Senior Care at Horse Shows

Are there any special considerations I need to make when hauling, housing, and showing my healthy senior gelding?
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Senior Care at Horse Shows
Senior horses often get attached to their buddies. If this is the case, consider stalling him next to a familiar horse at the show, as this will help minimize stress and, in turn, help out the immune system. | Photo: Thinkstock
Q. My healthy senior gelding still goes to horse shows to give young riders good first experiences on a trustworthy mount. Are there any special considerations I need to make when hauling, housing, and showing him that are different than ones I make with younger horses? 

Shelley, via e-mail

A. I think it is wonderful for these senior horses to still have a job—it’s good for their mental and physical health. With this being said, don’t forget they are still senior, which means their immune systems are not functioning quite like they used to. So it’s critical to make sure your senior horse is up-to-date on all core and, perhaps, some of the risk-based vaccinations to help protect him when he’s out mingling with other horses. Practice good biosecurity, especially with these seniors, again because their immune system is likely not as robust as it used to be, and warding off infections that wouldn’t have posed problems when they were younger is now more challenging. So use your own water buckets, don’t let your horse nose other horses, and keep a close eye on him during the shows. Look for nasal discharge or coughing, and even consider taking his body temperature. 

When housing your horse at the show, again, if possible, minimize contact with other horses and make sure he has clean, fresh water at all times and a clean stall environment. Also make sure he’s on a good nutritional program, including quality forage, which is all-important in maintaining and supporting the immune system. These senior horses often get attached to their buddies. If this is the case, consider stalling him next to a familiar horse at the show, as this will help minimize stress and, in turn, help out the immune system

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Amanda A. Adams, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center. She’s authored 25 peer-reviewed scientific publications and presented her research at more than 40 national and international scientific meetings. Her research interests include the geriatric horse’s immune system; adiposity’s effects on horses’ inflammatory responses, particularly in EMS horses; and the mechanisms responsible for and pathways involved in EMS to identify potential treatments that target both the inflammatory and metabolic component of the disease.

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