Similar to the human lifespan, the equine lifespan has increased over the years, due in no small part to a deeper understanding of equine care and improved veterinary medicine. Like older people, older horses need some additional care to ensure they maintain a good quality of life when temperatures plummet. Owners and managers should pay special attention to an older equine's weight, teeth and joints, according to guidelines from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
Many older horses suffer from osteoarthritis, a degenerative inflammatory process. While not reversible, the condition is manageable with good caretaking. A place where a horse can lie down that is soft and dry will allow him the opportunity to take weight off aching joints. Attention to hoof balance and care is also important, as is making sure an arthritic horse is not carrying around added pounds and stressing painful joints. Ample turnout can help remove additional pounds as well as keep joints moving.
Older horses may outlive their teeth, which continually erupt through the gum throughout their life. Dental issues like broken or missing teeth, or teeth that are simply worn down, may prevent the horse from chewing properly, limiting his nutrient intake. While younger horses only need to see the dentist once a year, older horses should see them twice a year.
Additionally, older horses need to maintain a body condition score that is neither too heavy or too thin so they can fight infections and support normal body functions. Many older horses turned out on pasture will need supplemental grain to get the proper nutrients and energy. Grass hay is the easiest for older horses to chew, but alternatives exist if they cannot chew any hay at all.
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