9 problems to watch for in older horses

Any owners of older horses will recognise known issues, but if you have yet to see a companion through to old age, be prepared for these:


  1. Their teeth will suddenly start to suffer. You’ll see that eating times get longer, so it is wise to get your horse used to a pre-breakfast ride, unless you are willing to wait around until after lunch.
  2. You will start panicking about heir weight, all the time. Get ready to take a lot of pictures on your phone as you convince yourself that your older horse is getting too skinny or looking frail. The chances are that they are a perfectly healthy weight or can be fattened up quite simply.
  3. Loose droppings will become far more normal than they once were. An older digestive system is rarely fantastically effective, so you will be washing the rear end, a lot.
  4. Knocks and dings will start to become impossible to ignore. Don’t feel bad, as even the softest bed would be hard to get up from for a veteran, so some scrapes are to be expected.
  5. They will have your known rides cast into their memories. This means that if you try to mix things up by going off course or attempting a canter where you would normally trot, they’ll know and stubbornly refuse. With age comes a certain level of audacity!
  6. Horses can go a little deaf, so if you normally make a loud noise to let yours know that it’s time for a feed, you might have to start physically fetching them in now.
  7. Leading on from being a little hard of hearing, veteran horses will be easily spooked by unexpected people on a hack. Be prepared for a bumpy ride as older horses can still move when they want to!
  8. When your older horse gets bony, noticeably so, don’t ever try to ride without tack and expect to need your saddle re-flocking regularly, to provide a soft and cushioned underside. Either that or always use a thick pad underneath your saddle, for their comfort.
  9. Come clipping season, an older horse might not be as keen to get a haircut and you could be in for a struggle. It’s a tough one, as you can’t communicate that this is what always happens and needs to now, so go slow and tackle the winter coat one step at a time.


Youth is no guarantee of innovation, but age does generally bring wisdom and experience, so treat your veteran as you would any older person; with respect and patience.

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