Open your heart to the benefits of owning a senior horse

February 25, 2020

If 50 is the new 40 for humans, then 20 is the new 10 for horses. Senior horses, typically those who are 20 years or older, need homes just like younger ones. Don’t let a few stray grey hairs or a little less bounce in steps deter you. Do you know the saying about experience coming with age? It’s true for horses, too!

Adopters come to the Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center generally looking for younger horses thinking that they’ll have more riding years in them and the need for additional care is lessened. “We have seen adopters also not want older horses because they fear they may pass away,” said Director of the Harmony Equine Center Garret Leonard. “More important than age, a horse’s fit with the family should be the main consideration when adopting.” Lifestyle and needs play an important part in the decision, and many people aren’t aware of the advantages of welcoming an older animal into their family.

For some older horses, age is just a number or a state of mind. With advancements in nutrition, horses can live into their late 20s and 30s. So, what do senior horses need to thrive? Turns out, it’s not much different from what people need as they age. Horses need basic conditioning and movement, which is essential for their joints, heart health and muscle development. Often, mature horses require additional nutrition and may need more grain or pelleted feed due to a lack of teeth. Let’s face it – good nutrition is vital at every age and in every species!

Older horses are seasoned and knowledgeable, and quite often, they are excellent teachers. Experienced horses can help beginner riders be successful horse owners. Often, people need skilled horses due to their own lack of experience. Senior horses teach horsemanship that young inexperienced horses just cannot.

“Everyone who is looking for their first horse, or a horse for their kids, should always consider a senior horse first,” said Leonard. “The notion that ‘I want my kids to grow up with a horse, and they can grow together,’ may seem like a good idea, but it’s dangerous. If you take an unskilled rider and an inexperienced horse and match them together, injuries are more likely to happen. Someone is more likely going to get hurt, and it’s usually not the horse.”

Leonard believes that a good rule of thumb is that there should be at least a combined age of 18-years old between the age of the horse and the age of the person riding it. “In my opinion, no matter how well your child rides or how broke you think the horse is, if a child is 12-years old, they don’t need to be riding a horse that is younger than 6, since neither the horse or the rider has enough experience to get themselves out of trouble,” said Leonard. “And, truthfully, a combined age of 21 is an even better formula. Horses can be dangerous enough so why not make the experience safe for the kids and horse? Kids and beginner riders need experienced horses, and senior horses are a much better option.”

Leonard recently met with adopters who wanted a young horse for their kids to ride, which, again, is not unusual. When they discussed the experience of the kids, Leonard pointed out that several excellent horses would fit their needs, but they were on the older side. The parents were unable to get beyond age and having a horse that their children couldn’t grow up with, so they chose to pass on an adoption. Instead, the parents went out and bought a younger horse who was too green for the children to ride. “So, the kids can’t ride, and they aren’t getting the experience they need to ride horses,” said Leonard. “This family needed a senior horse to provide the beginner children with the skills they needed.”

All horses deserve to have homes where they can live out their days happily and comfortably. Older horses have a lot of love and companionships to share, along with experience. And, while senior horses can be overlooked, they can be more life-changing than younger ones in so many ways.

To learn more about adoptable horses at the Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center, visit our adoptions page.