Accelerated Aging in Horses


Horses in the wild live about 15-20 years. But with better horse care, it is now common for horses to live an additional decade. We know that as humans, there are things that shorten our healthspan and lifespan. The same is true of horses. This is the first in a series of newsletters that will address the aging process of our equine partners.


Comparing our horses to horses in the wild:

There are multitudes of articles written about comparing our horses to wild horses. Most of those articles are extolling the virtues of life as a wild horse, espousing that as the ultimate goal of horse husbandry. Horses in the wild live about 10 years less than horses that are kept and cared for. Knowing this, how can I adopt better practices that will keep my horse as healthy as possible for as long as possible?

Aging gracefully

One of the main areas of interest in the aging horse is how to keep your horse as healthy as possible, for as long as possible. To do this, let’s look at some of the factors that cause debilitation upon aging.

Pathogen control:

Many horses have had exposure to EPM, Lyme disease, filariasis, and other diseases or parasites. Many veterinarians will tell you that once the horse is exposed, they get over it and that the antibodies they create will be protective against future exposures. This may not always be true, as there are many horses that continue to have a low-level inflammatory response to bacteria, protozoa, and molds. This low level inflammatory response may cause a horse to show signs of premature aging.


Once your horse is debilitated from a low-level chronic condition, he may need additional nutritional support for better health. Bioflavonoids or other supplements may be beneficial for their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Examples of these include Mov-Ease, quercetin, or Equine Lyme Support.

Reduction of hormones:

As horses age, the reduction of hormones causes unique challenges. A whole host of hormones are reduced, such as growth hormone and sex hormones. These losses cause many age-related changes, including muscle loss, decreased energy, fatigue on exertion, and lethargy.


While there is no cure, there are a number of things that you can do to help the horse’s well-being. First would be to test to see if the horse has Cushing’s Disease (PPID). If so, the PPID would need to be treated, or any supplemental support may not be as effective as you hope.

The next step would be to consider supplements that support healthy mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell). These include acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR), CoQ10, or resveratrol, among others.


Many young horses don’t have a significant issue with environmental allergens, but as the horse ages, pollens, dust, and molds can wreak havoc on your horse. If your horse is stabled, bedding dust and molds can affect the inflammatory response to environmental air quality.


It’s hard to control the air quality, but there are things you can do to improve the air quality. If your horse is stabled, reduce the dust levels in the barn by hosing down the dust that accumulates in the rafters. Use a low-dust bedding when possible, or wet down the bedding in the summer to help the dust settle. Rinse the hay, if you can. If the hay is obviously moldy, throw it out. Supplementation with spirulina, quercetin, or n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) may also be helpful.

Heavy metal toxins:

A major source of heavy metals has come from fertilizers. While this has improved field yields, it also has increased the heavy metals that fuel an inflammatory response in the horse.

Solution: If we have the ability to dictate the fertilizers, the first step would be to avoid biosolids when possible. The sewage sludge frequently has concentrated levels of heavy metals and “forever chemicals”.  If we don’t have the ability to have a say in the fertilizers, the next best strategy would be to balance the diet with supplements that compete with the heavy metals. Balancing your hay is the easiest way to do this, ensuring that you have appropriate calcium-magnesium ratios, as well as iron-zinc-manganese-copper ratios.

We want to take care of our horses the best we can as they age. It’s important to realize that horses have age-related declines, just like we do.

Disclaimer: Statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.


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