25 March 2014
By Ron Clarke
Horses, like people, are living longer. Aging in horses brings with it the same range of inadequacies experienced by any species growing old. While evidence suggests that only about 10 per cent of horses are presently beyond 20 years of age, increasing numbers live into the 30’s. Thanks to improving veterinary care, the geriatric equine can live a comfortable and humane life beyond “normal” retirement, and the dreaded period when end-of-life decisions are called for.
Defining “old” for horses varies greatly by breed and history of use. Pony breeds tend to live longer and often remain useable up to 30. Larger breeds tend to show age earlier. The sway back, drooping lower lip, dull coat, gradual loss of body condition, grey hair, joint stiffness, hoof deformities and inevitable and uneven dental wear are sure signs of advancing age.
Key areas need to be addressed in the quest to keep horses growing old while remaining active and comfortable.