Caring for the Senior Competition Horse

3rd Jul 2019

Caring for the Senior Competition Horse

Not every senior horse is a retiree moseying around in a pasture. With improved nutrition and care, many older horses are still kickin' it in the show pen, polo field, hunt field, or dressage arena.
With age comes miles and unique issues. Perhaps you've bought an older schoolmaster “made” competition horse that needs a little TLC. Or you've noticed your long-time partner is a little slower to turn or has a thinning coat. A good veterinary exam is always your first action. After that, follow recommendations for care that may include treatment for allergies, arthritis, skin conditions, weight maintenance, and dental care.

While arthritis can't be cured, it can be managed. Besides prescription medications, a comprehensive joint supplement can really help. Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM are go-to ingredients in many joint supplements. From  Cosequin to AniMed Liquid Motion, plus natural organic products like  Joint Matrix, there are many options and formulas that will do the trick. Take note that the “senior” style supplements may have pain relievers. You need to be sure there are no prohibited ingredients for competition, so always check with your sport’s governing board.

In addition to supplements, Back on Track products are easy to use to increase blood flow and general comfort. Mary’s Tack carries a wide range of Back on Track including leg wraps, bell boots, mesh sheet, and more. The therapy lies in the power of ceramic particles imbedded in the fabric to reflect the body’s heat back into the body as healing far infrared heat. Many riders use BOT products on their horse to help warm them up prior to exercise.

Another common concern with the aged performance horse is the skin and coat. Older horses can be more susceptible to rain rot, thinning coat, and infections. They might also be more sensitive to insect bites and extreme temperatures. A skin and coat supplement that has omega fatty acids is a great choice for the added immune benefit.  Adeptus Gleam & GainOmega HorseshineHorse Guard Hoof & Hair Guard, and CocoSoya from Uckele have nutrients to support healthy skin and coat. Pay close attention while grooming so you catch small bites, wounds, and irritations before they become a big problem. A fly mask and fly sheet in the summer and proper blanketing can help protect your performance horse’s skin and coat. A fly mask also acts as a barrier to dust and UV rays that irritate sensitive older eyes. A gentler brush, like the  HAAS New Generation Soft Curry or Epona Tiger’s Tongue, just might make a cranky grandpa horse a little happier.

The teeth of an older horse are worn down from years of grinding up their food. They may not need a full float, but your veterinarian should check for hooks and points when doing shots in the spring and fall. It is interesting to note that calcium is not recommended for elderly horses because it is more difficult for them to process properly. Try  Equident instead! Equident from Equine Matrix is a blend of therapeutic organic mushrooms that promotes bone density, decreases bone degradation, and triggers an anti-inflammatory response.

Performance horses benefit greatly from the regular exercise they get, helping prolong their health and comfort. But, a reduced competition and training schedule combined with age can result in some muscle loss, particularly at the top line. Long and low lunging techniques can help keep back muscles and core strong. If that isn’t quite enough, a therapeutic saddle pad might be in order. Some pads recommended for senior horses include the  Toklat Matrix T3 Ortho Impact Western PadCircle Y Shoulder Bridge Pad, Invictus Equality PadOgilvy Jump Friction Free PadThinLine Trifecta Half Pad and the CoopersRidge Saddle Pad Collection.

With their years of experience and reliability, senior competition horses are worth the extra effort to keep them performing comfortably and successfully. Take care of your “oldie but goodie” and they will take care of you!