The average life span of a domestic horse is 20-30 years. This varies from breed to breed, and the horse’s personal history and current care also affect longevity.
Ponies tend to be longer-lived than horses and you can find some great schoolmasters among older ponies to be the perfect first horse for your child. Larger breeds, such as drafts, tend to have a shorter lifespan, though there are exceptions to this too.
Can a horse live to 40 years old? Yes! With good care, many horses will live well past the age of 30, regardless of breed.
Considering that a horse’s skeleton takes 6-8 years to fully grow, by making sure that your horse’s workload and diet is tailored to whatever phase of life she’s in, you’ll give her a long and healthy life. Some senior horses are even ridden or driven lightly to keep in good health.
Is a 20 year horse old?
While 20 isn’t young for a horse, neither is it old. A better understanding of animal care and advances in veterinary medicine have increased the lifespan of horses, just as it has for cats and dogs.
There are plenty of horses that are still ridden even after they turn 20, though they aren’t worked as hard as they were when younger. Horses do well having a job, so turning out a horse as a pasture pet just because they become a senior isn’t necessarily the best thing for their health.
While you should adjust exercise, diet and supplements to suit an older horse, there’s no reason a senior can’t be a source of great joy.
Telling the age of a horse can be tricky.
When you don’t have reliable identifying paperwork, like when horses have frequently changed owners, you can get an approximate age by examining the teeth of your horse.
But teeth aren’t an accurate way to determine age either, especially when a horse goes past her twenties.
And if a horse has lived a physically hard life, such as having been used harder than is ethical, this also wears down the body and ages a horse.
How old was the oldest horse?
Many horses have reached up to 50 years of age and even more. Pinpointing the oldest or longest-lived horse isn’t easy. Though many horses have registration papers stating when they were born, we don’t keep databases on a large enough scale to really know.
It could be that the owner of the oldest horse that ever lived simply hasn’t made their horse’s age public.
A veterinary scientist specialising in horses, Dr Bob Wright, listed several old horses in an article; a 66-year-old pony from Wales, a 54-year-old pony from France, a draft horse who lived to be 52 and a mare from Missouri that was 53 years old.
In the US, a Shetland pony named Ted E. Bear was commonly cited as the oldest pony in the country – in 2000, he was reportedly 58 years old.
Some equines hold Guinness Records for old age.
The Guinness Book Of World Records acknowledged the Irish-Draught cross, Shayne, as the oldest horse in the world in 2012. He was born in 1962 when horse passports were only issued for pure-breds and so, records are most likely incomplete. He was 51 when he died in 2013.
Sugar Puff, a Shetland-Exmoor cross, made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest pony in the world at age 56.
One other notable record-holder from Guinness is Arab horse Al Jabal, who was the oldest horse to win on the flat at age 19. He lived to be 21 years old, which is considerable for a racehorse – 20+ in itself isn’t uncommon for Arabs.
And long before Guinness, there was a horse named Old Billy. He was born in 1760 and lived until 1822 when his age was verified to be 62. His head is on display at the Manchester Museum where he continues to be celebrated as the oldest known horse.
How to make your horse live a long and healthy life.
With our increased knowledge of equine care, nutrition and medicine, as well as the rise of social media and better record-keeping, we’re likely to see the current records broken before long.
Many people report that with good care, their senior equines continue to live healthy, useful and fulfilling lives.
With attention to basic maintenance like senior feed, increased dental and hoof care, many horses remain sound into their old age and continue to be a joy to their owners even after being completely retired from ridden or driven work.
Some seniors can still give little kids their first rides and help young horses learn respect and horse manners.
Often a health complication will force a decision to euthanise or a horse may need to be put to sleep due to constant pain.
It’s always better to euthanise a horse that is in chronic pain than it is to keep on subjecting them to treatment they don’t understand. So long as a horse can live happily and pain-free, it’s a good retirement.
And a horse that has the right diet and is in good physical shape, and continues to get appropriate exercise, has a higher chance to live a long and healthy life.