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Still Going Strong Horses over the age of 16 are generally considered to be veterans but thanks to improvements in veterinary science, welfare and equine nutrition, older horses are no longer being ‘pensioned off’ while they are still fit and active. Alison Andrew, Marketing Manager for leading equine insurer Petplan Equine, explains why age is no longer a barrier when buying an older horse and examines what owners need to take into account when caring for them. a 10% donation for every policy taken out through the society. VHS founder Julianne Aston, says: “Thanks to this unique policy, people are more willing to take on the care of an older horse as they now have an option of insurance to protect them from unexpected veterinary costs.”

Learning with a Schoolmaster

William Whitaker partnered 17-yearold Animation II successfully around the Hickstead Derby

Older and Wiser

It is often said that there is no substitute for experience and a reliable schoolmaster can help to provide a transition for riders from novice to a more advanced stage. The knowledge that an older horse, provided it is sound, fit and healthy, now has potentially more years of active service may encourage more people to consider one in favour of a less experienced counterpart. On average, one year of a horse’s life is equivalent to three years of a human’s life; so a 16-year-old horse is comparable to a 48-year-old human, hardly a pensioner by modern standards. The Veteran Horse Society (VHS) was founded nine years ago and is one of the fastest growing equestrian membership organisations. In that time they have found that the issue of greatest concern to members is that of vet fees. This is not because the fees are necessarily higher, but because until recently it has not been possible to insure older horses for illness. In response to feedback from customers and subsequent discussions with the VHS, leading UK specialist equine insurance provider Petplan Equine created a policy that allows horses to have full illness and injury cover until they reach the age of 25, if insured before their 20th birthday. The extended age limits are fully endorsed by the VHS, which benefits from

Riding a schoolmaster is excellent experience for any rider. Both beginners and more advanced riders can learn and improve through the ‘feel’ that a horse who knows his job can give them. A schoolmaster can help develop all important confidence in the beginner, as well as helping them learn the basics. Experienced riders who may even own their own horses can also benefit from training on a schoolmaster to help them develop techniques which they can then apply to schooling their own horses at home.

Top Tips for Older Horse Care... ■ M  ake sure the horse is properly vetted before you buy. ■ W  herever possible try to find out the previous medical history and ask your own Vet to consider the history forewarned is forearmed. ■ C  hoose an insurance policy that provides cover for illness as well as injury. ■ T  ake particular care of bones, ligaments and joints – these are what show wear and tear as the horse gets older, just like humans. ■ T  ake care of the horse’s respiratory system, it’s the second most common area of disease - feed good quality, dust free forage and when the horse is stabled make sure that the ventilation is good. ■ A  sk your vet at an early stage for advice if the horse starts to lose condition. ■ M  aintain and regularly check teeth (at least once every 6 months). ■ F eed plenty of roughage- this stimulates activity of the gut and promotes good digestion. ■ H  ay/Haylage fed should be soft. Use the “Squeeze test” - you should be able to squeeze a handful and it not hurt your hand, and on releasing the forage should not remain compressed but rather spring out again. ■ C  hoose feed designed for older horses, the emphasis being on soft to chew and therefore easily swallowed with the protein content being high quality and easily digestible. There are several very good commercial hard feeds on the market. ■ A  n effective worm control programme is especially important in the older horse ask your Vet for advice and stick to it!

Keep up the Good Work

Keeping the older horse working aerobically can keep him mentally and physically fit. It must be the right sort of work for his age, such as dressage rather than a lot of strenuous exercise or jumping. Gil Riley, Petplan Equine Vet of the Year, agrees “I always tell my clients that the greatest risk we take with our older horses is not actually overworking them, but under working them! An active life is vital as it stimulates the horse mentally, ensures the heart and circulation are kept in good condition and very importantly ensures that the rate of loss of muscle mass, a problem encountered by all horses as they age, is very much reduced. Remember that every horse is unique and therefore there is no “one size fits all” exercise programme, rather you must adapt the work on a day to day basis depending on how well the horse is managing”

Older Horses need Special Care

Prevention is better than cure in the management of the health of the older horse, and so regular worming, dental, farriery and veterinary check-ups are essential. When the horse is due for its annual vaccinations make sure you ask your vet for a general examination covering the eyes, heart, respiratory and locomotion systems. Vets generally advise that it is better for

a horse to live out in the field as much as possible. Providing they are well rugged and have access to shelter, horses benefit greatly from being outside where they are able to move around. Movement helps keep their joints more flexible, helps to increase circulation and improves digestion and respiration.

Food Management

It is important to continue to match feed intake to work rate but you may find that your older horse requires a little more feed than a younger horse kept in similar conditions. Age invariably makes horses more susceptible to illness and injury but there are a number of products available to counter the negative effects of ageing. With advances in dental and veterinary diagnosis and treatment, readily available expert nutritional advice and now financial cover for illness and injury, there is no reason why the older horse cannot remain young at heart and provide years of pleasure and invaluable experience. For further information on Petplan Equine’s insurance for older horses please visit www.petplanequine.co.uk or call 0800 980 3905 or for more information about care for your horse visit www.yourstables.co.uk

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Complete version Localrider August 2010 issue  

Complete version Localrider August 2010 issue. Amongst many others this issue features reports and articles on: Hickstead Derby Report, Maki...

Complete version Localrider August 2010 issue  

Complete version Localrider August 2010 issue. Amongst many others this issue features reports and articles on: Hickstead Derby Report, Maki...