Tips for Caring for Senior Horses

Horses that are 18 - 20 years of age are entering their golden years. As your horse grows older, things start to change, from fluctuations in weight to increased need for dental care. Your horse will need attention and love to age gracefully and be comfortable in their transition.


While it can be difficult to accept that your horse is growing older, it is important to remember that aging is a natural part of any animal’s life. By being knowledgeable about the senior horse care you will need to provide, you can ensure that their life in their golden years is just as beautiful as when they were young.


Dental Care for Elderly Horses

When caring for an elderly horse, proper dental care is of the utmost importance. Some dental issues have been developing over the course of the horse’s life, such as root eruption. Other problems, like abnormal teeth and increased tooth wear, are simply a result of aging.


Here are some ways to make sure that your elderly horse has optimum oral health.

  • Regular oral examinations. By receiving routine dental care, any issues that arise in your horse's oral health can be quickly pinpointed and treated.
  • Offer a soft senior horse feed. Older horses experience teeth wear and even loss. When your horse has very worn down teeth or extensive tooth loss, dental intervention often doesn’t help. However, using the right senior horse feed can make a huge difference in their oral health.

Nutrition for Elderly Horses

Horses need proper nutrition at all ages, but especially when they start to get older. It is normal for your horse to start dropping a few pounds, specifically in the winter months, due to their metabolism speeding up. This weight loss is not due to inefficient digestion, but because they can no longer process food or nutrients as well.


Here are some things to look for when deciding on a senior feed for your horse:

  • Look for a feed that is easy to chew, and high in fat. This type of feed will help them manage their weight easily and effectively, absorb more nutrients, manage arthritis/joint pain and cause less damage to their teeth.
  • Supplement with vitamin E. Vitamin E helps your horse build a strong immune system and supports healthy muscle and nerve tissues. Horses that graze often will naturally get vitamin E from the pasture, but older horses with dental problems don’t have strong enough teeth to graze. Supplementing your horse's diet with vitamin E ensures they are getting adequate vitamin E.
  • Do your research. Not all senior feeds are created equal, and it is critical to find a feed that best meets the individual needs of your horse. Some ingredients in senior feeds, like molasses, can be detrimental to horses with specific conditions.
  • Consult with your veterinarian. If you are having difficulties finding a feed for your horse, consult with your veterinarian to see what they suggest.

Arthritis/Joint Pain in Elderly Horses

Throughout their life, horses are very active and hard-working animals. Due to this active lifestyle, many older horses are prone to arthritis. Younger horses have a natural inflammatory control process for inflamed joints, but as they grow older, horses lose their ability to naturally lubricate their joints, triggering increased inflammation.


Here are some ways that you can help your horse deal with arthritis and joint pain:

  • Regular gentle exercise.Ensuring that your horse is getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to help them with their pain. Exercise helps keep their joints flexible & lubricated.
  • Let your horse stay outside as much as possible. When a horse is outdoors instead of cooped up in the stable, they will naturally move around and exercise on their own.
  • Pay attention to proper hoof trimming or shoeing. This can help take any unnecessary stress off of their joints.
  • Utilize complete joint supplements. Incorporating these supplements into your horses daily diet will help keep their joints strong and their muscle healthy. Complete joint supplements contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which work together to strengthen cartilage and control inflammation.

Do you have questions about caring for your elderly horse?  Contact San Cayetano Ranch to learn more about our facilities near the Santa Cruz River in Tumacacori, Arizona.