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What Do You Consider "Old"?

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    What Do You Consider "Old"?

    Not much substance to this question, but I'm curious as to everyone's opinions on what they consider as an "old" or "senior" horse?

    I know clinically, most feed manufacturers consider "senior" horses to be 15+.. but, horses are living longer than ever and I know several in their 20s who are still riding, still showing, and doing fine.

    I've seen a few acquaintances recently lose 12 - 16 year old horses and people commenting on their "long" lives and how "these old horses" mean so much.

    It blows my mind; perhaps because my first horse was 18 when I bought him, and I'm currently showing my 21 year old mare (who I've had and shown since she was 3). A teenage horse, in my mind, is in it's prime! Granted, I grew up showing H/J and moved to the All Around breed level later.. where futurities are a bigger deal. I imagine dressage folks would think of "old" as later, where I imagine reining folks would think of "old" as younger.

    Obviously, there are outliers for everything - early onset arthritis, ponies showing until they're in their late 30s, etc - but as a general rule, where do you start drawing the "that horse is old and has lived a long life" line?
    Veni vidi vici. With a paint pony, nonetheless.

    I think the term "old" as it relates to horses, is relative - just like it is with us humans. Some 18 yr old horses are "old", some don't get old until they are 25. Depends on the pony/horse. I don't think there is any general # of years that a horse is considered "old".
    ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


      If you tell me your horse is 36, they're pretty old. If your QH is all gimped up because you had it doing an 8 year old's job at two and it can't hardly walk at 16, that's old, and where you come from in horsekeeping will color your view of old.


        To answer your question on face value - I would call a horse "old" when it is >25. Many horses under 25 are still in good riding condition and some are still competing.

        That said, there are a lot of unsound horses <25. That doesn't make them "old" either. It makes them unsound.

        In my opinion, a healthy horse that has received good care should not seem old at 20. It doesn't mean they are not a senior, or don't have age-related issues (arthritis, for example) but I wouldn't consider that an "old horse."

        OP: that's bizarre to talk about a 12-16 year old horse having a "long life." Long compared to a dog, maybe. Although my last dog lived to be 16 1/2, so not really long compared to a lot of dogs.


          We expect our horses to work into their 30's, and so far, we haven't been disappointed. My granddaughter and I are currently trail riding a 24 and 28 year old, and we have a 15 and a 20 year old we ride when we want to do more. They were all raised here except for the 20 year old though, so have always been ridden and managed with long term soundness in mind.


            When I was a kid, 15yrs WAS an old horse. Usually they died colicing from previous worm damage. Few lived to be elderly, 25 or so. With the development of chemical wormers, teaching folks to worm more than once or twice a year, suddenly horses did live lots longer!

            As others have said, I think age is a number. Some are worn out before they reach double digits, having been started, used hard young. Kind of like kid athletes seen now, full of issues before graduating high schools.

            Older horse care books never started horses under saddle at 2yrs, jumping at 3-4yrs, they were too young for that kind of work! Soft bones and tissue is easily damaged when stressed.

            Our horses follow older thinking, babies brought along slowly. They go to the Trainer for about 30 days, fall of their 3yr old year. Learn about being in new place, meet stranger horse, get handled by other people. They head back to Trainer in spring of 4yr old year for more extensive training. We plan to keep these horses, seldom have one to sell on. They continue working, though maybe not competed hard. The oldest went to Pony Club Rallies at 29 yrs, lived until age 36. Her horse family was well known for living long times, 30yrs, before chemical wormers. The others were used lightly until about 28yrs. They get bored sitting in the field!

            Those who have purchased from us have enjoyed many years of fun with those horses. One now 20yrs, has won all kinds of Endurance competitions, which is his discipline. Interesting because he is big, 17h, full bodied, with great recovery rates and a good turn of speed when needed! She is doing some Dressage with him now, since she is developing her next Endurance horse and can only ride one to get them fit enough for that. Another horse now 24yrs, has been a Dressage horse, competed to Grand Prix I believe. Owner just enjoys riding him now, goes to clinics. Still sound. No issues.

            Both were 6yrs when sold, just green broke, ready for hard work. We went slower than usual because they were such big horses, so bones finish later.


              To me, 18+ is senior. That doesn’t mean they are incapable of doing their job. After all, Lenamore went to the Olympics at 19.

              Old is 25+ plus - looking and more likely feeling their age a bit more.


                To me 20+ would be a senior. So much depends on the horse and their individual personality and activity level.


                  It depends on the horse and the job they're asked to do. 18+ is what I think of for a senior too, but that doesn't mean they can't do their job any more. My mare was still jumping in the Grand Prix classes with me when she was 20, but we managed her incredibly carefully toward the end of her career. Some of the horses I rode as a junior were getting to the end of their careers and they were only in their teens.

                  "Old" is a different story. Old to me is in the late 20s onward. Based on how my joints feel, I might include myself in that category...
                  Last edited by supershorty628; Sep. 29, 2019, 04:42 PM.


                    To me there is a difference in "senior" and "old". To me old is where the horses' health is starting to fail or arthritis is prevalent or their condition is deteriorating (topline wasting), etc. My grandmother passed away just shy of her 106th birthday. She was a senior until she was about 103 - as her mind started to go at 103, then I considered her old. I think I apply the same premise to horses.

                    So the difference may be due to how one defines "senior" and "old". To me they are two completely different things. I think all horses/ponies become seniors at about 20. But that doesn't make them old.
                    ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~