Caring for the Senior Performance Horse

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Advances in equine medicine are enabling horses to perform longer in their careers than ever before. Palm Beach Equine Clinic would like to highlight the importance of proper care for our equine athletes as they age into their senior years.

Horses from the ages of 12 and older are considered “seniors.” Many horses that are in the prime of their careers may require extra maintenance in order to continue performing at their best. For example, an 18 year old equine athlete would have been rare ten years ago, but in today’s world, there are many horses performing at a high level well into their senior years. To maintain these athletes requires more work on the owner’s part, as well as the veterinarian’s part; however, preemptive attention to your aging equine’s needs may keep your partner performing longer.

There are several areas of care that owners should consider in order to maintain their horse’s top health and ensure continued success. It is important to remember that just as our human body changes with age, the horse’s body does the same. Owners should contact their veterinarians on a routine basis to have their horse’s overall health and fitness evaluated, no matter what the horse’s job is. All regularly performing senior horses should be evaluated a minimum of twice a year. If it is a pleasure horse, it should be evaluated at least once a year.

An appropriate fitness program is imperative to the senior horse’s performance. As horses age, it can become increasingly difficult to maintain their fitness. Any exercise that builds your horse’s stamina and muscle mass is essential, and the more your horse gets out of its stall and moves around the better. Anything from riding lessons to trail riding, or even hand walking can be beneficial. There are new exercise aids available, such as treadmills, which are great for keeping the senior horse in top fit shape. Owners should talk to their veterinarian to help create a great fitness program that works for both you and your horse.

Like any athlete, horses can experience physical setbacks, so it is important for owners to have their horse’s gaits evaluated routinely. Veterinarians can suggest appropriate treatments to avoid creating larger issues; whether the horse needs a little assistance with the flexion in their necks or injecting joints to ease any discomfort.

As we continue to battle the heat in the hot summer months, PBEC would like to stress the importance of providing extra care for our senior horses, as they may have more difficulty dealing with the heat. It is important to make sure that horse’s stalls are maintained for sanitation purposes and that they have a nice bed to lie down in. The stall should be out of the direct sunlight, have fans for effective air movement and plenty of fresh water to prevent overheating. If your senior equine is having a problem with Anhidrosis (not sweating), contact your veterinarian immediately.

It is important for owners to consider all of these issues and coordinate with their veterinarian for routine evaluation in horses 12 years and older. For more information on caring for you senior horse, please contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic at (561) 793-1599.




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