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  • Writer's pictureKatie Allen-Clarke

Caring for older horses: top tips for health and wellbeing

Ensuring the health and happiness of older horses can be tricky but it’s very important for their wellbeing. Here, Katie Allen-Clarke at Horse & Country offers her tips for managing your elderly horse’s nutritional, fitness, environmental, and healthcare needs.

As horses age, their needs evolve, requiring tailored care to ensure their continued health and contentment. From nutrition and exercise to environmental considerations, providing optimal care for an older horse involves a multifaceted approach. Here, I’ll share some of my top tips for keeping your ageing horse content and well.


Nutrition and feeding

As horses age, their ability to absorb nutrients may diminish. Supplement their diet with senior feeds designed to be easily digestible and fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. However, forage should still be the cornerstone of an older horse's diet. Opt for high-quality hay or pasture to meet their fibre requirements and aid in digestion, and consider softer hay options for horses with dental issues.


Ensure your older horse has access to fresh, clean water at all times. You can encourage drinking by offering warm water in colder weather or by adding electrolytes to their water during hot spells or periods of increased activity.


Exercise and fitness

Your horse may not be as spritely as it once was, so try tailoring their exercise routines to suit their abilities and limitations. Even regular, low-impact exercise such as gentle hacks or turnout can help maintain muscle tone, joint mobility, and mental wellbeing without placing excessive strain on ageing joints.


Schedule regular assessments with your veterinarian to monitor your horse's condition and adjust their exercise regime according to their advice. Be mindful of any signs of discomfort or stiffness and inform your vet.


Environmental considerations

Access to shelter is crucial for older horses, especially those with arthritis or other mobility issues. Provide adequate shelter from harsh weather conditions, including shelter from sun, wind, rain, and extreme temperatures.


Ensure your horse's bedding is soft, clean, and supportive. Consider using thicker bedding or supportive pads to cushion ageing joints and provide additional comfort.


Common health concerns

Regular dental checks are essential for older horses to check for issues such as worn teeth or dental abnormalities. Proper dental care can help with efficient chewing and digestion of food, preventing other problems associated with aging such as weight loss or colic.


Monitor your horse's weight closely and adjust their diet and exercise regimen as necessary to maintain a healthy body condition score. Obesity can exacerbate existing health issues, while being underweight can indicate underlying health concerns.



Supplement advice

Consider supplementing your horse's diet with glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate, and MSM to support joint health and mobility. Probiotics and prebiotics can aid digestion and nutrient absorption, particularly in older horses with compromised digestive systems. Senior horse feeds often contain these as well as added vitamins and minerals, but additional supplementation may be necessary based on your horse's individual needs — especially if your vet has identified any deficiencies.




By implementing these top tips and working closely with your veterinarian, you can provide your ageing equine companion with the care and support they need to thrive in their golden years.

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