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Arthritic 20-year-old

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  • Arthritic 20-year-old

    Is it better for him to be on full board so he has a stall to come in to in wet and cold weather, or to be on pasture board so he can move around and not stock up? Full board has turnout (if weather is not too cold or wet).

    Right now he is a lesson horse and lives out. If I bought him I would want him to have a stall with turnout, but maybe I am wrong and BM is right and he would be better off living out.

    Any opinions?

    Is it better for him to be just a pasture pet, or is occasional light riding good for the old guys? He is in good health (a bit overweight). He is currently getting alfalfa for his regular haying.

    I will of course ask vet all these things if I do decide to buy him (whether or not he passes the vet check); I just wanted to ask here while I am considering him.
    Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
    People Who Hate to Rush to Kill Wildlife Clique!
    "I Sing Silly Songs to My Animals!" Clique

  • #2
    IMHO, arthritis is best moving 24/7, as long as he has a run-in shed to get out of the worst weather.

    Similarly, I'd opt for light work over retirement - so long as the weight of the rider doesn't make any particular injury worse. Talk to the vet about supportive things for the bad days- like a bute here and there, or some herbal anti-inflammatories like MSM, Yucca of Devil's Claw.


    • #3
      I don't know, I had an older arthritic gelding and I thought pasture board would be ideal for him. He was miserable. His back end did improve with the constant ability to move around, but his front end deteriorated. His coat lost its shine, there was no sparkle in his eye, he was clearly miserable without the creature comforts he'd enjoyed his entire life as a show horse. And to see him limping around worse than when I put him out there was a killer.

      I moved him back to a 12x24 covered stall, and bought horse property so he could have a stall with the option to be out 24/7 if he chose. He just seemed to need more time indoors.

      So, contrary to what everyone told me, a full retirement in pasture didn't work for him. They will let you know, that's for sure.


      • #4
        My 21yo is doing MUCH better now that we have our own place and near-24/7 turnout is possible. She is also a pampered princess, like the horse in the post above, and has always liked having her own "room." Our happy medium is that the horses are allowed out on pasture, or at least a dry lot with hay and room to romp a bit, but always have free access either to their stalls or a roomy run-in.

        IME, the problem with full board that includes "turnout except in the case of X, Y and Z" is that you can get into a situation where your horse can go days without a good stretch of his legs. For an older, arthritic horse, particularly one apparently already accustomed to full-time turnout, this can have a pretty devastating effect on his comfort.

        OP, if your new old horse is sound and currently in a riding program, continuing to ride him as he is able will keep him sound longer. My old gal pined and did poorly when I decided it was time to retire her. She does much better continuing in light, appropriate work; she sparkles every bit as much as she did when she was my primary competition horse!
        Equinox Equine Massage

        In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
        -Albert Camus


        • #5
          My 23 yr old is insulin resistant; it exacerabated his hock/ankle arthritis. He can't be on pasture 24/7.

          He comes in at night and is out during the day. Our pasture has some hills steep enough if the grass is wet a two wheel drive truck couldn't get up them, so he gets plenty of exercise foraging.

          He has 4 inches of crush in his stall, grid mats on top of that and 1-2 inches of shavings on top of that.

          He is on chondroitin/msm and a combo of hyalouronic acid and boswelia.

          He does extremely well on this routine. I live in southern Middle Tennessee, so our winters are pretty mild; even if he weren't IR, I would still prefer to bring him in at night.

          He is happy to come in at night, and equally as happy to go out in the morning to chase the deer out of his pasture

          Since the horse you are looking at is 20 and overweight, be sure to ask the vet about the chances of insulin resistance


          • #6
            If horses are up to it, riding is ABSOLUTELY good for them! In many cases, 20 isn't really that old… I know of a horse who just reached Grand Prix level at 20! My instructor jokes that my 16-year-old still has plenty of time to get to Grand Prix (and it's true, she's just been getting fitter and fitter, aside from having a little bit of a break in her serious training right now while I'm pregnant!).

            So, I'd definitely keep riding at least several days per week if he's up to it, and give him daily attention even when you don't ride. I find that the more attention my mare gets, the more she "sparkles"- even if it's not a riding day, she feels she needs to still be doted on in some way to make the day complete

            I think the ideal situation is daily turnout with access to good shelter if needed (or wanted), and brought in to a comfy stall with an attached run at night. Unfortunately where I board, daily turnout isn't available (just turnout pens that are used for all of the horses individually, so she's lucky to get an hour or so per day), so I'm looking forward to at some point buying a horse property like the people above, so my mare can have more room to stretch her legs throughout the day, especially as she gets older.


            • #7
              The best thing I ever did for my oldster is move him outside 24/7 with some younger blood too, and a paddock paradise to keep him moving all day long. When he was stalled he had to be worked somehow every day or he'd be lame for weeks. Nine years ago my vet started questioning his quality of life while he was stall kept. I moved him outdoors and he returned to full work a year later. My friends tease him and call him the horse with nine lives.

              If he didn't have a club foot from an injury a few years ago, I'd still be riding him lightly at age 30. As it is I've been toying with putting him back in service to help my other one with driving.

              From my experience as much movement as possible and consistent light work keeps the snap crackle pop in the joints down to a minimum.
              Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


              • #8
                I used to believe that 24/7 turnout was the best for the older, arthritic horse but have changed my mind the last few years by watching the geriatric horses in my barn. When it's cooler, but not so wet that footing is questionable then the horse does well out as much as possible. When it's warmer/hotter they do better with some stall rest. It's my belief that many older horses rest better in a stall and that level of rest is key to managing the arthritis. Also heat, humidity, biting bugs aren't as easily dealt with when older and less mobile. Keep in mind that many older horses don't have the same insulation ability as they used to and will be more susceptible to the elements. Another reason I'm not pro-24/7 turnout is that the older horse needs his eyes clean, his blanket/sheets pulled, feet picked, etc. perhaps on a more frequent schedule that a younger horse on pasture board. Most barns/owners are going to be less inclined if the horse doesn't have a "home" within the barn. I'm for the middle of the road approach.

                You may find that your horse's joints are better if he could loose some weight. You don't want a horse underweight but overweight for an older, arthritis horse only makes things harder. Make sure he's truly overweight and that you aren't dwelling only on his belly which will expand/contract more as he looses abdominal muscles.

                As for exercise let the horse dictate. I have a handful of 25+ that are still ridable and enjoy being exercised. But I also have some younger that simply aren't interested. They'll tell you if you give them a chance. I find nothing wrong with including some bute or buteless into their dietary regime if it helps with quality of life.
                Susan B.


                • #9
                  Hugs to you for considering taking on a older guy! I have a 21 year old who is sound, but semi-retired due to my baby. When I stopped riding I thought he might due better living out with 2 of his friends that live in a paddock/ large run in at night and were his turn out buddies during the day. I was worried about him not having fluffy shavings though. So, my BO for a few weeks left his stall door open and gave him the option and he hung out by his friends the whole time and never went in his stall. So, I moved him outside and he has been doing great there for over a year.

                  I think it depends on the horse though. What if you propose it to the barn owner as a trial basis rather than a full move to see how he does? It worked for me!

                  Oh, I think they stay healthier and sounder in light work, so keep him moving if he's comfortable.


                  • #10
                    Well, the old guy was out 24/7 with a batch of mares and long feet and he wasn't happy. He was quite stiff and the mares shoved him around. He was worried and querulous and food anxious and the Cushing's had his respirations quite high, he really needed a lot of attention and the focus of the barn was not retirement of the needy.

                    Since one of our problems is that rough footing such as mud, pocking or frozen pocked mud are really hard on him we have some of the same problems as mentioned in other posts - he needs to be outside moving but in the rain and wet the ground gets churned up and becomes a problem - then the tendency is to keep him in so he doesn't churn the ground and trip over it - and the result is he moves and stretches less than is ideal and it's a snowball effect detrimental to his health. We are working on adding pasture areas, creating new footing in a dry lot area etc.

                    He does like work, he likes to be groomed and just loves treats (I spoil him terribly, he is 24 and deserves it), but he likes light work and he tells you when he is done by turning in and parking out. He'll ground drive longer, probably because there is far less trotting when driver me has to trot too, LOL!
                    I think that if you could set something up temporarily to see if it works for you that would be your best bet, some kind of compromise with the BO, keep him part time in the lesson program and take a little weight off his joints he should stay happy.
                    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                    Incredible Invisible


                    • #11
                      Uggh. Don't tell Gus that he can retire at 20!

                      I found with him, when I thought that retirement was our only option, that 24/7 pasture is key to keeping him sound. Because of his arthritic stifles, he gets really locked up in the back when he's cooped up overnight. I've had him for 10 years, and for 9 of those years he was always on a 12/12 "program" (half in stall, half outside).

                      My line of thought is though that each horse is different. Some may enjoy retirement entirely (ie 24/7 pasture and no riding anymore). However I think if I did this with Gus, he'd deteriorate even faster. So, unfortunately for him, he's back in training and doing marvelous. Other then our lack of stamina, he's really improving a lot. Heck we're doing (okay, not perfectly, but still going through the motions) half-passes at the canter. We weren't even doing these when he was sound three years ago!

                      So, good for you for wanting to take on an oldie but goodie. You may have more maintenance issues then you other would have with a younger horse, but as long as you keep that in mind, I'm sure you will have many happy years with the guy.
                      Proud owner of Gus & Gringo.
                      See G2's blog


                      • #12
                        For my old girl (she'll be 27 in March), full board, with 24/7 turnout available when she wants it, has been best. She also seems to do best with regular light exercise (a mixture of hacking and light dressage) and lots of attention. She has her good days and her bad days and I have to pay attention and not push things on her bad days. On her good days, she wants to GO, so I don't think it's time to retire her yet.

                        For most of this summer, she couldn't stand to be in her stall so was out all the time, then when the flies got bad in late August, she was happy to come in at night. She's hard to keep weight on, so she's blanketed sooner than most of the other horses. She's very good at letting everyone know what she wants.