How Old is Too Old To Ride a Horse?

Last Updated on December 8, 2022

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 help determine 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.


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.

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. Understanding 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 behavior change 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 fewer 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

Many things can be done to preserve or maintain your senior horse 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


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 do other things that standard grains do not.

Different supplements 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 brands would be best for your horse.


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.  


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.  They need to move as much as possible for their joints, muscles, and digestive systems to stay healthy.

How Old Do Domestic Horses Live?

Domestic horses live for much longer than their wild counterparts, and many horses will live for 25 years or more. This is a very long lifespan compared to many other domesticated animals.

However, even though horses can live for a long time, they tend to retire from ridden work for the last few years of their life. It is common for horses to be retired or start to slow down their ridden activities at between 15 and 20 years of age. This is normally because older horses start to suffer from age-related conditions such as arthritis.

How old is the oldest quarter horse?

Most horses live for around 25 years, but there is one famous quarter horse that lived for twice as long as this! The oldest quarter horse on record was called Calypso, from the Gold Coast in Australia. He celebrated his 50th birthday with a party on 1st August 2019 but sadly passed away a few months after this.

Quarter horses regularly exceed the average lifespan of a horse, and many continue working into their teenage years. These robust, athletic horses are less prone to health problems than some other breeds, which may explain their longer lifespan.

How old is a 30-year-old horse in human years?

A 30-year-old horse is considered to be in the geriatric phase of its life. The age of a horse in years does not exactly follow the same path as humans, as they age at different rates. The juvenile phase passes far quicker in horses than it does in humans, but once a horse reaches maturity it is estimated that one horse year is equal to around 2.5 years.

This means that a 30-year-old horse is considered to be 85.5 in human years – that is an impressive age! At this age, most horses are enjoying a long, leisurely retirement, and will no longer be used for ridden work.

How old do racing horses live?

The average lifespan of a racing Thoroughbred horse is the same as other domesticated horses, 25 to 30 years. However, the actual working life of many racing horses is relatively short, and they often only race until they are around eight years old. Horses that do not show potential on the racetrack may only race two or three times before being retired from the sport.

This can be quite problematic for racehorse trainers and breeders, as there can then be a surplus of racing horses that are no longer used for racing. Most reputable trainers will attempt to rehome these horses, who often go on to participate in other equestrian sports. In some countries, there are schemes dedicated to the retraining of racehorses, who then go on to compete in specialist events.

How Old is a Juvenile Horse?

The term juvenile is defined as someone who is not yet old enough to be regarded as an adult – so, in the case of humans, this would be a child or youth. But how old would a juvenile horse be?

Unfortunately, you will come across many different answers to this question! In horse terminology, a horse is considered to be an adult at 4 years old, so a juvenile would be 3 years and under. In terms of developmental changes, horses do not fully physically and mentally mature until much later than this, and large breed horses are not fully mature until they are around 7 or 8 years old.

There is another definition of a juvenile horse which is used in horse racing circles. Juvenile races are run for horses that have just started in horse racing. These horses may be as young as two or three years old. Due to the way that the age of horses is recorded, this can mean that a horse running a juvenile race may be as young as just over one year old.

How to ride a 4-year-old horse?

Although many horses are broken to ride at 3 or 4 years old, at this stage they are not fully physically or mentally mature. This must be taken into consideration when riding a 4-year-old horse, and any riding activities should be adapted accordingly. Young horses are normally only ridden by experienced riders, as a novice rider may lack the confidence to train a newly broken horse.

In the early years of a horse’s ridden life, training sessions should be kept short, and care must be taken to ensure they are not too physically or mentally demanding. Each horse develops at its own pace but will need guidance from its trainer at each stage of the journey. Clear signals and boundaries will help the horse to feel secure and confident in its ridden work.

How old are racehorses when they start racing?

Race horses start ridden work at a much younger age than other ridden horses, and some race horses will run their first race when they are just under two years old. This is somewhat controversial, as at this age the horse is not physically mature and is far more prone to injury.

The reason why racehorses start racing at such a young age is that they have a very short career. Most racehorses reach the peak of their performance at five years of age, and after this many are retired from racing.


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!


What's the oldest horse to live?

The oldest horse to ever live was known as "Old Billy". Old Billy was born in 1760 and lived on until November 27th, 1822, when he died at the age of 62. He spent most of his life as a working barge horse on the canals of England.
Old Billy was owned by Edward Robinson of Woolston, Leicester, England. At the time of his death, Old Billy was said to be completely blind and deaf, but could still walk around and eat on his own.
There are many theories as to why Old Billy was able to live so long. One theory is that he was never gelded, which allowed him to keep his energy levels high. Additionally, Old Billy was well-cared for and had access to quality food and clean water.
There have been other horses that have lived into their 50s, but Old Billy was the oldest one by far. It's amazing to think that he was able to live for over 60 years!

What is an average lifespan of a horse?

Horses, in general, have a lifespan of around 25-30 years. However, there are several factors that can affect a horse's lifespan.
Factors that can shorten a horse's lifespan include:
- Poor diet or malnutrition
- Lack of exercise
- Exposure to harmful environmental factors, such as pollutants or extreme weather conditions
- Injuries or health problems
- Infectious diseases
Factors that can lengthen a horse's lifespan include:
- Good diet and nutrition
- Regular exercise
- Proper care and maintenance
- Good living conditions
- Avoiding stress
- Vaccinations and preventive care
- Treatment for health problems when they occur

Can older horses be trained?

Yes, senior horses can be trained and taught new things although they might learn more slowly than younger equines.
For example: If you start training a senior horse that has never been ridden before at the age of 15 or 20, it will take longer for them to learn the same skills as a senior horse who has been ridden since the age of 5.
However, senior horses can still be trained and taught new things! While they may not learn as quickly as younger horses, senior horses are usually calm and willing to work. This often makes them a pleasure to ride or take care of. Additionally, senior horses tend to have a better understanding of their surroundings and are less likely to get scared or spooked.
If you're thinking about training an older horse, it's important to be patient and take things slow. Remember that senior horses have a lot of life experience to offer, so don't be discouraged if they don't learn as quickly as you'd like them to.

What health issues can arise from riding an old horse?

There are a few health issues that can arise from riding an old horse. These include:
- Joint problems, such as arthritis
- Back problems
- Muscle fatigue
- Loss of coordination
When riding an older horse, it's important to be aware of these potential health issues and take precautions to avoid them. For example, if your senior horse is starting to show signs of arthritis, you may want to avoid doing strenuous activities such as jumping or galloping.
Similarly, if your senior horse has back problems, you'll need to be careful not to put too much strain on their back. Make sure you always use a saddle that is properly fitted and adjust stirrup lengths appropriately. Also, never try to force senior horses into a gait that they aren't comfortable with or it may cause back pain and discomfort. If you see your senior horse getting tired easily when out for a ride, consider slowing down the pace until their stamina improves. A senior horse that tires easily is at risk of injuring itself, so it's important to be aware of the signs and take appropriate precautions.