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5 Tips on Training an Old Horse

It is common knowledge that a horse can reach the age between 20 and 35 years.  Of course, it depends on breed, the performance during the horse’s life, and logically enough its genetics. Therefore, it can be difficult to determine when a horse is old and when to slow down the training. In other word, the best advice is to listen to the horse and accept that it might be old when it is 15, 20 or 25 – it all depends on the horse. 

9 signs that your horse is getting old 

We have to remember that even the horse is showing signs of old age, it does not necessarily mean that you should end all training. Some horses can still do hard work up around 18-19 years of age, while others are worn down when they are 12. At the end it is up to you as the owner and rider to decide. To help you with this decision we provide you with 9 signs indicating your horse is getting old:  

  1. Grey hair around eyes, ears, forehead and muzzle.
  2. A small collapse or sway in the back so that the mane is “sticking” out. 
  3. Los of muscles and fat.  
  4. Age depending diseases as arthritis, Cushing’s disease, lameness etc.  
  5. A more curly coat – can be a sign of Cushing’s disease, liver and kidney problems.  
  6. Watery eyes. 
  7. Teeth and chewing problems.  
  8. Resting more – the horse is laying down more or relaxing more in the field or stable.  
  9. Poorer performance. 

ADVICE ON TRAINING 

Exercise is with horses as with humans the best way to keep the horse healthy and going. But of course, you cannot avoid that the horse is old. To keep your horse physically strong and well it is a good idea to include the following in your training of the elderly horse: 

1. Regular exercise 

Training should not only be in the weekends, but several times during the week. Often short hacks where the horse does not overwork itself is ideal.  

2. Make the exercise easier 

Ask less of your horse. Lower the hight on the jumps and stay away from too hard dressage work. This way you minimize the risks of injuries and your horse will not lose interest, because it is too hard.  

3. Varied training  

A mix in the training will keep the horse happy and motivated to work despite its age. Furthermore, it strengthens the horse to use itself in different ways. As it does with all horses in all ages. Do not hesitate to take good hacks in nature. This is not as hard as a collected riding session in the arena.  

4. Warming up thoroughly 

It is very important to give the older horse lots of time to warm up and cool down again after training. Otherwise, there can be injuries.  

5. Keep an eye on the saddle 

Because of the change in the back of the horse due to a rising age, you should keep a close eye on the saddle. A saddlefitter will be the best to evaluate your equipment and determine whether it needs fitting.  

HOW OLD IS YOUR HORSE? 

Even, it is difficult to determine whether the horse is old it can still be a good indication to measure the age with human years. This way, you have a small indication of the situation you are dealing with.  

The most recognised measurement to calculate the horse’s age in human years is developed by the British vet Dr. Jornigan. This vet does not imply that one human year can be compared to one particular horse-year. Instead, he believes that the first year the horse is living is more or less the same as 12 human years. The second year is about nine more human years. Third year of the horse is another four human years. When the horse is 5 years old you plus every following year with 2,5 years. You can have an overview of this method of measurement in the table below. 

Age of humanAge of horse
112
221
325
429
533
635,5
738
840,5
943
1045,5
1148
1250,5
1353
1455,5
1558
1660,5
1763
1865,5
1968
2070,5
2173
2275,5
2378
2480,5
2583
2685,5
2788
2890,5
2993
3095,5

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

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