Lots of senior horses need extra medical care. Dr. Earl Vaughn indicates they have decreased immunity compared to younger horses. Consequently, they cannot fight off disease as well so it is important to make sure they are vaccinated completely.
It is also a good idea, if possible, to keep your older horses in a separate area from young horses that are being hauled to shows. Older horses can also be more susceptible to parasites and many of the dewormers sold over the counter in the feed stores are no longer effective in Texas. For this reason, it is important to have your veterinarian check the level of parasitism in your horses and deworm with effective medication rather than just going to the feed store and choosing a product.
Nutrition is another key area for older horses as they usually have some dental issues, and many need senior feed as it is more digestible than regular feed. Since a lot of these horses cannot chew hay well most senior feeds are complete diets, meaning you do not have to feed any roughage with them, although I prefer they be given hay or pasture. Feeding good hay or pasture is helpful unless your horse has equine metabolic syndrome or Cushing’s disease, and about 30 percent of horses over the age of 15 have some degree of Cushing’s disease. So when your vet comes out to check your older horse, make sure and ask about Cushing’s disease and possible testing for it.
We can’t discuss older horses without talking about equine dentistry. Horses need dental exams starting at birth and every 6 months thereafter. Horses that do not get proper dental care will have major issues as they get older and likely will have a shorter lifespan due to the lack of dental care.
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