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Springtime Health Risks for Older Horses: Tips for Prevention and Treatment

Springtime is a beautiful season for horse owners and their equine companions, but it can also bring about health risks for older horses. As horses age, their immune systems weaken, and they become more susceptible to various health conditions. In this blog post, we'll explore some of the most common springtime health risks for older horses and provide tips for prevention and treatment!


Spring Veterinary Appointment

The easiest way to prevent or detect issues with your older horse is to schedule a spring veterinary appointment. This is an excellent idea at the beginning of any season, as it ensures your horse is appropriately transitioning as conditions change. During this appointment, your veterinarian should cover all basic wellness assessments such as vaccinations, dental and mouth exams, hoof checks, and necessary blood tests. Scheduling this appointment is a great way to get ahead of your horse’s health. However, there are other things to look for while moving into the warmer months!


Older horses may be more prone to developing allergies due to their weakened immune systems.

Allergies

Older horses may be more prone to developing allergies due to their weakened immune systems. Allergy symptoms include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and skin irritation. To prevent and manage springtime allergies in older horses, you can do the following:

  • Keep your horse's environment clean and dust-free

  • Limit your horse's exposure to allergens by keeping them inside during high pollen counts or on windy days

  • Use a fly mask or nose net to protect your horse from airborne allergens

  • Consult with your veterinarian about medications, such as antihistamines or corticosteroids, that can help manage allergy symptoms.


Lameness

Look out for signs of lameness, which is simply the change in your horse’s gait. Symptoms may include head bobbing, dragging a toe, standing imbalance, holding a foot up, and more. Lameness can develop for many reasons, but in older horses, it is typically due to arthritis or other age-related conditions. Changes in ground conditions, such as wet or uneven footing, can also increase the risk of lameness in older horses. To prevent and manage lameness in older horses, you can:

  • Regularly check your horse's hooves for signs of damage or wear

  • Avoid riding your horse on hard or uneven surfaces

  • Gradually increase your horse's exercise routine to prevent overexertion

  • Consult with your veterinarian about pain management options, such as joint supplements or medications


Digestive Issues

Older horses may be more prone to digestive issues due to age-related changes in their digestive system. In addition to their age, changes in diet and environment during the springtime can also cause digestive problems in older horses. Common digestive issues include colic, diarrhea, and impaction. To prevent and manage digestive issues in older horses, you can:

Older horses may be more prone to digestive issues due to age-related changes in their digestive system.

  • Gradually transition your horse to a new diet to prevent digestive upset

  • Provide plenty of fresh water and access to grazing

  • Monitor your horse's manure for signs of abnormality

  • Consult with your veterinarian about medications or supplements, such as probiotics or anti-inflammatories, that can help manage digestive issues


Parasites

As horses age, their immune systems weaken, causing them to be more prone to parasite infestations. Common equine parasites include worms, bots, and lice. As the weather continues to get warmer, be sure to look out for symptoms of a parasite infection – weight loss, colic, diarrhea or constipation, respiratory problems, and more. To prevent and manage parasite infestations in older horses, you can:

  • Develop a deworming schedule with your veterinarian that takes into account your horse's age, weight, and environment

  • Monitor your horse's manure for signs of parasite infestation

  • Use fly control measures, such as fly spray or fly sheets, to prevent bot flies from laying eggs on your horse.

Springtime is a wonderful season to enjoy, but it also comes with its own set of health risks for older horses. Taking preventative measures and consulting with your veterinarian can help keep your older horse healthy and happy during this time of year!


At Ryerss Farm, our business is caring for aged, abused, or injured horses, providing a home where they can spend their golden years out to pasture. The horses at Ryerss are never worked, go to auction, or are used for experiments. They simply spend their days grazing and enjoying life with their friends, as part of the herd. Visit our website to learn more about Ryerss and our available volunteer opportunities. Your efforts will be rewarded many times over by the joy and personal fulfillment that comes with knowing that you are making a difference and helping a cause that you consider worthwhile!

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