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It is often said that a horse can live until it is somewhere between 20 and 35 years old. This of course depends on the breed, how much the horse has been used throughout its life, how robust it is genetically, and naturally when the owner decides that it is time to say goodbye. Finding out when your horse can be classified as ‘old’ can be difficult, and it may be even more difficult to find out when it is time to slow down training. In short, the best advice, we can give you, is to listen to your horse and accept the fact that it can be “old” when it is 15 as well as when it is 25. It is up to you to notice. 

Precisely as it applies to humans, working out keeps the horse healthy. Of course, a 25-year-old horse should not be trained in the same way as 15-year-old, just like an 85-year-old man rarely trains for a marathon. But moderate exercise will keep your old horse strong and healthy. To make your elderly horse last as long as possible, it is wise to slow down the training, when it starts to show signs of old age.

9 Signs that your
horse is getting old

Importantly, we must keep in mind: Even though your horse starts to show some signs of aging, its riding career is not necessarily over. Some horses can perform at a high level until they are 18-19 years old, while others are worn out by the age of 12. It is ultimately up to you to realize how your horse is doing, and this can be really difficult. To help you we have listed 9 signs that your horse is getting old.

What about training?

The older horse should not just exercise every weekend. Instead, it should be lightly worked several times a week. Frequent, small amount of riding is best. 

As mentioned, you cannot solely use the horse’s age to determine its physical condition. But it still might be valuable to compare the age of a horse with that of a human, just to have something to relate to. Just remember to not just look at the number, but to try to understand it in the context of how you experience your horse. 

Most recognized is a method of calculating the horse’s age into ‘human years’ made by the British veterinarian Dr. Jornigan. This veterinarian does not believe that one ‘horse year’ corresponds to a certain number of human years. Instead, it should be assumed that the horse’s first year corresponds to 12 human years, and that its second year corresponds to another 9 human years. Then the horse’s next 3 years are equal to 4 human years each. And when the horse is 5 years old, every subsequent year is counted for 2,5 human years.

Sources

BlueCross / Kentucky Equine Research / S.E. Blackwell: ’The Senior Horse – More Than Just Basic Care’.

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By Tina Bjerre Nielsen

How old is your horse?

Exercise regularly

Around the eyes, ears, on the muzzle and forehead, mane and tail.

And more marked.

Hard to build up – especially in thoroughbreds and warmbloods.

Such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, spavin, Cushing, laminitis, respiratory problems, liver and kidney problems, cataracts, sarcoids and melanomas (cancer).

This may also be a sign of Cushing, liver or kidney problems. 

Which can also be a symptom of something serious such as a tumor. 

Which are i.e., shown by the horse leaving some of his feed.

I.e., the horse lies down more and is generally resting more often than earlier in his life.

When it is harder for the horse to fulfill what is normally expected of it, you know it is time to slow down. Make sure though that it´s not a sign of illness.

Gray hair
Hollow back
Loss of muscles and fat
Age-related illnesses
A more rough or curly coat
More often water runs from the eyes
Dental and chewing problems
Increased need of rest
Poor performance

Expect less of your horse. Lower the height of the fences or cut down the number of dressage exercises. This way you reduce the risk of injuries or loss of motivation.

Make the training easier

Varied training will keep your horse happy and motivated despite his age. In addition, variation strengthens the horse – just as it does for horses of all ages. Do not hesitate to go for a ride outdoors in the nature several times a week. Nature simply does not demand the same level of muscle, balance and endurance of the horse as consistent work in the arena.

Variation is the key

Before and after training it is important to give the old horse plenty of time to warm up and cool down, because the body is working slower.

Thorough warm up

Because the horse’s upper line is changing when it gets old, you must be careful with the saddle. Probably, you should go with a professional saddle check when your horse gets old. 

Watch out for the saddle

1 Years

2 Years

3 Years

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5 Years

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14 Years

15 Years

12

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25

29

33

35,5

38

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55,5

58

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30 Years

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Actually Old?

When is Your Horse

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Horse age / Human age

Follow this overview and you find your horse’s ‘human age’. 

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When is Your Horse

By Tina Bjerre Nielsen

It is often said that a horse can live until it is somewhere between 20 and 35 years old. This of course depends on the breed, how much the horse has been used throughout its life, how robust it is genetically, and naturally when the owner decides that it is time to say goodbye. Finding out when your horse can be classified as ‘old’ can be difficult, and it may be even more difficult to find out when it is time to slow down training. In short, the best advice, we can give you, is to listen to your horse and accept the fact that it can be “old” when it is 15 as well as when it is 25. It is up to you to notice. 

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Check out the latest news on our platforms

Receive our newsletter about the daily life with horses in your inbox

Actually Old?

9 Signs that your
horse is getting old

Importantly, we must keep in mind: Even though your horse starts to show some signs of aging, its riding career is not necessarily over. Some horses can perform at a high level until they are 18-19 years old, while others are worn out by the age of 12. It is ultimately up to you to realize how your horse is doing, and this can be really difficult. To help you we have listed 9 signs that your horse is getting old.

Gray hair

Around the eyes, ears, on the muzzle and forehead, mane and tail.

Hollow back

And more marked.

Loss of muscles and fat

Hard to build up – especially in thoroughbreds and warmbloods.

Age-related illnesses

Such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, spavin, Cushing, laminitis, respiratory problems, liver and kidney problems, cataracts, sarcoids and melanomas (cancer).

A more rough or curly coat

This may also be a sign of Cushing, liver or kidney problems. 

More often water runs from the eyes

Which can also be a symptom of something serious such as a tumor. 

Dental and chewing problems

Which are i.e., shown by the horse leaving some of his feed.

Increased need of rest

I.e., the horse lies down more and is generally resting more often than earlier in his life.

Poor performance

When it is harder for the horse to fulfill what is normally expected of it, you know it is time to slow down. Make sure though that it´s not a sign of illness.

What about training?

Precisely as it applies to humans, working out keeps the horse healthy. Of course, a 25-year-old horse should not be trained in the same way as 15-year-old, just like an 85-year-old man rarely trains for a marathon. But moderate exercise will keep your old horse strong and healthy. To make your elderly horse last as long as possible, it is wise to slow down the training, when it starts to show signs of old age.

Exercise regularly

The older horse should not just exercise every weekend. Instead, it should be lightly worked several times a week. Frequent, small amount of riding is best. 

Make the training easier

Expect less of your horse. Lower the height of the fences or cut down the number of dressage exercises. This way you reduce the risk of injuries or loss of motivation.

Variation is the key

Varied training will keep your horse happy and motivated despite his age. In addition, variation strengthens the horse – just as it does for horses of all ages. Do not hesitate to go for a ride outdoors in the nature several times a week. Nature simply does not demand the same level of muscle, balance and endurance of the horse as consistent work in the arena.

Thorough warm up

Before and after training it is important to give the old horse plenty of time to warm up and cool down, because the body is working slower.

Watch out for the saddle

Because the horse’s upper line is changing when it gets old, you must be careful with the saddle. Probably, you should go with a professional saddle check when your horse gets old. 

How old is your horse?

As mentioned, you cannot solely use the horse’s age to determine its physical condition. But it still might be valuable to compare the age of a horse with that of a human, just to have something to relate to. Just remember to not just look at the number, but to try to understand it in the context of how you experience your horse. 

Most recognized is a method of calculating the horse’s age into ‘human years’ made by the British veterinarian Dr. Jornigan. This veterinarian does not believe that one ‘horse year’ corresponds to a certain number of human years. Instead, it should be assumed that the horse’s first year corresponds to 12 human years, and that its second year corresponds to another 9 human years. Then the horse’s next 3 years are equal to 4 human years each. And when the horse is 5 years old, every subsequent year is counted for 2,5 human years.

Follow this overview and you find your horse’s ‘human age’. 

Sources

BlueCross / Kentucky Equine Research / S.E. Blackwell: ’The Senior Horse – More Than Just Basic Care’.

60,5

63

65,5

68

70,5

73

75,5

78

80,5

83

85,5

88

90,5

93

95,5

16 Years

17 Years

18 Years

19 Years

20 Years

21 Years

22 Years

23 Years

24 Years

25 Years

26 Years

27 Years

28 Years

29 Years

30 Years

1 Years

2 Years

3 Years

4 Years

5 Years

6 Years

7 Years

8 Years

9 Years

10 Years

11 Years

12 Years

13 Years

14 Years

15 Years

12

21

25

29

33

35,5

38

40,5

43

45,5

48

50,5

53

55,5

58

Horse age / Human age

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