Care and Grooming tips for the senior horse!
For the most part, grooming your senior is pretty much like grooming any other horse – it’s awesome! You simply need to ramp things up and be extra vigilant about old horse things. And maybe take some time to help him stretch and get comfortable in his own skin.
- As the owner of a lovely senior horse, I tend to spend more time rewarding things and spoiling him. After all, he earned it. My top priority is that his body and mind feel good, and then I concentrate on his overall health.
My senior, awaiting his freedom from the dry lot into the salad.
This is the routine for my senior horse’s care:
- Much more time going over his body with fingers and eyes. This also allows me to spend oodles of time massing his old muscles and making sure his body feels good. I’ll also take tons of time with the curry comb and brushes.
- The grooming process allows me to monitor his weight. I came from the world of hunters and a kid and dressage horses as an adult – the one thing they have in common is chubby horses. This leads to Insulin Resistance, which is now GONE now that is his weight is back to a proper level. No supplement in the world can help with insulin resistance if your horse is overweight. Use a measuring tape and check often, like every few weeks.
- I’m frequently checking his bloodwork for insulin levels and ACTH levels, to watch out for Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s and Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance have different mechanisms, but the risks of laminitis exist in both cases.
- I never skip checking TPR. This is literally the first thing that can tell me my horse is not feeling well. But wait – I do this for every horse, no matter the age. Add in some digital pulse checking and you are good to go.
- Exercise is always a part of the routine. Usually always. I’m a firm believer that exercise is not the same as turnout. Sure, a horse in turnout can walk miles and miles. Over several hours. But walking your horse in hand or under saddle at a brisk pace is low impact and heart-healthy for those horses whose bodies can do this. Do what you can to encourage the movement of your horse.
- And turn out. The more, the merrier. I’ve had to strike a nice balance between grass and dry lots because of metabolic issues. If your senior horse has some buddies for turnout, make sure he can still eat what he needs to eat and doesn’t end up at the bottom of the totem pole. Often the seniors are at the bottom and may not get the hay and forage they need.
- I’m extra diligent about his stall and turnouts. Dust is the enemy! I keep the ledges around his area free of dust, the bedding is low dust, and I’m at a barn that’s diligent about poop scooping. Why so diligent? Lung health. Heaves and other respiratory problems are worsened by dust and allergens in a horse’s environment. If you have to, soak or steam your horse’s hay, change bedding, more turnout. Incidentally, your daily TPR measurements can alert you to any issues here.
- Diet and supplements can help! I have a super Equine Nutritionist (with a straight-up, legit Ph.D.) that helps me make sure supplements and diet are up to snuff. There’s so much new research about vitamins and minerals that help senior horses. They also might need some digestive support, such as probiotics.
Morning rides are the best.
You may want to consider these things, too, for your senior horse.
- Decide what grooming things you can drop, or add. If you are not riding anymore, you may want to ditch the clipping and bridle path. But, if your horse still wears a grazing muzzle, you may want to keep the bridle path.
- And you may want to body clip your senior citizen according to climate.
Hard keepers in winter get some blanket help.
- You may also want to drop blankets, but perhaps not if he’s an easy keeper.
- Horseshoes may also go away unless frozen ground or previous hoof issues are helped by shoes.
- Decide if you need to add some grooming habits. Blankets help the hard keeper, and more turn out helps the stiffer horse. You might have to make some hard decisions about pasture or dry lots.
- If your horse is ready to retire, you have some things to consider about where he lives and how. This genius article has tips for you to consider. Sometimes, as it turns out, retirement is not the best option. Some work and moving can be better than none! And, it’s easier to maintain daily attention and monitoring if you still have a grooming and exercise plan in place.
How do you care for your senior horse?
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