With good care, many horses live well into their twenties or even thirties. At what age is a horse considered geriatric? It depends on the individual because some horses age more gracefully than others. A general rule is that a horse 18 to 20 years of age is entering the golden years. Some horses remain in excellent body condition and health until the moment they die, while others deteriorate quickly or slowly over time. Until notable signs of aging are seen, most horses may be managed as normal for their particular role, be it performance, breeding, or grazing idly in a field. Because of the physiological changes normally associated with aging, geriatrics may require special adaptations in health care, environment, and diet.
Managing senior horses typically involves all of the typical horse management concerns along with additional consideration for changes in digestive efficiency, age-related diseases such as Cushing’s, mobility, and comfort level. A lifetime of activity naturally leads to some level of joint degeneration, and older horses, like humans, tend to be a bit less spry and somewhat more fragile than their younger counterparts.
Additionally, the digestive tract may be affected by lifelong exposure to parasites or chronic conditions such as hindgut acidosis, both of which may leave permanent scarring in the delicate absorptive tissues of the intestines. Normal degeneration of the digestive tract also occurs with age. The result is a digestive tract that gradually loses its ability to absorb nutrients from feed. Compounding the possibility of reduced absorptive ability is age-related dental deterioration. Poor dentition leads to inadequate mastication of feed, resulting in large food particles that are not broken down sufficiently for digestive enzymes and microbes to effectively digest the feed, thereby further decreasing feed efficiency. Digestive tract support to reduce the risk of hindgut acidosis or gastric ulcers often may be indicated for geriatric horses, especially when feeding significant quantities is necessary for the maintenance of adequate body condition or when reduced digestive efficiency is a concern.
Senior horses may suffer from conditions that produce chronic pain such as arthritis, gastric ulcers, navicular disease, and laminitis. Dealing with pain can impact appetite and metabolic rate, and cause horses to lose weight. For this reason, supporting joint health and promoting reduced inflammation are recommended to help these horses continue thriving throughout their golden years.
Which solution is right for your horse?
Synovate HA®. Liquid sodium hyaluronate. Synovate HA provides horses with a safe, highly digestible form of sodium hyaluronate for the support of healthy joint function in horses. Choose Synovate HA to promote healthy cartilage and optimal synovial fluid viscosity for proactive management of joint health.
EquiShure®. Time-released hindgut buffer. Developed to combat hindgut acidosis, this innovative, one-of-a-kind delivery system allows for the buffering of the hindgut, the site of fermentation in the horse. Choose EquiShure to reduce the risk of hindgut acidosis escalating to laminitis in horses receiving significant intakes of starch laden grains as well as those grazing high-fructan pastures, including those at risk for or with a history of laminitis.
EO•3™. Omega-3 supplement. EO•3 is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, compounds found to optimize the well-being of all horses, regardless of age or use. Specifically DHA and EPA supplementation has been shown to mediate inflammation as well as reduce osteoarthritis. Choose EO•3 to promote a more natural balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the body and to support the benefits this balance of fatty acids can confer on joint health, immune function, and inflammation.
Micro-Max™. Ration fortifier. Micro-Max is a low-intake concentrated source of vitamins and minerals for mature horses. Micro-Max is ideal for horses that maintain body weight on diets of forage and small amounts of concentrate. The use of Micro-Max ensures that all vitamin and mineral requirements of mature horses and ponies are satisfied. Because of its low feeding rate, Micro-Max can be fed by itself or mixed with a concentrate.
KER•Flex®. Oral joint supplement. KER•Flex contains a synergistic blend of glucosamine HCl and chondroitin sulfate to provide broad-spectrum support of joint health in a palatable powder. Choose KER•Flex when support of healthy joint cartilage for comfort and longevity is the primary goal.
Learn moreTaking Care of the Senior Horse
Keeping the Senior Horse Healthy
Feeding the Older Horse
Common Diseases of Older Horses
Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Arthritis