Wondering how long do horses live? Over the past few decades, the role of horses in our lives has changed dramatically, as has their life expectancy.
Horses have transitioned from being mainly used for labor to becoming companions and partners. As a result, our knowledge of their aging process has also evolved.
Due to improved care, horses now enjoy longer lifespans. Consequently, many horses continue to live and thrive long after they are capable of working or participating in competitions. With life expectancies of up to 25 or even 30 years, owning a horse requires a significant long-term commitment, both in terms of time and finances.
How long do horses live? Domestic versus wild
On average, domesticated horses have a life expectancy of around 25 to 30 years, whereas mustangs and other wild horses typically live for about 15 years.
The extended lifespan of domesticated horses can be attributed to the availability of veterinary care for treating illnesses and providing them with proper nutrition. In contrast, when a wild horse experiences conditions like arthritis or dental disease that cause a decrease in mobility or difficulty in eating, it becomes more challenging for them to keep pace with the herd.
Stages of Horse Development:
- Newborn (birth to weaning): These young horses rely heavily on their mothers for nourishment.
- Weaning (4 to 7 months): Foals are separated from their mothers and transition from milk to a diet of forage and grain.
- Youth (weaning up to 3 years): During this stage, horses experience active growth, which typically ceases by the age of three.
- Adult (3 years to 15 years): Horses reach their full size and athletic potential during this phase, generally considered the prime of their lives.
- Geriatric (15+ years): Beyond the age of 15, horses typically begin to slow down and require additional care and support to maintain their well-being.
There are no specific horse breeds associated with longer or shorter life expectancies. Similar to dogs, smaller breeds, including ponies, tend to have longer lifespans. It is not uncommon for ponies to live beyond the age of forty.
Why do some horses live longer than others?
We have learnt how long horses live – but do all of them?
There is no single factor that can be used to determine which horses live longer than others. It is likely that some horses live longer due to genetics, but this is not fully understood at the moment.
A good diet, exercise, hoof care, dental care and medical care significantly increase a horse’s chances of living a long and healthy life.
How to increase the life expectancy of your horse
There are various ways to support your aging horse and promote a long and healthy life for them.
Diet: Ensuring proper nutrition is crucial to maintaining your horse’s body condition. As horses age, their teeth become less efficient at chewing, requiring a transition from a primarily hay or grass-based diet to more easily digestible feed options.
Exercise: Gentle exercise for older horses can help prevent muscle loss and provide support for arthritic joints.
Environmental management: Older horses have a reduced ability to regulate their body temperature, so it’s important to keep them cool during summer and provide blankets for warmth during winter. Access to water and shelter should also be readily available.
Hoof care: Proper hoof care is essential for your horse’s overall comfort and well-being as they age. Some horses, even after retiring from competition, may still require shoeing, especially those with thin soles. Overgrown hooves can exacerbate arthritis-related discomfort.
Dental care: Regular dental care from an early age and throughout your horse’s life can help prevent dental infections and tooth loss as they age.
Veterinary care: Even in their senior years, older horses should receive regular vaccinations and check-ups from a veterinarian at least once a year. This helps identify and address any underlying conditions that may impact their health, such as PPID (Cushing’s disease) and arthritis.
It’s important to recognize that despite your best efforts, certain factors, such as colic and injuries, may still occur and are beyond your control, even with optimal care.