Having read JRL1's post about her older horse breaking a leg and the number of similar incidences mentioned in the replies: Does anybody know if, as they age, horses suffer from loss of bone density or bone brittleness? Most of the pasture breaks that I've heard of have been horses over the age of 15. Is there a supplement or feeding regimen to address this problem?
Well, I've only had one horse break a leg that was in its teens--14 to be exact, but have had several younger ones, the youngest being a 5 year old that just stepped wrong being ridden. So in my experience age has nothing to do with it.
No, in fact I've hardly ever seen this type of injury (really any serious pasture injury) in an older horse. Almost always in babies (under 4-5) who run around like idiots and play roughly. IME older horses tend to be pretty easy going and other than the occasional eye injury rarely get hurt-- if they do it's almost always when a new horse is introduced to a group or a horse is moved somewhere new-- some new exciting variable.
I was one of the ones who posted about an aged mare turning up in the pasture with a broken leg. Our vet said they get osteoporosis just like we do. You would think that it wouldn't happen as much with the oldsters, who don't romp around. But there she stood, in a flat pasture, with just one other gentle old mare....not a mark on either of them.....When she didn't come in for her nightly grain I had to go looking. So she ate her grain in the pasture while we waited for the vet. And then it was the end. She seemed quite normal standing there, she just couldn't move, and you could see the dislocation. Vet said she wasn't really in a great deal of pain, and based on her appearance, I agreed. I'll always remember sweet Tawny, now buried in that pasture.
I lost my heart horse Tyler to a broken leg in a pasture (front leg above the knee) when he was 24. He was a stout STB Percheron and I never would have imagined, in a million years, that he would break one of his beautiful big boned legs. I found him standing in a wide open area with no holes/logs/ etc nearby.
It was a total shock and I had been starting to dread the inevidable "call" as he was starting to go downhill- but I imagined a much slower and difficult to "draw the line" end of life would come.
I had never before known of a draft horse breaking a leg except for one who was a horse I had worked with and loved, who had been retired as a very honored and loved oldster by a woman I had worked with and not loved. When I found out that he'd broken a leg in her care- I foolishly though ill of her and assumed that this was either a lie, or some fault of hers... because old draft horses just don't break their legs. But apparently they do. So I dug all that ill will toward her out of my heart and inwardly appologised for my past thoughts, replaced with empathy for the unshakable trauma we both now shared in losing our sweet old big guys.
I also thought this was a fluke, and didn't really think about old age bone loss until this week to hear of these other senior horses who broke bones in the pasture. I think there may be something to your theory BayPony.