Lately we have seen a lot of articles about older horses in the show pen. A few of the horses I can remember reading about are Storm Commander and Zippos Tiger Bar. Theses horses were showing well into their later years. This idea came to me after I was watching a younger girl ride my old show horse, Check For Guns. He is now 22 years old and still going strong. He was retired for a few years and now he is being leased to show by a young girl in my mom’s show program. As long as the horse has the will to try and we take a little extra effort with their maintenance, most horses can have long, healthy show careers.
Maintenance medications and supplements
At this point in their careers, just as elderly humans, horses may have more aches and pains than when they were younger. This means it could be time to look into some additional medications or supplements to get them into show shape. First, check with your vet and they can determine if it is necessary for your horse to have hock injections or other more extensive joint work. Adequan is an intramuscular joint treatment that is widely used in the equine industry. Oral treatments like glucosamine and MSM can be beneficial as well. Last would be topical medications like Surpass and DMSO, which are also important to consider. Surpass is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug to relieve pain and information in joints. It requires a prescription unlike DMSO.
TIP: Check with your breed association for a list of illegal medications and the acceptable amounts of legal drugs.
Keeping them fit
A proper exercise routine is important. You cannot just take them out of the pasture after retirement and expect them to perform exactly how they did before. Conditioning is important as with any age of horse but it is especially important with those that are a little older. Trot pole exercises are a good way to strengthen their topline and it is good for their joints. It is also important to have a good warm up period before exercise just like humans. At this point, some elderly horses could have minor lameness issues that just have to do with age. Keeping up with their joints is important but proper farrier work can also help to correct these issues. Another person we really appreciate at my barn is the chiropractor. She keeps the horses on a routine schedule and works out their kinks. She also performs acupuncture, which we have found to be helpful especially with our horses that have more issues. The chiropractor also can give you stretches to perform in the time in-between visits. This can be just has important as the regular sessions.
Of course we want all of our horses to be as comfortable and happy at horse shows as possible but this is especially important for the older ones if we want them to make it through the season. It is beneficial to order rubber mats for the show or haul your own around throughout the year to lie down under the shavings. Another medication to be aware of is penylbutazone or bute for short. A regimen of the legal amount of bute either by injection or oral application can keep them feeling good throughout the show. Another important med would be one to combat some anxiety or stress. If you notice symptoms of this, start by using a medication that contains omeprazole. Ulcergaurd is a popular one. Horses that are older may not be able to compete as well with the younger horses in rail classes. So try to keep in mind your horses strengths and focus on those when it comes to what classes you participate in. Another thing with older horses is that they can become ring sour so keep that in mind and if you start to notice signs it could be time to take a little break. Also practicing less can be beneficial so that a seasoned horse does not start to anticipate especially during pattern classes. Use your practice time to rehearse parts of the pattern rather than the whole thing.
All of the routines and practices I discussed relate to horses of any age but they can be even more crucial to the elderly ones. Not all horses are equipped to continue their show careers into the mid twenties so be aware of your horse’s own personality and abilities. Use social media to share with us your own stories of horses that have had extra long show careers…we would love hear about them!