From the Editor
WHEN BOB AVILA pulled Juarez Whiz out of the stall to photograph for this month’s Winning Insights on caring for the senior performance horse (page 36), I was puzzled. How was I going to tell Bob—expert on all things performance horse—that we couldn’t use a gelding that wasn’t any older than 8 in the senior photo shoot? I mean, yes, technically, in the arena, “JW” competes at the senior level—that is, horses age 6 and older. But he couldn’t be a senior, generally a horse over 15 years of age.
I searched for a tactful way to raise my question. Bob chooses each horse specifically for each topic during our annual shoot; but why would he pick a non-senior for this piece? Did I miscommunicate the topic? “Wow, Bob, he looks great,” I said, then stuttered, “how old did you say he is again?” “He’ll be 16,” Bob replied. My jaw hit the floor. No way was this shiny, fit, well-muscled, downright youthful gelding old enough to be a senior. But I should’ve known better. Not just because Bob knows his stuff, but because everything about senior horses, how we care for them, and the longevity of their lives is evolving.
The stereotype of the senior horse as the swaybacked pasture ornament has been, well, largely put out to pasture. Yes, there are retirees who enjoy R&R on acres of green grass and mosey from paddock to water tank, then take a nap. If your horse is ready for this life phase, you’ll want to turn to page 56 to read our step-by-step process for choosing an excellent retirement facility. There’s definitely a time in every horse’s life for that level of pampering, care, and rest.
But we consistently read and write about horses performing well into their teens…20s…and yes, sometimes even 30s. Take “Still Going Strong” from the July 2016 issue, which highlighted Bald N Shiney, then 22 years old, and his return to the show pen after his owners decided retirement just didn’t agree with the spry horse. Or “Seniors That Still Have It,” from last year’s senior issue, where we shared the stories of six horses, ages 17 to 28, that lead active lives as lesson mounts, trail companions, and show-pen winners.
Even in my own horse life, I never thought my kids would still be riding Old Paint into his third decade. But thanks to new ways of thinking and close attention to seniors’ needs—nutritionally, physically, and mentally—Old Paint and horses younger and older than he lead fulfilling, active lives. HOW CARE PLAYS A ROLE Cold, wet winter weather keeps Old Paint on my mind, and I’m sure you spend more time thinking about your senior horse’s care this time of year, too. We pay close attention to hair coats and ribs, check that their drinking water is warm enough, ensure that they’re eating, and manage blanketing as necessary. It’s all stuff we think about with our younger horses, but with a little more vigilance for our older equines.
On top of at-home maintenance, advances in feeds and veterinary care play pivotal roles in our horses’ longevity. Contributing veterinarian Barb Crabbe lists five of those senior-horse game-changers beginning on page 44.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR SUPER SENIOR
Our “Gallop Poll” (page 16) confirms our research that most of you own some pretty fantastic senior horses. We want to hear about them! Send us photos, share your stories, and tell us what you’re doing to take extra care of your senior mounts. We’ll share some of these letters and photos in upcoming issues. You can send them to the email address below.
Not all senior horse feeds are created equal. And no one knows that better than 31-year-old Boo. He was always an easy keeper. But at age 25, his dental condition had declined to the point that he no longer was getting the nutrients he needed out of his winter hay. He quickly dropped over 100 lbs. Fortunately, three months on Purina Equine Senior Horse Feed got him back to his original weight. Now, he’s still teaching of a proprietary prebiotic, ActivAge, to support his aging immune system. But don’t take our word for it. Let Boo do all the talking.
It’s true: 30 is the new 20! Thanks to major advances in senior-horse care, horses like Juarez Whiz (above) can live long, active lives.