Older horses need to be checked that they are drinking and staying hydrated daily, they will dehydrate far quicker than younger horses. Checking your horse’s hydration by a light pinch of their skin won’t be reliable, so check that the inside of their mouth is moist, if not, you need to make sure they drink. With feeding, your horse may take longer to eat. Not a problem when stabled but if your horse is sharing a field with other horses, you may need to feed them separately or give the time to check they’ve access to and chewed their hay well.
It is a good idea if you can continue turning out your older horse and making sure they are still getting enough exercise. They will lose body heat quicker than younger horses, so keep them warm. Provide them with shelter against snow, rain and wind and make sure your horse uses this. When the weather gets colder you will likely need to blanket your horse and in hot weather provide a stable fan and give him a water down.
It will take longer for your horse to bring their heart rate back to a steady rhythm after exercise as well as their body temperature returning to normal, so make sure you give them plenty of time to warm down after you have exercised them. Same goes for warming up, you will need to do this for slightly longer and at a gentler inclined than you would with younger horses, but your golden oldie will thank you for it.
Check your horse before you exercise them, is everything normal? Movement is extremely important especially for older horses, so keep them moving. You can always have your vet check your horse and see what they suggest are their limits, then try some in hand work and see what you can do with your horse. Don’t push them too far. Do not work them on hot days, they will not be able to regulate their body temperature as they did once and can overheat. Having said that, exercise is the best thing you can offer an older horse, it will help strengthen their body and keep their joints and muscles supple.
As your horse gets older, they will require regular trims of their hooves to keep them moving comfortably, have a talk with your farrier to find out what they deem an appropriate regular schedule. Older hooves will grow slower but don’t let this catch you out, they’ll still need trimming around every 6-8 weeks. Also making sure you are picking their hooves out regularly and check for infection, older horses can’t fight off infections as well as younger horses, so keep an eye out and don’t let anything get by you that could potentially bloom into a bigger problem later on.
Your golden oldie will need to have their teeth looked at, at least once a year. They may begin to experience teeth problems, keep an eye on them eating – are they having trouble chewing? You can purchase feed for senior horses that is easier to digest and chew. Due to a reduced production of saliva, your horse will need to have their feed soaked, or be fed wet meals, and hay is best served at ground level for an older horse. Check your horse’s breath – bad breath can be a sign of something worse.
Providing your horse with love and cuddles is great and as they age you should make sure to give them extra pats and praise but remember that they need companionship. Horses are herd animals and they highly benefit from the company of living with others. If you can, make sure your horse has a lot of time with their friends. Just as with human beings, horses can really get a lift from seeing their friends, so make sure they’re not cut off from their social life once they start to hit their senior years.