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Is there a thread dedicated to senior horses? Their specific needs, possible or common health concerns, requirements, abilities and limitations, etc.? My husband and I are looking into adopting (through a rescue) two senior horses as companions only. I would love to talk to other owners about the "over 20 crowd"!
 

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How about going on 20? I would love to join in. My girl will be 20 in march and is also a rescue. I halter broke her this past January and she has been under saddle since April.

She has turned into a money eating monster but we click so well.
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I have a 20 yr old. He's just as great as he was when he was 5. Maybe a little less manners now lol. I'm actually looking into starting to teach him a few tricks, to keep his mind young.
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I have a few oldies here. Hondo is 30, Jana is 25, Buttons is 23, Missy is 21 and my sister's quarter pony Stubby is 21. The first 3 were all born here. All of them are completely sound and pretty easy keepers aside from the old man who is a bit of work to keep weight on.
 

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My Sorrel QH, 'Star' is 21, and was my first horse - she's a strong alpha, and so smart! My bay Morgan is 19 and will be in the '20's set' this spring. I got her just this past August, and she's also a very smart, sweet girl. (She was trained in Natural Horsemanship from the age of 2.) We feel as if she's been with us forever! Both of these 'young seniors' have done incredible things in their youth, and are still vibrant and healthy. They are pleasure horses for me, and I love them with all my heart :)
 

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This is so great to hear. Obviously some of the most difficult horses for a rescue to place are the older, non-broke or companion only horses, but my husband and I want to look out to our pastures and see some horses, and know that they are going to be cared for properly for however many years they have left. Can anyone talk to me about senior feed, if you use it, any teeth issues? Does anyone recommend soaking feed or is that more of an individual need? Also, do you blanket and/or find they are harder to keep through the winters?
 

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I don't feed a special senior feed. I feed a low starch low sugar pellet in the summer, and soaked beet pulp in the winter. This is the first winter I noticed him dropping weight when it got cold, but as soon as I started the beetpulp he gained his weight back. I do notice him dropping his feed, but I think that was just a bad float job, and am going to have a different vet do it again soon. I don't blanket mine, but as I said, I've been successful with the beetpulp. If he drops weight later in the winter and seems to not want to gain it back, I would consider putting one on him as long as he is otherwise healthy.
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My Appaloosa named Shadow is 27 and I got her emaciated last year. She has put on weight really good especially for an old lady. When she was finally able to ride I was really nervous but that girl is an angel. I feel so good about her that I let my 9 year old deaf daughter ride her around the yard by herself. She does not act her age at all! She is the best behaved horse I have ever met.

I do feed her Senior feed and beet pulp that I soak because she choked when I first started feeding her grain. I feed her the beet pulp because she still needs a few pounds. I blanket her every night and that is again because of her weight. But she is gaining weight very well. I have friends that stop over ever so often and every time they do they comment about how they can't believe that is the same horse I got a year ago.
 

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My Lacey girl is turning 28 in the spring! As far as "special needs" go, my girl's only major special need is that she's mostly blind due to ERU (Moon Blindness) so she needs special things (limited mud, she gets "stuck" sometimes in her pasture and can't find her way back to where she wants to be so she's stalled at night to prevent that sort of thing, doesn't do well with other horses, etc) that way. As far as limitations due to her age, I haven't come upon any yet.
I mean, she is much "easier" to deal with than a younger horse since she pretty much knows the rules, she's not too interested in just making trouble, that kind of thing. However, she's never had her full vision in the time I've had her (I "rescued"/got her when she was 23) so I'm not really sure how much is vision-loss related behavior and how much is just her.

I do blanket her when it rains, at night, and when it's below 40*F since her ERU can be triggered by getting chilled and because...well, she deserves the cushy life!

I don't feed her anything special, she does have insulin resistance (like diabetes, for horses) so she is on a low starch-low sugar diet. She gets a pound of alfalfa pellets in the morning and a pound at night mixed with 4 oz of flax seed (they help her eyes and make her coat really soft) and 2oz MSM (also for her eyes but helps with her joints too), soaked. And she gets free-choice grass hay plus 5lbs of alfalfa per day. She has all her teeth so the soaking is really just to make sure she actually eats her supplements. She also prefers it soaked so who am I to refuse! :lol:
Her "thing" is being stupidly obese all summer, then dropping weight like crazy in the winter. So she wears a grazing muzzle all summer plus no hay (her pasture is more than sufficient in the grazing department) and as few pellets as possible to get her supps in her, then in the winter, she gets lots of pellets, lots of hay, and alfalfa. The alfalfa in the "ticket" to keeping weight on her in the winter - every other solution just fails.


I think the worst part of owning an older horse is the question of when they'll go. I adore my girl and I can't imagine my life without the old lady but I know that at nearly 28, ten more years is not super likely. And that's hard. At the same time, knowing that, every morning I see her gallop, bucking, out of her stall is all the more special.
I figure that if she can have that much exuberant joy, who am I to complain that my train is late or that I didn't get an A on a test. WHO CARES, I'm alive and that's the best thing ever! :lol:
 

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My Lizzy dear is a very hard keeper. She also needs to be worked several days a week or she turns into a fire breathing monster. So because of her work her feed is upped even more. But I wouldn't trade her for anything. We are now training to do endurance in the spring. You wouldn't know she is almost 20, most people are extremely surprised when I tell them. She hasn't come up stiff yet but she is also on a scoop of msm morning and night.

She has 5 blankets for the different weather. She cannot get rained on or she instantly shivers. She will run straight into the barn and into "her" stall. She's not technically stall board yet but I would like her to be this winter as we are already getting snow and windchills in the single digits.

I soak all her feed, mixes everything together better and she has a history of choke.
 

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Most of our kids are pretty young.
Mona is the old lady of the group at 15. She's starting to get arthritis and having issues with her hips. I want to keep her sound and healthy as long as possible.
How do you guys keep them going and moving? Any tips?
 

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More than once I have thought a section strictly for Seniors would be a good idea.

18 and up might be the starting point, since "things" seem to start happening when a horse hits their late teens - if it's going to happen.

I took my first two Keepers the ages of 27 and 29 (the 29 year old was born on my parents farm when I was 13). That was in the early 80's and, except for a few stitches, they both were extremely healthy until their last 2 - 3 years.

My current Crew of Keepers are 17, 18, 25, 26-1/2. The three Walking Horses are frought with issues. The Arab is 26-1/2 and has some issues, as I rescued him 19+ years ago; at this point he has become the healthiest horse in the barn. I feel like my barn has morphed into a Skilled Nursing Facility for Horses.

On to the OP's very important questions:

Anytime a person rescues, you have to take that horse in with the knowledge that you don't have a lot of knowledge regarding the horse:shock:

1) Putting weight back on a horse is the easy part.

2) Giving the hooves proper care might be the next easiest part -- unless the horse has foundered at some point in time, then whomever does the hoof work needs to be well versed in how to managed the hooves.

3) Many of these rescues end up with ulcers - acidic digestive juices keep working whether there's any food to process or not. Stress of abuse/neglect can induce ulcers. The new owner has to be on the watch for the slightest of symptoms. Vets can't determine ulcers with 100% accuracy unless the horse is scoped but, there's enough other indicators (even to the owner) that ulcers can pretty much be determined.

There are two types of ulcers: Gastric stomach ulcers are the most common and VERY common - even in well-cared for horses. Hind gut ulcers are not so common and more expensive to deal with.

4) Not all feeds are created equal -- STEP AWAAAAY FROM THE SWEET FEED!!" If I could lobby to get rid of anything in the horse nutrition world it would be sweet feed. Have a little grain with 50 pounds of sugar. It's like feeding a ten year old boy HI-C and Hershey Bars every day until he's old enough to get his driver's license - provided he doesn't develope diabetes by that time.

4.1) Horses DO get Type II Diabetes except it's called insulin resistance. That is something that could easily be lurking in a rescue horse as it's very common these days in horses that get the best of care.

4.2) Best to feed a Ration Balancer that has all the vitamins/minerals a horse needs. Even though most RB's already have a pre-probiotic in them, I would buy one and it the recommended dosage to the horse's feed pan anyway.

All senior horses will benefit from a pre-probiotic and rescues even moreso:)

4.3) Feed quality grass hay - stay away from excessively stemmy hay, if at all possible. Senior horses do NOT have the same chewing ability as they did when they were younger, regardless of whether the vet says those teeth "are good to go" or "should be fine". The fluffier the hay the better, you can even wet a down a bit.

Senior horses often benefit from some alfalfa. You could either buy Standlees alfalfa pellets at Tractor Supply or Standlees timothy/alfalfa cubes at Tractor Supply. Cubes need soaked down to much so the horse doesn't choke.

Forage, forage, forage - horses were designed to eat forage not to have their feed pans filled with horse feed - we humans thought up that feed business.

But in this day and age, horses do need vit/min supplements which is why a Ration Balancer is a good idea.

If the horse has trouble holding weight calcium fortified equine rice bran can be added at the recommended amounts on the bag. Tractor Supply carries Manna Pro's Max-E-Glo.

There's also beet pulp pellets that do not require soaking like regular beet pulp does.

5. Watch for stiffness. Even the healthiest of horses develop arthritis. That would be something for a new horse owner to address with the vet. We all have suggestions but consulting with the vet FIRST to get an accurate diagnosis is important.

6. Lastly comes inevitable gut-wrenching knowledge of knowing that, someday, the horse(s) has to be sent on to its ancestors.

What plans will you make for that? Do you have room on your property to bury them - are you zoned in such a way that you're permitted to bury livestock on your property? If not, who would take the horse away once the vet lays it to rest?

I hope I didn't scare you away from your desire to give one or two seniors their Forever Home but these are all "what if" issues you and your checkbook have to be prepared to deal with.

The only absolute you have to think ahead on is #6.

Please keep asking question and good luck on your venture:)
 

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Great post walkin!

I am fortunate to have all but one that are easy keepers and none have metabolic issues. All of them but Hondo get a small amount of ration balancer and good quality timothy/orchard hay. Hondo is a bit more challenging. This year the drought and excessive heat really took its toll on him and he lost a fair amount of weight and I struggled keeping him in fair condition through it. I was quite worried about him, vet & I worked together to keep him in fair shape. Thankfully he is now getting back to where he should be, I'd like to see another 50 lbs to feel comfortable about winter without needing to blanket him. He's a blanket destroying champ so that's a futile battle. He gets a mash (he has very few teeth at 30) of timothy pellets, beet pulp, progressive's pro advantage balancer, pre & probiotics & a liquid fat supplement. He then gets free choice hay - nice grass with no stems, if the grass gets a bit heavy or stemmy I have to chop it for him. Thankfully we have good hay in the barn so I don't have to chop right now.


Most of our kids are pretty young.
Mona is the old lady of the group at 15. She's starting to get arthritis and having issues with her hips. I want to keep her sound and healthy as long as possible.
How do you guys keep them going and moving? Any tips?
I've been fortunate to have oldies with no real soundness issues. Buttons has a small touch of arthritis starting but has yet to take a lame step. I have her on msm & yucca as a preventative measure. She had a few months off (she went into hormone hyperdrive and was a wench stuck in a permanent heat cycle - ultrasound showed 13 follicles :shock:, we joke that the old broodie wanted another baby really badly lol) after we got her straightened out I figured she would be a bit stiff coming back into work, she does have a few pops and creaks now and again but came back just fine.

I'm a firm believer in "Use it or lose it". All of mine have been rode on a fairly regular basis their whole lives. They aren't worked hard these days but do get rode a few days a week by my daughter or lesson kids. They all had long show careers and aside from the old man because of saddle fitting nightmares any one of them could be legged up and back in the show pen with no worries. I think keeping them fairly active plays a huge role in keeping them going. I make a point with them to take a bit more time warming up and do an absorbine/acv rubdown after rides, on legs, back, hips & shoulders and then handwalk for a few minutes before turning them back out to pasture.
 
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Keeping them active is def a must. I try to ride my boy twice a week, plus 24/7 turnout. He loves going on trail rides. He's a retired barrel horse so he also loves to run. He knows when we come up on the flat spot on the trail. Who am I to tell him no lol, I give him the reins and let him go. He burst forward with enthusiasm I only hope to have when I get old. He also got certified as a mounted patrol horse in October. He loved going through that class. We had some moments going through that, but it all came together in the end.
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I have a 42 year old Arab/QH who is the king of hard keepers, I got him when he was 28 but he acted 5 lol. I have an appy who vet says is in his early 20's he is the easiest keeper I've ever seen, gets fat on air. My "young" horse is a 15 year old OTTB who has ulcers so she can be a hard keeper...when I'm not trying to type on my phones little screen I'll add more :) oldies are well worth the time and extra care they sometimes need!
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I have two coming 20 old ladies, my first pony and my barrel horse. I've had Magic, the pony, since she was three. And Annie since she was 7. Magic is still a little spitfire and bosses my gelding around, runs away when she doesn't want to be caught, goes into the wrong paddock when turned out then gets bratty and trots off tossing her head. I love it, if it were any other horse it'd drive me nuts but since she's my old girl I allow it. Annie is still mentally all there, but her body isn't doing as well. She's cowhocked and arthritic. She had an injury to her knee a year ago that ended her career, and while she's still pasture sound and maybe very light riding, I fear she's only got a few more years. If her knee hadn't blown out I could be trail riding her and keeping her arthritis a little more in check, I think. But we go for walks and she still has a lot of go to her, even with a knee that doesn't bend very well. As soon as the bad days outnumber the good ones, I'll know its time. But for now she's still happy being herd boss and pushing my gelding around. :)
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My old man Sam is a Clyde x Appy coming up 22. So far, he is still doing pretty well. He keeps his weight on well, has a reasonable amount of energy, and grows a nice thick winter coat (and then loses it in the summer). I had is teeth done in the spring, and the vet said they were pretty good for his age, but we monitor him closely. He does have some arthritis and is starting to lose some muscle tone in his back. In the summer, we try to ride him at least twice a week, pleasure riding only, which helps maintain his back muscles. In winter, it is more difficult with the cold,snow and lack of daylight, but he is in 24/7 pasture turnout. He gets mostly good quality hay in winter along with some complete feed and a bit of grain for a treat. I do give him some supplemental glucosamine and flax. We are fortunate to keep him at home so I can monitor him from our kitchen window.

I don't really have any experience caring for aged horses, so I really appreciate all that everyone has contributed to this thread. I do have to say, although I originally got Sam when he was just 3, I absolutely adore the old man he has become.
 

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I have a 24 year old gelding who is completely blind in 1 eye (due to an accident that happened before I got him) and has a small cataract in the other. He was also a rescue. (Very long, sad story). To put it very simply, he is my soul mate in equine form. I don't care if I never had the joy of riding him again, as long as he's sound and happy and in my life full time, I'd keep him around for another 50 years if I could!
 
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