There’s something special about the relationship you have with your senior horse. That partnership that’s endured years, tears, ups and downs. You probably know your horse better than you know your best friend.
While he may seem like the same old horse, his needs are changing as he ages. Even if he’s weathered previous winters without any trouble, take the time to make sure he’s getting the care and support he needs and deserves.
How Old is a Senior?
We all know the saying “you’re only as old as you feel.” Turns out it’s as true for our horses as it is for us. While some horses may be starting to slow down at 15, others are still fresh and frisky well into their 20s. No matter what your horse’s chronological age, if he’s starting to show signs of aging such as stiffness, difficulty maintaining weight or decreased immune response, it’s time to start thinking of him as a senior.
Fortunately, senior horse care has advanced significantly in recent years. Just because your horse is getting older doesn’t mean you need to “put him out to pasture.” You can keep your golden oldie going strong with smart care and good nutrition, including the right supplements.
It’s important to monitor your senior’s teeth all year-round, but winter is especially critical. If he can’t chew properly, he’s not going to receive the full benefit of the food you’re providing. That means wasted calories and wasted nutrients, and a horse whose diet isn’t meeting his needs.
Ground conditions change daily throughout the winter, from warmer and wetter to frozen solid. These fluctuations can wreak havoc on your horse’s hooves, so monitor his feet and work closely with your farrier to keep them in tip-top shape.
As with any horse, the basis of your senior’s diet should be high quality forage. Hindgut fermentation of long-stem forage is your horse’s primary heat source in the colder months, so a steady supply of quality hay is critical.
Senior horses’ skin is especially susceptible to infections and other problems caused by harsh winter conditions. Even if you haven’t s blanketed before, you may want to consider providing a waterproof layer to help protect his skin. But skin problems, like rain rot, can still occur under blankets, so it’s important to remove the blankets for regular grooming.