Keeping the old ones happy.
Looking after and caring for the older horse
More and more horses are competing late into their teens and even in their twenties, this is due to more awareness of the natural biological changes being recognised and treated as they arise in your horse. As in humans, horses will undoubtedly change with age, loosening of the skin, weight issues, sunken eyes and grey hair's, it comes to us all eventually!
Arthritis or more specifically degenerative joint disease (DJD) is probably the most common. Over the years the horses joints, particularly the limbs will have sustained an enormous work load and possible injuries or infections throughout their life, all of which compromise the joints activity.
The common visible signs are shown in bony enlargements or swellings such as bone spavins (on the lower and inner aspect of the hock), ringbone (around the pastern area), carpitis ( the knee joint).
It is important that the condition of the joints in the older horse are kept supple and managed through light exercise, feed supplements and possibly pain relief medication prescribed by your vet. Despite the age of the horse, any inflammation, heat or prominent bony bumps occurring anywhere on your horse's limbs should always be thoroughly investigated and a vet's diagnosis will insure the correct treatment and management is undertaken.
Your Horse's teeth inevitably change and decay over the years and regular check ups from your dentist are essential. The maintenance and treatment of the older horse's teeth is very important as the molars will eventually wear down and therefore the dietary requirements must be consistently monitored or changed to ensure they continue to receive the nutrients they require.
One of the most obvious changes in an older horse is the lack of top line‚ (lack of condition over the spine). An indication of this is the sharp withers, hollowed back and sharpness of the facial features.
As the body ages, the ability to utilise oxygen by the muscle fibres declines which reduces the muscle volume and strength, however, unfortunately this decline of activity increase's the amount of body fat.
A carefully managed diet and fitness routine will benefit your horse in so many ways. Maintaining a level of fitness and avoiding becoming overweight will also help the aging heart muscle.
Respiratory problems increase with age and in horses over 20 years of age the ability to transfer oxygen from the lungs to the small blood vesselss is less efficient, therefore making the lungs work twice as hard. This can explain why the older horses can suddenly become allergic to various types of bedding and all sorts of allergens. This area has been covered in the allergies article.
Your ageing horse deserves respect and good observational care, he/she may develop problems with age and early diagnosis and treatment is vital to maintain a healthy active senior that you can continue to enjoy.
Horse care articles keeping your horse healthy