Senior horse care tips for fall and winter!
There’s a special place in my heart for senior horses. I own one, and it’s been amazing to follow his life from youngster to GP to semi-retired. Two things have happened over his lifetime with me.
- One, he has more preventative care in his twilight years. I do spend more now on his meds and blood work and frequent health checkups than I ever did while he was in his prime GP-ness.
- Two, he’s more spoiled than ever. He has nothing to prove, and he’s worth every extra scratch, sugar-free treat, and slow trail ride through the woods.
Lots of turnout and exercise!
Keep your senior horse happy and spoiled this fall and winter:
- Monitor your horse’s weight! It’s totally normal for a horse to gain or lose weight in the colder temps. How much is the question? The only way to reliably track weight is with a weight tape. Our eyes deceive us! Weigh your horse every two weeks or so. Talk to your Veterinarian about any weight loss or gain.
- Know what’s going on INSIDE your horse. Get regular blood work! Your horse knows when it’s fall, and his body will start to increase the amount of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in his body naturally. This is linked to equine Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), also known as Cushing’s Disease. Here’s what to know – even if your horse doesn’t have PPID, his ACTH will rise in fall. ACTH is linked to an increased chance of laminitis, and fall grass often is higher in “sugar”, increasing the laminitis risk even further. Your Veterinarian might also suggest checking insulin and glucose levels to monitor for insulin resistance (IR), another massive risk factor for laminitis.
- How is your horse getting along? Literally? Cold temps often entice horses to move less. Arthritis and previous injuries might also start to feel a bit worse in winter and cold temperatures. Keep your horse moving with daily exercise, not just turn out, and perhaps add some pharmaceuticals for daily anti-inflammatory action. Better living through chemistry, right?
- Keep up to date on his regular Veterinary care, like fecal egg counts and vaccinations. Include dental care in this plan. On a daily basis, checking your senior horse’s vital signs can give you ample warning that he’s not feeling well if you find abnormal values. More on TPR here.
- Change your senior horse’s blanketing and clipping plan. Sometimes, the older or retired horse isn’t ridden to the point of sweating, but clipping and blanketing might be best for him. This will depend on how thick his coat is, what climate you live in, and what his daily routine is. Thin-skinned and wispy coated skinny horse in Canada? Add blankets! Fluffy fuzzball in a much more tropical land? Add clipping!
- And keeping the old adage of “no hoof, no horse” in mind – make sure his hooves can stand a winter. Barefoot in the winter is not always best, as the frozen ground can create painful bruising.
- But most importantly, daily grooming and care. Bust out his fave grooming brushes for extra-long attention, bring on the sugar-free treats, dote on his adorableness even longer, post more Instagrams of your horse, more smooches.
How do you keep your senior feeling great in the fall and winter?
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ADC Veterinary Thermometer, Dual Scale, Adtemp 422 – For easy temperature taking
3M Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope, Black Edition Chestpiece, Black Tube, 27 inch, 5803 – For finding heart rate and gut sounds
Fast and easy weight tape for your horse.