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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.