Changes to expect in the aging horse

Topic for older horses and older riders
texsuze
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Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby texsuze » Mon Nov 23, 2015 9:04 pm

My gelding retired pasture sound just over 4 years ago. He is now 24. Only recently has his topline started to dip a bit, plus his face and body now sport many more gray hairs (he's chestnut). He has no problem eating his grain or hay or pasture grass so far (knock wood). He finishes shedding out completely, right on schedule (Memorial Day).

Today, after I finished barn chores, I was watching him stand under his favorite tree. Beautiful weather, cold but sunny, no breeze. He started to lay down and stayed in sternal recumbency under the tree, ears erect, just kind of looking around. Of course my stomach lurched and I held my breath to see what his next move might be. This is a horse who NEVER lays down except to roll and get back up immediately. After a few minutes, he got up without effort, and flexed each hind leg as if to get the kinks out. Then he walked to his water trough for a drink.

I'm familiar with the typical issues facing older horses (tooth wear, less effective body temperature regulation, etc.), but I worry that I'll miss something taking place in my guy that might be critical. The most obvious age-related change I can see, other than appearance, are his vaccination reactions, despite staggering them weeks apart, and pre-medicating him.

I'd appreciate hearing feedback about your oldsters and the mental/physical changes they've shown and any advice you can impart. Just feeling nervous! :shock:

demi
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby demi » Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:57 pm

I've had three from a young age into the mid and late 20's. An Arabian, a WB tb cross, and a Morgan Arab cross. All geldings, All three aged quite differently. The WB TB was the only one whose back never dropped. I can't think of anything to "watch" for, but will say that they all needed lots of attention up till the end. If any of them felt neglected they seemed to withdraw. So they got lots of cookies, brushing, and hand grazing. Even though they had plenty of pasture time, they seemed to enjoy the hand grazing, where they could look for choice grass, like around the wash rack where it's always lush and green.

They each had their special things that we kept up. Zippy, the Arab, liked Coke from the can (and ONLY original formula) and Hostess apple pies. Zorro, the WB TB, liked thorough, thorough grooming. He always drooled during grooming and would stretch and bend and quiver for the "really good spots". Spooky, the Morgan Arab, liked apple slices in molasses and had several tricks that he did up until the end.

Just love him while you still can.

demi
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby demi » Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:06 pm

I almost forgot Apache. He was only 21 when we lost him a year and a half ago. He was my husband's paint and was not even close to being retired when we lost him to a severe colic. He looked like a 10 year old but frequently suffered minor colic for the whole 15 years that we had him. We'd had him vetted to figure out what was going and had special management for the condition. The only good thing about it was that we were constantly watching for it, and when the final episode occurred, we caught it right away and he didn't suffer very long.

westisbest
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby westisbest » Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:28 pm

I think an ageing retired horse is going to deteriorate faster than an ageing in work or lightly ridden horse. We've had these discussions in other threads. What you don't use, you lose just like humans. The horse I still ride at 22 hasn't changed much even with time off this year due to surgery and rehab. I give him a loading dose of Ichon every 7 or 8 months just about to start one. Like Adequan. When I have the spare $$ he gets a massage from a very good bodyworker. Diet is monitored more carefully and he gets more complete feed now a high quality senior formula with 16% protein. He has a huge work ethic and would go hard every day if I let him.

texsuze
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby texsuze » Tue Nov 24, 2015 5:02 pm

If my gelding were sound for riding we'd still be out there, for sure. I tried some work in-hand right after I had to retire him, but even that was uncomfortable for him. Three vet consults, x-rays, ESWT, joint supplements, Adequan, etc.---you get the picture. None of the vets felt he would be able to return to work. So I do understand that in a perfect world, activity/work would be the best scenario for physical and emotional health.

Demi's advice about keeping him "in the loop" has struck a chord with me. I will be more diligent about interaction with him. My chickens seem to take up most of my barn time :) and I love my chooks, but realizing now that my old guy probably requires more hands-on than he's getting.

He's been a stoic kind of guy his entire life. You won't know he has a problem until it is really a problem, which is the problem.....

calvin
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby calvin » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:32 pm

Hijacking. Ichon?

I agree that keeping them happy means ensuring they feel important! Each of our seniors is special and we are lucky that we have them. My regret with my last horse is that I simply did not have the time at his end of life to spend with him and fuss over him. He was such a great guy. I shall learn from that experience, this time.

heddylamar
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby heddylamar » Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:06 am

Equine changes or human changes?

BO called to tell me the 34yo (then 33) was off on her good hind ... I get to the barn, fully expecting to put her down that day. She only has one good hind leg. After a tearful one-sided discussion with the cheerful mare, I call my mother (horse person too) and describe what I'm seeing ... "Have you checked for a stone bruise or abscess?"

Yep. I was ready to euthanize an otherwise healthy elderly mare for an abscess.

tl;dr Listen to your horse. Don't let age, frailty, or unrelated experience color your decisions or assumptions.

Rockabilly
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby Rockabilly » Sat Nov 28, 2015 2:56 pm

texsuze wrote:
I'd appreciate hearing feedback about your oldsters and the mental/physical changes they've shown and any advice you can impart. Just feeling nervous! :shock:


Don't be nervous, but realize your relationship will change and it's not necessarily a bad thing. Billy was in my life from age 11 to age 33. There was a time when he looked out for me and protected me and then the time came when I did it for him. Billy never lost his fierce spirit even at age 33. He was still Billy, but Cushing's and founder took a toll on both of us. I think to have a horse into its old age requires many adjustments from realizing the beginning of arthritis to finally giving up your dream of riding this horse. There is still happiness and joy in your relationship with your horse even though he can't be ridden anymore. You take great pleasure in attending every need and want and realize what a good job you are doing. After Billy passed away on his own in August, 2013 I realized taking care of him had been my finest moment in life.

PaulaO
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby PaulaO » Tue Dec 01, 2015 6:12 pm

I retired Bob 2 years before he crossed. He came up with fibrotic myopathy so no more riding. I bought him when he was 2, he crossed at age 28, so we had 26 years together. I will say the best time we had was when he was retired. I didn't have to concern myself with progressing with my riding and feeling guilty if I didn't ride, etc. We spent a lot of time together, grazing, walking around the property, just hanging out. That was when we developed the closest bond. I knew everything about him and was able to recognize and monitor any and all changes. You will too.

I also spent a year and half pre-grieving his eventual death. I will say from experience do not do that. Don't focus on the future, just think of today.

Hoof'n it
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby Hoof'n it » Mon Dec 14, 2015 11:01 am

As others have said, each will age differently and at different rates.

My 15 year old gelding aged dramatically as his navicular got worse, I put him down this past winter before his feet became to sore in the summer. I could tell it was definitely time for him. I have also put down an old gelding at 21 years old, he had bad hock arthritis and struggled to get up - it was tough seeing him like that so I made the call to put him down before he couldn't get up at all.
My 25 year old standardbred mare and 23 year old x-bred mare, are still galloping around in the back hill paddock, acting like 3 year old idiots, but they are having a ball, with only a handful of grey hairs between them.

My advice is take things how they come, they will get stiffer and greyer as time goes on, but each animal is completely different as to how they cope and react to these changes, and how quickly these changes occur, it could take years or it could just happen over night...

For me, it's all about quality of life over quantity and it's better to put them down a day too soon than a day too late.

texsuze
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby texsuze » Mon Dec 14, 2015 9:43 pm

Yes, I'm trying not to second-guess the future or over analyze things, but I've always been able to pick up on stuff early in the game. Yesterday my guy ate some of his hay in the pasture and then walked away, stood there with his head slightly down but eyes still open. He shifted his weight quite a bit, flexing each hind leg, shifting, flexing. First time I've seen him do this. He looked uncomfortable. He had rolled in the mud first thing in the a.m., and he tends to pay the price with stiffness later sometimes. Then he suddenly "woke up", walked back over to the hay to finish it, and walked back to the barn. And he spends a lot of time standing in the shade of one of the trees in the pasture, although with our recent warm weather and his winter coat, it could be him just keeping cool.

Heading over to the barn now!

Rhianon
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Re: Changes to expect in the aging horse

Postby Rhianon » Thu Jan 07, 2016 3:17 am

PaulaO wrote:
I also spent a year and half pre-grieving his eventual death. I will say from experience do not do that. Don't focus on the future, just think of today.


Very wise.


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