What We’re Learning About Senior Horses

Improved equine preventative care techniques, and a better understanding of conditions in older horses, have led to significant expansion of this golden-age demographic.

A Handbook for Ranch Managers I’m betting that there are more than a few of you who have an old timer that is now “retired” and has earned his/her just rewards. You might want to take notes on this.   — jtl

What We're Learning About Senior Horses

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 Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual   If you’ve got an old-timer out in the field, you’re one of the millions of horse owners worldwide benefiting from improved equine preventive care techniques and a better understanding of conditions seen in older horses. These advancements, along with a heightened appreciation for the horse as a “family member,” have led to a significant expansion of this golden-age demographic.

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewYou’re also likely eager for fresh information on how to care for your equids over 20, hoping they will live as long as possible but with a good quality of life.

Researchers are responding to the call, focusing on aging equines’ particularities—metabolic and hormonal issues, tendon and muscle weaknesses, feeding and exercise regimens, and lung and airway diseases, to name a few. So what’s new and exciting in senior horse research? We turned to the individuals actively studying these horses to find out, and we’ve compiled a list of important senior horse studies conducted over the past year.

Combat Shooter's Handbook Reconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps Institute The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other MisfitsThe studies fall into three major categories: metabolic and endocrine disorders, soft tissue injuries, and probably the fastest-growing field of the relevent topics—“inflamm-aging.” Amanda Adams, PhD, of the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington, coined this term to describe the phenomenon of age-related inflammation throughout the body.

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2) The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3)Commenting on the studies are equine researchers Sarah Elzinga, a PhD candidate at Gluck under Adams’ direction, and Sanni Hansen, DVM, PhD, from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Large Animal Sciences, in Tåstrup, Denmark.

Metabolic and Endocrine Disorder Studies

Older horses are far more prone to developing metabolic conditions such as equine Cushing’s disease (also known as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, or PPID) than their younger counterparts, says Elzinga. As many as 20% of senior horses suffer from PPID, which can set off a long chain of other health problems. These horses can also suffer from hyperinsulinemia (when blood insulin concentrations rise above normal range), but whether it’s a sign or side effect of PPID is still unknown.

Because diet is the primary management tool for these diseases, researchers have been studying senior horse digestion and the role of a particular hormone in aging horses.

1. Senior horses digest just as well as younger adult horses

Researchers at Michigan State University, in East Lansing, and the WALTHAM Center for Pet Nutrition, in Leicestershire, U.K., evaluated how healthy stock-breed mares of varying ages digested nutrients. Each horse consumed one of three different diets over a six-week period, and the scientists investigated a large range of digestion parameters.

What they found Unlike humans, most horses maintain their ability to properly digest nutrients deep into their senior years.

Why this study is important Many owners find feeding older horses challenging, especially those that tend to lose or gain weight too easily. Understanding digestibility in senior equids can help us establish a proper diet for this population. “A lot of older horses have compounding problems that might mean they need some changes in diet,” says Elzinga, who was the lead researcher on this study. “But if they’re healthy, they can just keep eating whatever other adult horses are eating.”

Story continues in the September 2015 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. Subscribe now and get an immediate download of the September issue to learn more about recent studies on soft tissue injuries and inflamm-aging.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor’s in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.


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Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference ManualPlanned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual. This is the ideal squeal to A Handbook for Ranch Managers.  Although the ecological principles remain the same, what was originally known as “The Savory Grazing Method” now answers to a multitude of different names: ranching for profit, holistic management, managed grazing, mob grazing, management intensive grazing, etc. Land & Livestock International, Inc. uses “Restoration Grazing” under its “Managing the Ranch as a Business” program.” No mater what you call it, this summary and synopsis will guide you step by step through the process and teach you how to use it as it was originally intended. No more excuses for failing to complete your grazing plans.

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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