Age: What’s in a Number?

I notice that many people looking for horses are very strict on what age horse they are looking for. Often, they are looking for a young horse, but I’d like to present a list of reasons why you should take a second look at the older horse.

So, are people’s reasons for wanting a younger horse?

1. An older horse might have lameness issues.

While arthritis is common in older horses, injury tends to lead to a great deal of arthritis as well and generally arthritis associated with old age is quite manageable with medications or injections. In fact, my first horse remained rideable without any medications until age 29 or 30.

Laminitis associated with Cushings is also often a concern for many people, but with appropriate diet, this is often easily managed.

2. I want to (or my child to) be able to grow with my/their horse

Not that I don’t believe in growing and having a strong connection with your horse, but this isn’t always the best option. Generally young horses are inexperienced and green. Green on green generally leads to disaster. You want a horse that brings out the best in you or your child, a horse that makes you learn and improve, but also one that doesn’t steal your confidence.

3. I don’t want to (or my child to) have to experience the loss of my/their horse.

First, I would say research your horse breeds as, like with dog breeds, they all have different life expectancies. My first horse passed at age 31. Passing her up because she was 19 would have meant that we would have miss out on all those fantastic years with her and all the things she taught us. Not to mention that by the time she passed I had already had two other horses – kids grow fast, so if you buy a 20 year old mini, they will long since have outgrown them before it’s their time.

4. An older horse won’t have the energy to compete.

Well, first I’d say this just isn’t true. Older horses can still have spunk- it’s all about finding the right older horse. The ARE however generally a lot more experienced and sane – just what most of us are looking for.

5. An older horse might have dietary restrictions.

Most of the time these restrictions are no big deal. Is wetting your horse’s grain really that time intensive? No. Is feeding your horse a hay only diet that complicated? No, not really.

6. Older horses cost too much in maintenance.

Well, first the difference in purchase price to begin with could offset a great deal of any additional costs. Second, in reality, the majority of all horse owners are going to give their horses some kind of additional supplement anyway, so wouldn’t you rather horse actually need the supplement rather than just waste your money?

Understandably, if you’re looking to be really hard on a horse and participate in particularly strenuous activities, you may want to go for a younger horse and you do also want to consider any horse’s past, but if you’re just starting out, don’t hesitate to consider a been there done that old champ.

Photo credit to Jenny Irish

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