Last Updated on April 7, 2023
Do you want to convert horse years to human years? Although there is a formula for this age comparison, it’s not as straightforward as you would think!
With a life span of around 30 years, it’s no secret horses have a much shorter life expectancy than humans. But how do you compare horse years to human years? The easiest way to do this is to think in terms of life stages rather than years, but you can also do a rough calculation on a year-by-year basis. Let’s find out more!
Comparing Horse Years to Human Years: Aging Rates
If you are looking for standard horse years to human years calculator, sadly you will not find one that is truly accurate! This is because the average lifespan of a horse cannot be truly compared to a human, as the life stages are significantly different.
The life stage that is most different in terms of comparison is the first period of the horse’s life. A young horse develops far faster than a human, and by six months of age can live independently from its mother. If we looked at a human baby at the equivalent stage it would still be completely dependent on its parents for survival!
This rapid infantile growth and development phase puts them far ahead of their human equivalents, but after this, the rate of growth slows significantly. So, once a horse reaches puberty, their age can be converted into human years much more accurately.
Convert Horse Years to Human Years: Age Equivalencies
If you wanted to make a standard comparison, the problem is that horse years vary from human years. So, although humans live approximately three times longer than horses, this does not mean that one horse year equals three human years.
The reason for this is that the first two years of a horse’s life are each equal to 6.5 human years. This means a one-year-old horse – a yearling – would be considered to be the equivalent of a 6.5-year-old human, whereas a 2-year-old horse would be 13 in human years.
After these first two years, the rate of development slows down, but it is still significantly faster than humans. During its third year in life, a horse ages the equivalent of 5 years in human years, meaning it is 18 ‘human’ years old when it reaches its third birthday.
If a horse continued to grow and age at the same rate, then one horse year would be equal to six human years. However, when the horse reaches adulthood the growth and development rate starts to slow significantly.
From the age of 4 onward, converting horse years to human years becomes a lot simpler. For adult horses, one year of life can be calculated as 2.5 years in human years. This continues right through adulthood into the geriatric years.
Here is a full comparison chart that converts horse years to human years throughout every stage of their life:
|Horse Age||Human Age|
How Do Horses Age?
Like humans, horses have development stages with distinguishable characteristics. However, like most mammals, the development rate is rapid during their younger years, enabling them to reach adulthood and physical maturity far faster than humans.
Let’s take a look at how horses physically develop and mature throughout the different stages of their lifespan:
Foals and yearlings
Foals and yearlings are the equivalents of a newborn baby through to a human aged 6.5 years old – that’s a lot of growth and development to fit into the first year of life! Just as toddlers learn about their limbs and bodies, newborn foals can be clumsy and silly as they learn about the world around them. They quickly become more independent and can learn basic survival skills at a young age.
Although a fun age, yearlings are very much like a 6.5-year-old human in their mannerisms, lack of advanced education, and energy levels! This life stage is when horses are at their most excitable and fun-loving, and also when they struggle to understand the behavioral standards that are expected of them.
A two-year-old horse is equivalent in age to a 13-year-old human- the teenage years! Like teenagers, two-year-olds can be awkward, and unruly, and start to push boundaries in terms of behavior.
Physically, a two-year-old horse has not reached maturity; their bodies are still growing and its bones are not yet fused. Some horses of this age start to do light physical work, however, for many, it is better to focus on handling and growth patterns. The growth patterns of two-year-old horses can leave them looking gangly or imbalanced, often with a rump that is higher than the forequarters.
When a horse is three years old it is approaching its full adult height and is the equivalent of 18 in human years. The physical appearance of the horse will be more like its adult form and far less gangly than a two-year-old, although not yet fully grown. At this age, many horses typically start being ridden, although the workload should still be relatively low.
Although three-year-old horses are much more physically developed, their bones have not yet fully matured and fused. This means that high-impact work such as jumping and fast work should be limited for a few more years to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury.
Age 5, equivalent to 24-25 in human years, is considered to be the age at which a horse reaches adult physical maturity. Some owners choose not to break their horses at this age when the bones are fused and the horse has stopped growing.
At this age, the horse will have juvenile tendencies and can be unpredictable, but they are normally quick to learn and easy to train. Horses intended for elite equestrian competitions are normally aged five years and upwards.
Between 13 and 15 years of age is considered “middle-aged” for horses, and mid-40s for humans. At this age, the horse will have reached peak physical performance and may have started to slow down as they enter the later stages of adulthood.
This age is particularly suitable for horses intended for children and novice riders. By this age, most horses have a good level of training and experience and have calmed down significantly. They still have many “usable” years left, but may have a reduced physical ability due to age-related health problems.
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, however, the age at which a horse retires from work is hugely variable as it depends on the physical condition of the animal and any other health problems.
During the senior years, horses experience metabolic changes and may require additional care or feeds. Like humans, horses need extra dental work when they age, and older horses (typically 25 years+) may need different types of feeds to compensate for the 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 indigestion changes.
The oldest living horse on record was called Old Billy, who lived to an incredible 62 years of age!
Some factors 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 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 these are 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!
Frequently Asked Questions
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 that 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 for 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.