Old Horses are Skinny: The Age Old Tale

Except that isn’t true.

“Neglected” Old horses are Skinny, but well cared for, healthy senior horses are not “skinny.”

Take Emi,  for instance:

Emi is in his mid 20’s. The folks said he was skinny because he was so old. After 8 months of proper care, he is boarderline tubby.

Fresa, though not emaciated at intake, was thin. She was also in her mid 20s. After a few months, she was also a bit tubby.

Clover was 30 and skeletal at intake. The second photo was about 7 months later, and she continued to gain a bit more weight after her adoption.

Reece was 18 at intake, and in less than 6 months, he was almost portly rehabbed almost senior guy.

Dodger was an OTTB brought in very underweight, and in less than 5 months, he was entirely rehabbed. He was in his early 20’s

Alice was a 23 year old Standardbred at intake, and look at her a year later

We could go on and on with examples, but suffice to say the statement, “Old horses are skinny,” simply isn’t true.

I’m not going to tell you that documented medical conditions fail to exist causing a select few aged horses to struggle with weight. Certainly, at the very end of a horse’s life when letting him cross the rainbow bridge is just a step away, the bodies might truly be shutting down. . .

But generally, age and weight aren’t especially connected. Health and weight are, though. This is true in people and dogs and horses.

Illness and a small number of chronic health issues in horses young and old would be the only true reasons not related to neglect where horses will be truly thin. If not those cases, there is a vet record of treatment.

So when dealing with a senior horse, make sure teeth are being floated by a very good equine dentist 1-2 or more times a year. If needed, add sufficient senior feed and soaked forage (like alfalfa pellets or cubes) and chopped hay, to the diet.

Please share to help others dispel this horrible old horseman’s tale

2 thoughts on “Old Horses are Skinny: The Age Old Tale

  1. I think this also depends on what you count as ‘old’. at my riding school there are lots of horses that are in their 20s. the horse that i ride in particular is 26 this year, gets some senior feed but isn’t thin, but has started to show a lack of fitness and trouble dealing with high heat/humidity for the past year as his age has seemd to hit him.
    But talking about the ‘old skinny horse’, this definately happens. while working / riding at my local riding school I have seen several well cared for old horses go very skinny, skeletal even, before they either died or the decision was made to put them down.
    they were all brought in twice a day to be given a soaked feed (one pony in particular got a just about ‘soupy’ feed because of a history of several colic bouts in his later years), often encouraging them to eat by putting some molasses in their feed or trying to hand feed them some. I can tell you that it is one of the most heart breaking things to have a scarily thin old horse that you used to ride and still love, standing over there 3/4 full feed bucket as you try to encourage them to eat a handful more with some molasses and they just won’t eat it. (also note that the old or harder to keep horses on the property that weren’t in individual paddocks were in a paddock all together where they would get more hay spread between them than the other horses)
    These horses were all wormed regularly, teeth checked regularly, kept working (in light ‘baby’ beginer lessons) as long as possible to keep them active, and we tried to give them feed twice daily, they were just ‘OLD’. They had no / little teeth. I particlarly remember giving one of the old horses a bit of carrot as he was looking at me as i fed my horse, but i very soon felt bad, as i could see him trying to eat the carrot, but it was barely dented by his teeth. he simply didn’t have much teeth left. After the carrot incidence though he lived for another about year / year and a half before he stopped eating his feeds. he was about 45 when he died. two others died somewhere in their late 30s.
    they were all okay and working fine in the riding school uptill about a year and a half or two years before they died (admittedly lighter work towards the end), and only stopped work all together when they couldn’t keep weight on / started to have problems, and they often sarted to lose weight after that, till they progressed to ignoring their feeds at the end.

    so yes, if you’re thinking horses in their 20s are ‘skinny old horses’ then i think you should reconsider how well they are being looked after, but if you can’t dismiss the notion of a horse being skinny just because of it’s age. it does happen. and it is just heart breaking knowing that even though you are trying to feed them and look after them as best as possible they are simply getting too old and their bodies are wearing down. the question then remains, how skinny to you let these horses nearing the end go? when / how skinny do you put them down? sometimes they make the discion themselves. the last pony to die at my riding school had a scheduled vet visit to put him down as he was getting seriously skeletal desbite every effort, but the morning the vet was to come, he went on his own, aged soemwhere in his late 30s.

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