At Oak Haven Acres, we have a deep love for horses. Our business caters to the ones that are older and often more challenging to manage. They have health problems, and they don’t get around like they once did. However, their age and health don’t diminish their value. We must remember that these equines are the ones that once worked the farms, hauled people around in their youth, and they took so much without ever saying a word. They also tend to help babysit the younger ones in the pasture field, and they instill proper etiquette in them too. What would we do without the older generation of equines?
Limitations Don’t Mean Life Is Over
It never ceases to amaze me the people that feel when a horse is older, they should euthanize them. Just because they can no longer race in competitions or provide any hard labor doesn’t mean their worth is any less. To me, these horses are just as precious as people, and they deserve the same respect. Sometimes, we must step back and realize their age and limitations. It’s often hard for us to see them as anything other than perfect, but they certainly can feel the pangs of their elderly state.
I am continually telling people that age is not a disease. Just because a horse is older doesn’t mean a thing. They will have changes in their body, but their spirit is just as alive and well as it’s always been. I remind myself daily that I must be vigilant with their healthcare, but I must be careful not to jump at something that might be a physical change from age. What about those costly false alarms? Well, we’ve had a few here at the farm, but we learn and are thankful that we err on the side of caution rather than being lax in medical care.
Older horses go through physical changes, like achy bones and joints. They don’t get around as good as before. However, some physical changes are not age-related. We have a vet that is always close by and keeping a good eye on the horses. However, those who have a few equines at home might not have such access. What signs are cause for alarm in an older horse?
1. Weight Fluctuations
Weight is one thing that is naturally going to change. It’s normal for a horse to lose weight in the winter months because their bodies are burning more nutrients trying to stay warm. However, weight loss can be caused by other things too. If their teeth have worn down and are sore, then chewing might be complicated and painful. They may avoid eating if they are having dental problems too. Losing too much weight needs to be evaluated as a severe underlying illness can cause it, but I always remind myself never to assume the worst. Even my weight fluctuates, so some variance is normal.
2. Unsteady Gait
An older horse still should move a good bit. While they may be slower, they shouldn’t stop. They need to be up and active as much as possible. Even if you can’t ride them, you can walk with them. However, if you notice that the horse becomes unsteady in his gaits, and he has a hard time getting up, then you know something is wrong. It could be their terrible arthritis, but it could be many other things too. These are signs that need immediate medical attention.
3. A Case of The Sniffles
Did you know that equines can get a cold just like you? Their nose will run, and they might display other signs of sickness. You may not worry about the sniffles with a younger horse the way you should with an older one. The smallest of ailments will be harder for an old-timer to deal with. You want to make sure he doesn’t have something that can be spread to other pasture mates. You must intervene and get medical treatment quickly. The sooner you get him treatment, the better he will feel.
Not Letting Fears Overshadow Life
If I’ve learned anything in my decades of caring for these horses, it’s that the job is gratifying. I enjoy the simplest things with our equines. A horse can communicate with you more than what you would imagine. They love being close and spending quality time. It makes them feel like they still have a purpose.
I love grooming them and gazing at them basking in the rays of the golden sun. It fills my heart and makes me feel that everything I do is necessary. I frequently remind myself that I cannot allow these moments to be overshadowed by my worries about health and well-being. I must realize that with older horses, there will be some medical issues, and if something goes wrong, then I know that I will take care of it to the best of my ability. When I lose one of our precious horses, I am thankful for the time I got to spend with a good friend.