More and more horses are staying active into their golden years, but just because a horse is young-at-heart doesn’t mean his body is just as fresh. Fortunately, researchers are on the hunt for ways we can help keep geriatric horses’ bodies up to par.
At the University of Kentucky Equine Showcase, held Jan. 23 in Lexington, Amanda Adams, PhD, assistant research professor at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center, reviewed recent research on vaccinations, deworming programs, and feeding regimens for senior horses.
Adams said that recent study results have shown that 7-15% of the U.S. horse population is 20 years or older, while 29% of the United Kingdom’s equine populations is 15 years or older—that’s a lot of old horses. But, unfortunately, a horse’s lifespan doesn’t necessarily equate to his "healthspan," she said, noting that old horses’ immune responses generally start diminishing around 20 years of age.
Adams explained that as horses age, they experience a decline in immune function (known as immunosenescence) and an increase in inflammatory cytokines production resulting in chronic, low grade inflammation (known as inflamm-aging) that can contribute to age-related diseases and conditions. So, it’s important for owners and veterinarians to work together to ensure senior horses age "gracefully," she said.
Three ways to counteract these challenges are through vaccination, deworming, and nutrition, Adams said. These are areas in which she’s also carried out research to evaluate old horses’ responses. She shared those result with at