Last Updated on February 24, 2022
With a life span of around 30 years, it’s no secret horses have drastically different life spans than humans. But how do you compare horse years vs human years? Although there is a formula for the comparison, it’s not as straight forward as you would think.
Horse Years vs Human Years- Aging Rates
For this standard comparison, horse years vary from human years. Although not an exact science, this is an excellent way to compare the two species. The first two years of a horse’s life are equal to 6.5 human years. This means a yearling would be considered 6.5, whereas a 2-year-old would be considered 13 in human years.
However, after these first two years, the rate slows down. But as you may have guessed, it is still significantly faster than humans. The rate from 2 to 3-years-old is 5 years, making a 3-year-old horse equivalent to 18 in human years. After age 3, the average aging “rate” is approximately 2.5 years per human year. So, a 4-year-old horse is equivalent to a 20.5-year-old human, and a 5-year-old would be 23 in human years. This 2.5 year is the rate for the remainder of a horse’s life. Here is a comparison chart below:
|Horse Age||Human Age|
How Do Horses Age
Like humans, horses have development stages with distinguishable characteristics.
Foals and Yearlings
Foals and yearlings are the equivalents to a newborn through age 6.5 human. Just as toddlers learn about their limbs and bodies, yearlings can be clumsy and silly as they learn about the world around them. Although a fun age, they are very much like a 6.5-year-old human in their mannerisms, lack of advanced education, and energy levels.
Two-year-old horses are equivalent to 13 in human years. Like teenagers, two-year-olds can be awkward like many pubescent teens. Although they have more “education” at this point, their bodies are still growing and bones are not yet fused. This is when training can pick up in intensity and a horse’s personality really shines through. However, their growth patterns can leave two-year-olds looking gangly or imbalanced.
Age 3 for a horse, or 18 in human years, is when a horse typically starts getting “adult” tasks. You see more three-year-olds being ridden or broke, and this age is a good indication of what the horse will look like in the future. Although horses are not yet done growing for several years, this is a key age for a “young adult” horse, just as 18 is the equivalent in humans.
Age 5, equivalent to 24-25 in human years, is considered the state of physical maturity and an “adult” horse. Some owners choose not to break their horses until age 5-6 when bones are fused and the horse has stopped growing. This is when you see more mature features and horses are “filled out”, much like this age in adult humans.
This is considered “middle-aged” for horses, and mid-40s for humans. This is an excellent age for kids’ horses! By now most horses have their training, experience, and have calmed down significantly. They still have many “usable” years left!
Although a “senior” age can vary based on breed, genetic, and health factors, horses are typically considered seniors at age 20. This is equivalent to 60.5 in human years. During this time, horses experience metabolic changes and may require additional care or feeds. Like humans, horse teeth need extra work when they age, and older horses (typically 25 years+) may need easily consumed feeds for lack of teeth.
Elderly/Very Old Age
Age 30+ is considered extremely old for a horse. The human equivalent is 85.5 years! There are usually significant health problems at this age, including dental issues, arthritis, and changes indigestion.
There are some factors that affect aging. For example, health and nutrition play important roles in a horse’s development and the aging process. Size and breed can also impact how a horse ages. Ponies mature much quicker than standard-sized horses, but typically have longer lifespans! Care is also a big factor in how a horse ages.
Based on these chart approximations, how old are your horses? Although just estimates, it’s fun to think about the phases in our horses’ lives and compare them to our own. Save this article for future reference!
Have friends with horses? Be sure to share this article!
What’s the oldest horse to live?
Two horses made it to the Guinness world records: the greatest age reliably recorded for a horse is 62 years for Old Billy, born in 1760, and bred by Edward Robinson of Woolston, Lancashire, UK. Old Billy died on 27 November 1822.
The oldest recorded thoroughbred racehorse was the 42-year-old chestnut gelding Tango Duke, born in foaled 1935, and owned by Carmen J. Koper of Barongarook, Victoria, Australia. The horse died on 25 January 1978.
Today, the oldest racehorse still standing is War Front, a chestnut gelding who was born in 1987. He is owned by John and Marlena Brown of Halesworth, Suffolk, England.
Why do horses race at 3 years old?
3-year old racing horses are mature enough to compete in most disciplines, and the amount of speed they have is a good indication of how fast they’ll be as adults. At 4 years old, a horse has an average of.4 mph more speed than it did at 3 years old. It’s still too early to know how fast a horse will be as an adult, but the speed increase between 3 and 4 years old is indicative of the growth and development that will occur in the future.
The three-year-old limit is not without controversy, though. In England, the racing industry has long struggled with the problem of having too many horses enter the Derby, and the three-year-old limit is one of the ways it has tried to address this issue. Consequently, some modern racing organizations still maintain 3-year-old races, and some tracks continue to race 3-year-olds.
Is 30 years old for a horse?
Previously, horses were not expected to live beyond their 20s, but today many horses are living to 30 years or more.
The horse’s lifespan is determined by a variety of factors. A horse’s health and activity level are key factors in longevity. If a horse is healthy, lives an active lifestyle, and is well cared for, it is likely to live a long and healthy life. If a horse has no access to fresh air and exercise, and is not provided with adequate nutrition, it will be more prone to developing health problems.
Is 20 years old for a horse?
Horses are not considered “old” until they turn 20 because normally no signs of deteriorating aerobic ability can be seen before then. Indeed, many horses are still physically fit at 20. However, they may be slowing down physically, and is more likely to have more joint problems and tend to get injured more easily. When a horse reaches 20, his body is a little over half its maximum lifespan. It’s a lot like a human reaching middle age. However, it’s also possible that an older horse will not be able to compete at the same level he could when he was younger. Once the horse reaches 20 years it’s time to start thinking about his retirement. The retirement decision is a difficult one, but it’s important to consider the horse’s health and fitness before making a decision.
Equestrian, Marine Corps vet, and Morgan horse enthusiast.