Caring for the Elderly Horse
At Remus Horse Sanctuary we very much work with older horses and have had many in their early 50’s, late 40’s and many into their 30’s.
We believe that ‘old horse’ should not equal ‘thin horse’ and all of our horses are weighed on a weighbridge weekly to ensure that we can monitor their weight. They have high fibre food and high caloric, if we require weight gain. Those with poor dentition have this in a sloppy porridge consistency. Old age is not an illness and horses can cope very well with being old. It does take a lot of work to keep on top of the needs of the older horse and as they live longer the problems increase.
We try to keep their lives as structured as possible with as much enrichment as possible. We have calm music playing around the yard in all buildings to keep all the animals calm and we offer various holistic therapies including reiki, self-selection herbs, shiatsu etc to help keep them emotionally calm to help them deal with the many issues they have to deal with as they age.
Retirement is a very tricky issue at the moment as there are just so many horses caught up in the horse welfare crisis that there are very few places available for them. Most people will find their horses will tell them when they are ready to retire. Every horse and every situation will be different. We urge horse owners to think before buying or breeding a horse, can they care for that horse for life? Options available are :
- Put to sleep – this seems unfair as its not the horse fault that it has become old but if you can’t guarantee him/her a safe retirement then this is an option.
- Keep their horse in happy retirement.
- Find a retirement home – a lot of research has to go into ensuring you find the right place for your horse and the retirement home is going to do what it promises.
We have been home to Buttons who died at 54 years, Shane who died at 52 years and Orchid who died last year at 50 years. We achieve this just from the care regime that we mentioned above. Its not always easy but its so satisfying to be able to enable a horse to live its life out to the full. There is something so gracious about an elderly equine who has given its life to its owners, doing everything that is required of it, now being allowed to live its life in quiet and peaceful surroundings.