EQUUS - - Longevity -

Even if he’s not over­weight, a horse who is out of shape isn’t likely to live as long as one who has been kept in good con­di­tion.

“Fit­ness ex­tends a horse’s life,” says Rachel Buch­holz, DVM, of North­west Equine Per­for­mance in Mulino, Ore­gon. “It helps to main­tain mus­cle mass and, there­fore, strength. And a horse is go­ing to need that strength as he ages to be able to move around eas­ily, ac­cess re­sources in a herd and even rise af­ter he lies down.”

Fit­ness is much eas­ier to main­tain than achieve, adds Buch­holz, which is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber well be­fore a horse grows old. “If a horse spends his mid­dle age years not do­ing much ac­tiv­ity, and then when he’s 17, some­one de­cides he needs to get fit, they are go­ing to have a much longer and po­ten­tially dif­fi­cult road than if that horse was al­ways kept in con­di­tion. Older, un­fit horses are more likely to in­jure them­selves and those in­juries can heal slower than in a younger horse. It’s far eas­ier to just keep him in shape than to try and bring him back.”

Of course, a horse who is very ac­tive is more likely to be in­jured than a pas­ture potato, but those risks can be man­aged to min­i­mize their ef­fects into his older years. “If you have a sig­nif­i­cant bone in­jury in a young horse, yes, that could lead to arthritic changes even af­ter it’s healed, which may be a man­age­ment is­sue through­out the horse’s life,” says Buch­holz. “But you can man­age that with sup­ple­ments, med­i­ca­tions and even var­i­ous joint in­jec­tions when the time is right.”

Soft tis­sue in­juries in an equine ath­lete may never fully heal, but they can

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