A retirement yard owner is urging owners to encourage movement in their veteran horses to enhance their health and wellbeing.

Stacy Harris of Strathaven Equine Retirement Village told Your Horse how she helps her elderly equine residents stay as active as possible, and shared the positive influence this has had on their lives.

Stacy said she spreads hay rations in haynets around the field to encourage movement, and includes natural undulations and trees on the land within the horses paddocks, rather than penning them in only flat, square areas. Trees provide shelter and horses seem to enjoy the vantage point from higher areas of ground. She also utilises grazing tracks and suggests putting hardcore down on areas of heavy traffic.

“Even if you have limited turnout but can sacrifice a small area and close your eyes to the mud, it will allow your horse to get out,” she said.

For the few horses who cannot enjoy full turnout due to medical conditions, Stacy has stables with small adjoining pens to allow them to be outside and socialise with other horses over the fence, or when possible, are turned out with grazing muzzles.

She said often people anthropomorphise their horses, and think they must come into a stable at night, when leaving them in the field could be more beneficial to their health.

Keep things consistent

Equine vet Nicola Kerbyson of Avondale Vets said older horses cope best when in a consistent routine centred around low grade but regular movement.

“This may be light work combined with turnout or field based retirement, but the lack of movement associated with box rest will often cause a dramatic increase in stiffness and discomfort,” she said. “Equally, a sudden burst of over exertion should be avoided in our golden oldies, such as that associated with an over exuberant field companion or a decision to pop around a course of jumps when the horse has done very little in the preceding months.

“We have many wonderful geriatric patients in our practice who are living their best life in retirement due to very dedicated owners who fully understand how to best manage their needs,” she added.

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