Domesticated horses are living so much longer than they used to. It is not uncommon for owners to have horses that are now into their 30’s.
As a horse owner, there are a few small things that you can do to insure that when your friend gets into his golden years, he will be in a lot better shape.
The first of these is teaching your horse to be led from both sides equally well. Traditionally we are taught to do everything for our horses from the left. The reasoning for this harkens back to the days of men wearing swords. Using a horse’s left side kept you from stabbing your horse with your weapon. Today I daresay not too many people ride around with swords. Teaching your horse to be led from both sides can pay big rewards in an emergency situation. For instance, if your horse were to need rescuing in a trailer accident, it will be much calmer should circumstances present themselves that only the right side is available for emergency personnel to work from. Also, horses who live to be “old” will sometimes go blind on one side or the other. It is a hard thing for a horse who has gone blind on the left side to learn to tolerate both the blindness and the necessity of having to be approached from the “wrong” side. ANYTHING that we do to the horse from the left side should also become equally doable from the right.
The second thing we can do to help our horses get into old age in much better shape, is to teach them to be mounted from the right side. Though all of the reasoning in the above paragraph applies to this theory, there is also a more compelling reason to do so. What owners fail to realize is that every time you mount your horse from the left, you torque its back in that direction. This provides uneven wear on your horse’s skeletal system. If you mount from both sides equally, you keep things the same on both sides. It is awkward for most people to do this at first, but the oddity is soon overcome and the payoffs for your friend is tremendous.
The third thing we can do to help our horses age gracefully, is to use a stool as often as possible to mount. (or gate or stump or bucket, etc). Though this is not always possible or practical, the more we can do it, the less torque we put on whichever side of the horse we mount on each time. Obviously the less wear the less tear.
If we as horse owners, take the time to incorporate these very small things into our “horse toolbox” our companions will reap enormous benefits over the long haul.