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Caring for the Senior Competitive Sport Horse Part 1

Advances in equine medicine are enabling horses to perform longer in their careers than ever before. Together with veterinary care from Palm Beach Equine Clinic, educated owners can offer senior horses a happy and pain-free life as they age into their senior years.

Horses from the ages of 12 and older are considered “seniors,” but they often compete successfully into their teenage years. Many horses that are in the prime of their careers may require extra maintenance in order to continue performing at their best, and advances in veterinary care have helped extend careers. An 18-year-old equine athlete would have been rare 10 years ago, but today, there are horses performing at a high level well into their senior years. To maintain these athletes requires more work on the owner’s part, as well as the veterinarian’s part, however, preemptive attention to an aging equine’s needs may help keep your partner performing longer.

There are several areas of care that owners should consider in order to maintain their horse’s top health and ensure continued success. It is important to remember that just as the human body changes with age, the horse’s body does the same.

  • Owners should contact their veterinarians on a routine basis to have their horse’s overall health and fitness evaluated, no matter what the horse’s job is. All regularly performing senior horses should be evaluated a minimum of twice a year. If it is a pleasure horse, it should be evaluated at least once a year.
  • An appropriate fitness program is imperative to the senior horse’s performance. As horses age, it can become increasingly difficult to maintain their fitness. Any exercise that builds your horse’s stamina and muscle mass is essential, and the more your horse gets out of its stall and moves around the better. Anything from riding lessons to trail riding, or even hand walking, can be beneficial. There are new exercise aids available, such as treadmills, which are great for keeping the senior horse in top shape. Owners should talk to their veterinarian to help create a great fitness program that works for both them and their horse.
  • Like any athlete, horses can experience physical setbacks, so it is important for owners to have their horse’s gaits evaluated routinely. Veterinarians can suggest appropriate treatments to avoid creating larger issues, whether the horse needs a little assistance with the flexion in their necks or joint injections to ease any discomfort.
  • It is important to make sure that the senior horse’s stall is maintained for sanitation purposes and with a nice, deep bed to lie down in. The stall should be out of the direct sunlight and have fans for effective air movement and plenty of fresh water to prevent overheating.

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