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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have seen a horse that is very old and fairly skinny.
You can see his hips and ribs, he is also very sway backed.
He is still ridden.

I personally didn't think anything of it because he is so old, in his 30's.
I have seen horses in that age range be just as fat as a young healthy horse, but I also assumed sometimes when they're old they just don't put on weight.

My thoughts are it is just too case by case and the horse is probably fine even at that body condition. BUT I have a limited knowledge on what is possible with elderly horses.

Could this horse gain more weight?

I'm sure it is impossible to know without knowing his entire health background.

Thoughts?
 

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Most often if an older horse can't maintain weight it is because of dental issues or an untreated disease process. Along with those things, appropriately feeding to maintain weight can be time consuming and expensive for an older horse.
This was my 30 year old horse a few days before she passed away.

She had Cushing's, and a few years earlier before I began treating her, she lost some weight and began to have a poor topline. After I put her on the medication, along with amino acids and extra protein in her diet, she filled out muscle again.

If old horses have chronic pain from arthritis, they may need supplements and/or pain medication to help them feel good enough to move and eat well.

A lot of people neglect their horses' teeth and they have difficulty eating hay when they are very old. Even with good maintenance, a horse will wear their chewing surfaces down by age 30. The horse above had very short teeth, but the vet kept the surfaces smooth and lined up so she could still use them for chewing hay. Many horses need to eat large amounts of pelleted feed, chopped hay, beet pulp, soaked cubes etc to keep weight on in their older age. To feed these in the amount a horse needs, they may require three or four feedings a day.

Old horses, like every other old animal, usually require more work and often vet involvement to stay healthy.
 

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Older horses can get a dropped back, back I would not call it a sway back. Sway back is lordosis. An older horse takes a lot of feed to keep them in good weight. Lots of good quality hay. Is this just a horse you see in your area? at your stable? It probably needs some dental work done. It could use good quality hay , usually alfalfa and qood grass hay. Senior feed , and wormed. Perhaps find a way to suggest this to the owners. They may not appreciate the comments and tell you to mind your own business and its just because he is old. Which is sad.
 

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My 32yr mare, who was ridden up till 24, is nice and plump, her weight is actually so good that someone thought she was 13 the other day! But she gets all quality hay and alfalfa, and a good senior feed.
I’ve seen 26-30yr horses with amazing weight and still in light work, I feel like it depends on the horse, if they’re sick, and the owner.
 

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I have seen a horse that is very old and fairly skinny.
You can see his hips and ribs, he is also very sway backed.
He is still ridden.

I personally didn't think anything of it because he is so old, in his 30's.
I have seen horses in that age range be just as fat as a young healthy horse, but I also assumed sometimes when they're old they just don't put on weight.

My thoughts are it is just too case by case and the horse is probably fine even at that body condition. BUT I have a limited knowledge on what is possible with elderly horses.

Could this horse gain more weight?

I'm sure it is impossible to know without knowing his entire health background.

Thoughts?
Usually if you can see HIPS, the horse is too skinny to be ridden. But we were not there and didn't see horses for ourselves.

Swayback itself is not a problem. The integrity of the horse's back is fine. The tricky part is correct padding and a correct saddle to fit a swayback.
 

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These are my thoughts. As all animals age (even us humans!) dietary needs change too. Being a senior, there is so much that could be going on with this horse. If this was my horse, I would want a physical exam, bloodwork and/or other diagnostics done by a Veterinarian to see what I was missing and do the best I could to correct it.
 

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He's in his 30s'. This is an OLD horse. In my opinion, he should be retired. He's having problems with weight, so he's either got no teeth left, and that's very possible, or his got problems with what few teeth he does have left.
With him losing weight, and being that thin, he could have any number of old age problems.

Its like they are riding a late 90's year old grandfather! He should be retired, he's done his service.
 

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It's really hard to say without seeing the horse. My 23 year old Arab gets a little ribby sometimes, which is fine. He has a belly, but gravity is taking its toll and so he is ribby and has a belly at the same time. It can happen. However, his hips are well-covered, and he is overall in pretty good condition as this photo from a few days ago shows.

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It is a lot more work to keep weight on an older horse. I have to give him more frequent, high-calorie wet feedings (hay cubes + beet pulp + oil and a fat supplement) and I try to find finer hay for him to eat. His teeth are worn so he chews slowly and not always efficiently. If I can't find fine hay, I will run my hay through a leaf shredder to make it easier for him to chew and absorb. What happens with older horses is that because they're no longer efficient at chewing, they don't break down the hay enough, and the digestive system doesn't absorb as many nutrients. You can often see large undigested pieces of hay in their manure.

I also separate mine from the others at night so he can have unlimited hay (my other two are on slow-feeder nets). I give him more grazing time when there is grass because he can digest grass more easily than hay.

I watch his weight like a hawk and will increase hay cubes to 3 feedings a day rather than the usual 2 if I feel he needs it. He is still ridden quite a bit in a lesson program, but has retired from showing and we don't allow the lesson kids to jump him anymore.

So to answer your question, yes, an older horse can be a bit ribby without being underweight as long as the hips and buttocks are pretty well filled out. If he is skin and bones, then no, he should not be ridden. It requires a lot more work to keep these older guys at a good weight, so if the owner isn't modifying the diet, it's likely the senior horse is going to suffer and begin to lose weight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
It's really hard to say without seeing the horse. My 23 year old Arab gets a little ribby sometimes, which is fine. He has a belly, but gravity is taking its toll and so he is ribby and has a belly at the same time. It can happen. However, his hips are well-covered, and he is overall in pretty good condition as this photo from a few days ago shows.

View attachment 1139618


It is a lot more work to keep weight on an older horse. I have to give him more frequent, high-calorie wet feedings (hay cubes + beet pulp + oil and a fat supplement) and I try to find finer hay for him to eat. His teeth are worn so he chews slowly and not always efficiently. If I can't find fine hay, I will run my hay through a leaf shredder to make it easier for him to chew and absorb. What happens with older horses is that because they're no longer efficient at chewing, they don't break down the hay enough, and the digestive system doesn't absorb as many nutrients. You can often see large undigested pieces of hay in their manure.

I also separate mine from the others at night so he can have unlimited hay (my other two are on slow-feeder nets). I give him more grazing time when there is grass because he can digest grass more easily than hay.

I watch his weight like a hawk and will increase hay cubes to 3 feedings a day rather than the usual 2 if I feel he needs it. He is still ridden quite a bit in a lesson program, but has retired from showing and we don't allow the lesson kids to jump him anymore.

So to answer your question, yes, an older horse can be a bit ribby without being underweight as long as the hips and buttocks are pretty well filled out. If he is skin and bones, then no, he should not be ridden. It requires a lot more work to keep these older guys at a good weight, so if the owner isn't modifying the diet, it's likely the senior horse is going to suffer and begin to lose weight.
This horse I am wondering about is definitely very prominently skeletal, all the time. Unfortunately I have no say or contact with this horse or owner, but it did get me wondering.
It makes me more frustrated now knowing this info, knowing a chronically skeleton horse at my own barn never had their teeth looked at, it probably would've solved their problem at least somewhat.
 
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