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    How Long Do Horses Live?

    Authored by Katie Navarra

    You might be surprised to learn that some horses can live into their 40s and 50s! The average horse lives into their late 20s and early 30s but thanks to advances in veterinary care and feed formulations, horses are living much longer than a few decades ago. 

    Just like people, horses have varying lifespans, and their life expectancy is influenced by several factors, including genetics, the natural aging process, underlying (or no) medical conditions, and sometimes plain luck. The horse’s breed can also influence how long he will live. Ponies and other smaller breeds tend to live longer, while larger breeds pass earlier. 

    How old was the oldest horse

    The oldest horse to have lived is a horse named Old Billy. Foaled in 1760, he lived to be 62 years old, according to the Guinness World Records. 

    Horse owner Haley Evans had a horse live to be 43. The registered Pony of the Americas (POA) named Powder only had to be euthanized due to a spinal core injury than old age. The key, she says, to such a long life was supplying a ration measured by weight instead of by scoop or visual estimation. 

    “Working with your veterinarian and feeding by weight is so important rather than measuring feed “by the scoop,” Evans said. “To properly feed a horse, you need to weigh their grain ration and their hay. You don't have to measure every day, but you must go by weight.”

    Measuring grain is as easy as buying a basic kitchen scale. First, place the empty scoop on the scale to figure out the weight it adds to the equation. Then fill the scoop with the grain and measure to the desired weight for the horse. 

    Kadra Gore-Phillips remembers the day her grandfather’s horse Jims Top Lady, a.k.a. Ashes, was born and was with her the day she had to assist her with a peaceful passing at 33 ½ years old.  

    “Keep them hydrated,” Gore-Phillips said. “Keeping them hydrated prevents many digestive issues with their limited diet. I toted warm water twice a day to her when it got below 45 degrees.”

    Challenges for aging horses

    Dental problems are one of the biggest challenges for aging horses. As their teeth decay or fall out they are unable to chew, especially stemmy hay, as well as they once did. “Complete” feeds are nutritionally balanced to include all the minerals and nutrients a horse needs, even if they can no longer eat hay or grass. Beet pulp and/or chopped up alfalfa are often ingredients in these feeds and can take the guesswork out of feeding a senior horse.

    As Ashes experienced this transition, Gore-Phillips planted four acres of oats, so Ashes had something green and palatable to eat during the winter. 

    “The oats kept her forage intake up and kept her drinking,” she said.

    If a horse's weight fluctuates, there may be an underlying problem. Knowing a horse's ideal body condition helps you notice significant changes in his condition. For example, excessive weight loss or weight gain may indicate the horse is suffering from Cushing's, also called Equine Metabolic Syndrome. As a result, these horses need lower carb diets and may require medication. 

    People tend to worry more about the cold than the heat. Horses are better suited to cooler weather than high temperatures. Providing shelter or shade is crucial. Turning his horses out in the evening when it’s cooler and stalling them during the day.

    Senior horses may have a greater sensitivity to cold temperatures than younger horses. Those struggling to keep their weight or a horse that shivers may be a good candidate for a blanket. Maintaining a routine schedule for vaccinations, dental and hoof care is also essential for older horses even if they are not in work.

    How do you know a horse's age

    Keeping track of a horse’s age can be tricky. Registered horses have papers that mark their foaling date, but not all horses are registered, and papers can be easily lost. Veterinarians can provide an estimated age based on the horse’s age based on tooth wear, but it is not an exact science. In the absence of official records, make notes on estimated ages so the information can be shared with future owners if you cannot keep your horse.

    Growing old isn’t always graceful, but with good care and TLC, senior horses can live healthy, comfortable lives with a little extra attention and care. Whether you've just taken in a senior horse or had the honor of owning/riding him for many years, you can share in many decades of memories.

    More horse care

    One of the most rewarding experiences you can have is getting to know a horse. This guide gives you all the information on how to care these gentle giants.