How Old Is Too Old To Ride A Horse?

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Every owner wants their horses to be able to live out their golden years comfortably and happily.  But, it’s hard to know when the “golden years” should start. More specifically, it’s hard to know when your horse is too old to ride. So the question is, how old is too old to ride a horse? 

Communicating with and receiving regular visits from your vet are paramount in all practices regarding senior horses.  But, it is still helpful to know what some common signs and helpful practices are in determining when your horse is too old to ride. 

In this article, I will be discussing what age it is common to stop riding a horse, some common signs that it is time to stop riding a horse, and some practices that are helpful in determining when it is time to stop riding a horse.

How Old Is Too Old To Ride A Horse: Age a Horse Can Be Ridden

Most horses can be ridden for the majority of their lives.  Horses are typically started under saddle between 4 and 5 years old.  And, if all goes well, they should be able to be ridden until they’re in their upper twenties, sometimes 30’s.  

Of course, there are exceptions to this age range.  Some trainers choose to start their horses before they are 4 or 5 years old.  Some horses incur career-ending injuries before their twenties and have to be retired from riding early. However unlikely, accidents and medical conditions do occur which cause horses to be retired from riding earlier than usual.

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How Long Can You Ride A Horse

Accidents aside, the length of time that a horse can be ridden often depends on the intensity of training and riding it experiences throughout its lifetime.  For example, horses that jump at large heights in their younger years will typically have joint weakness and discomfort earlier in life than horses that jump at smaller heights until they mature.  

There are many different examples of this, but the bottom line is that a horse’s body, like a human’s body, can only take so much wear-and-tear.  If this is spaced out throughout a horse’s lifetime, they are likely to be able to handle it for longer.  If it occurs in high intensity for a short amount of time, they are likely to be physically worn down in a shorter period of time.

How Old Is Too Old To Ride A Horse

As Dr. Gray from SmartPak says in her video about when to retire senior horses, there is no magic number.  There is no magic number when it comes to when to retire your horses, and there is no magic number when it comes to when to stop riding your horse.  But, there are some common signs to watch out for that can help you make these decisions.

How Old Is Too Old To Ride A Horse: When To Retire

First and foremost, you must know your horse; what he likes, what he doesn’t like, what he is accustomed to, and what would be out of the ordinary for him.  Horses thrive on having a schedule and a routine, just like people do. Understand what your horse enjoys and what he is used to is a helpful tool in understanding when he no longer enjoys things.

How Old Is Too Old To Ride A Horse: Age a Horse Can Be Ridden

For example, maybe a senior horse always meets its owner at its stall door when it knows it’s time for a ride.  A change in behavior would be the horse remaining in the back corner of the stall, instead of meeting its owner.  This behavior could indicate that the horse no longer enjoys its job.

Little behaviors like this can only be known by people that work with specific horses.  But, the behaviors point to a shared characteristic- the horse no longer enjoys or finds interest in whatever job it has.  

Sometimes these behaviors don’t necessarily mean that a horse can no longer be ridden.  Depending on the situation, they can also mean that maybe a horse’s schedule or program needs to be changed.  This could involve riding less days a week, jumping a lower height,  or even stepping down from competition to be a trail horse.  

The decision to stop riding a horse due to age is a decision made between the horse, the owner, and the vet.  But, knowing your horse and keeping an eye out for changes in little behaviors and help you know when that time may be coming.

Helpful Practices

There are many things that can be done in order to preserve or maintain your senior horse in order to extend your riding years further into his life.  If these practices are maintained, there’s a better chance your horse won’t have to retire from riding as early as you might expect

Vet Checks

Always, always make sure your horse is having routine vet checks, even before he is considered a senior.  Vets can recommend many practices and products that can help preserve and maintain your horse. Vets will always know horse health better than we do, and it can extend a horse’s riding career if we listen to them and heed what they have to say.

How Old Is Too Old To Ride A Horse: When To Retire

Supplements/Feed

One thing that vets may recommend, especially for senior horses, is a change in feed or the use of certain supplements.  There are many different kinds of senior grains, from brands like Tribute, Triple Crown, and Nutrena.  These grains can help senior horses gain weight, combat ulcers, and other things that standard grains do not.

There are also different supplements that can help maintain senior horses.  Some of these include joint supplements, hoof-strengthening supplements, and coat-health supplements.  There are many varieties of these supplements, and your vet can recommend which types and which brands would be best for your horse.

Turnout

Especially with senior horses, never underestimate the value of turnout time.  Many people try to keep their senior horses inside more either because they believe the seniors are more fragile, or that they don’t have as much energy to burn off.  But, these are not good reasons to keep horses inside.  

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The more senior horses are allowed to move freely, the more comfortable they will be.  They may not gallop and buck and play like the horses in the 4-year-old pasture, but they will be moving and stretching.  It is important for them to move as much as possible for their joints, muscles, and digestive systems to stay healthy.

Conclusion

It can be very difficult to choose to stop riding your senior horse.  But, if you listen and pay close attention, your horse will tell you when it is time.  There is no magic number; it is all dependent on your horse’s physical and medical history, and how well they have been cared for and maintained.  I hope this article helped you better understand when it is time to stop riding your horse! Please share this article and share your experiences making decisions with senior horses in the comments!

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