is good for both the horse’s body and mind.

If you do work your older horse a bit longer or harder than you expected to, remember that it may take a bit longer to recover. Its muscles don’t recover from fatigue as quickly as they once did. If your horse has arthritis in any of its joints, hard work can make it more uncomfortable. Plan on giving your horse a few days off after a long or hard ride.

How to Take Care of Your Horse

Last Updated: February 24, 2021 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Kate Jutagir. Kate Jutagir is an Equestrian Specialist, Hunter/Jumper Trainer, and the Owner of Blackhound Equestrian, a premier training barn located on 65 acres in Castro Valley, California. Originally designed to be a riding school used as a springboard for dedicated students into careers in the sport, Blackhound Equestrian has grown into a hunter/jumper training program for all levels focusing on providing a solid foundation needed for personal advancement in the sport. Kate has over 25 years of equestrian instruction and training experience. Her focus on developing horse and rider partnerships provides a complete equestrian education for both beginners and advanced riders alike.

There are 28 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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Some horses are complicated, yet wonderful amazing beautiful animals that require lots of care and attention. Caring for your horse includes grooming, feeding, training, bonding, and keeping your horse in good health. Keep reading to learn how to care for your horse.

Watch the video: Feeding the senior horse - Old Horse Care (July 2021).