What defines a senior horse? While there is no consensus among experts about what constitutes a “senior” horse, most agree that it is not based on chronological age but on physiological age. Some horses may start to slow down at 15, while others are still fresh and frisky well into their 20s. No matter what your horse’s chronological age, if he’s starting to show signs of aging such as stiffness, difficulty maintaining weight, or decreased immune response, it’s time to start thinking of him as a senior.
Cold weather can be hard on all horses, but it is especially challenging for seniors. Even if your senior horse has weathered previous winters without any trouble, he may need extra care and support to stay happy and healthy this year. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to make sure that your senior horse is ready to take on winter.
Check His Body Condition
Help your senior start winter off right by making sure he’s at a healthy weight this fall. Experts recommend that senior horses get two physical exams each year, so your horse’s fall physical is a great time to ask your veterinarian to show you how to evaluate his body condition (if this isn’t something you already do). Once you know his body condition score, consider whether you need to make any adjustments to his diet now.
Schedule a Dental Exam
It’s important to monitor your senior horse’s teeth all year round, but it is especially critical heading into winter. If your horse can’t chew properly, he’s not going to receive the full benefit of the food you’re providing. Every horse needs an annual dental exam, and seniors may need one twice a year. Schedule a dental exam this fall to ensure that your horse’s teeth are in top shape before winter arrives.
Make Sure He’s Warm and Cozy
Even if you didn’t blanket your horse when he was younger, it may be a smart choice to start now that he’s a senior since older horses may have more trouble regulating their body temperature. Some older horses can benefit from the warmth and protection from the elements that blankets provide. Just don’t forget to remove the blankets for regular inspection of your horse’s skin and body condition, and to give him a good grooming!
Keep Him Going Strong
Making sure your senior horse moves every day is one of the best ways to ward off stiffness and discomfort in cold weather. Provide as much daily turnout as possible and consider hand-walking for additional exercise. If you still ride your senior horse, aim to keep him in consistent work year-round, as older horses have a harder time getting reconditioned after time off.
Get His Immune Defenses Up
Your senior horse’s immune system may not work as well as it used to. A healthy immune system is necessary for your horse to withstand stress in the environment, and a less efficient immune system means that seniors are more prone to illness. To make sure your horse’s immune system is ready to take on the stress of winter, consider adding an immune supplement to his program.
Weather the Winter
You want to share as many years with your horse as possible, so don’t let the worries of wintertime be a challenge for your horse. By giving your senior the right care and support, you can ensure he has everything he needs to brave the cold weather. You can find all the products you need to help keep your senior healthy at SmartPak.com.
NOTE: Thanks to SmartPak for these tips. SmartPak carries Nutramax Laboratories products including Cosequin.