How many horses live - what determines life expectancy and how to determine age
Many people in childhood wanted to have a horse or a pony as a pet: beautiful, smart, strong and graceful animals are the standard of freedom and speed. In this article, we will examine in more detail how long horses have lived in the wild and in domestic content, what factors affect their life expectancy.
How many years on average does a horse live?
The lifespan of these animals depends on the conditions in which they live from birth to old age. For example, in the wild, an old horse is doomed to die quickly, and an animal of the same age will live an additional 8 or 10 years in domestic housing.Mares reach puberty at 12–18 months, stallions at 12–20 months. A mare wears a fetus for 11 months, then a small foal appears, which immediately after birth rises on its legs and begins to drink mother's milk. This is important, because otherwise newborn foals in the natural environment can quickly become prey of predators. The horse's body weight, depending on the breed, varies from 90 kg to 1200 kg.
Did you know? Horses are exclusively herbivores and eat mainly herbs (leaves, tree branches) and cereals. Due to the solid silicic acid contained in these plants, the horse’s mouth is equipped with strong chewing teeth that are difficult to erase during chewing.
Living under a roof, having access to a range, good food and clean drinking water, a horse has every chance of living longer and is better preserved in old age than its wild relative.On average, large breeds of horses in domestic maintenance survive to 25-30 years, but this does not mean that they can not live longer. For example, ponies, although rare, survive to the age of 50, and the oldest documented documented age of a heavy horse is 62 years.
Did you know? The world's most expensive pacer was the Nihileitor stallion, sold in 1984 by Wall Street stud farm, on which he was raised, for more than $ 19 million.
In wild nature
In the natural environment, without the guardianship of a person, subject to a constant threat of attack by predators, without a warm shelter during bad weather, horses live no more than 25-30 years. Young and old animals are at particular risk: small foals can be dragged away by wolves, and predators beat old and weakened horses away from the main herd, after which they attack and kill them.
Factors Affecting Life Span
The lifespan of horses depends on many factors - this includes:
- warm stable (preferably with a separate stall);
- pasture with good forbs;
- regular veterinary examination (vaccinations, deworming);
- good nutrition;
- a sufficient amount of physical activity (trotting, galloping);
- contact with relatives;
- attachment of the owner to the horse.
Did you know? The horse's ears can express his mood. When they are laid back and pressed to the head, the animal is aggressive. Raised up is a sign of interest. Turning around, animals show interest in what happens behind their croup. Equine mood is also reflected in the movements of the tail, neck, trunk and legs.
Conditions of detention and care
In order for the four-legged pet to live long, he needs to create acceptable living conditions: take care of the warm stable, the healthy condition of the teeth and hooves, provide for timely examinations of the animal by the veterinarian, as well as rid him of parasites and be vaccinated against diseases in time.
Horsehide does not protect artiodactyls from rains and frosts, so animals need a roof over their heads. The stable should be high and spacious enough for animals to be comfortable. The walls of the room should not have gaps and let the wind pass, and the roof should reliably protect the herd from snow and rain. The temperature in the stable should not fall below +5 ... + 10 ° C: freezing of drinking water in the winter is not allowed.The stable is divided into separate stalls for each horse or all animals live in a common room, provided that its volume is quite large.
Horse Teeth Care
Dental problems can have far-reaching consequences for the horse's health: failure to chew food properly can lead to malnutrition, weight loss, and colic. If the owner of the horse wants to help his pet, then as he ages, it is necessary to pay more attention to his teeth. Bad teeth can lead to a whole bunch of problems in any animal, especially in old age.
Did you know? If necessary, some breeds can do without water for quite some time. After such “water starvation” animals are able to drink up to 30 liters of water in a very short time. This property served as the basis for the proverb “drink like a horse”.
When a horse chews grain and grass, his teeth constantly wear out. By the age of twenty, teeth can wear by almost a third of their original length. This wear is not always even - for individual teeth sharp peaks can develop, and molars (sixth, seventh and eighth teeth of a constant row) can be displaced, which makes chewing painful or not possible for an elderly animal.
Poorly chewed food leads ungulates to colic, as too large pieces of food pass through the esophagus and gastrointestinal tract, designed to process much smaller pieces. In very advanced cases, old horses may not be able to chew on hay in order to be able to swallow it. Even if swallowed, poorly chewed food cannot be digested optimally.Veterinary dental care consists of annual examinations and grinding of teeth to smooth out uneven wear. Regular dental examinations are very important, neglect of this procedure can lead to such a serious dental disease that the situation cannot be corrected.
A comprehensive parasite control program, begun when the animal was still young, is critical to long-term health. Damage from parasites is cumulative, that is, for many years in the gastrointestinal tract scars develop in places where the worms attached to the tissues, thereby narrowing the intestinal patency. The prolonged presence of parasites in a living organism will necessarily lead to serious health problems, including possible fatal colic.
Important! With age, old animals descend lower and lower in the hierarchical order of the herd. Younger and stronger horses may interfere with their access to the stable, feed or water. In this case, the owner of the old animal must take action and transfer it to a herd with older or friendlier horses.
Modern medicines for deworming are so effective that a new parasitic threat has developed: a sense of complacency among pet owners. Since the prevalence of parasites today is not as great as dozens of years ago, some horse owners are sure that constant treatment for worms is not necessary.Regular deworming is important for animals of any age, especially for older or very old horses.Even subclinical manifestations of parasites - those that are not visible in obvious signs, such as colic, can painlessly affect the immune system of older horses, and also prevent food from being absorbed, depriving the worn-out body of the necessary support.
Regarding which antihelminthic drugs and the schedule of their intake are best for a particular horse, only an observing animal veterinarian can give recommendations.
Important! The owner must pay attention to the fact that with age the needs of the horse change. In older horses, problems with the digestive system and tooth wear occur and are constantly intensifying, as a result of which less and less certain nutrients, such as phosphorus and protein, are needed for building bones and tissues.
Horse hooves should be trimmed every six to eight weeks, especially for animals whose hoof tissue does not receive sufficient natural wear. Despite tradition, most ungulates do not need horseshoes if their hooves are given the opportunity to wear naturally. In addition, some problems and diseases of hooves are directly related to how horses are savvy.
Normal daily walks in the fresh air contribute to the long-term health of the horse, both young and old. Having the opportunity to walk promotes long-term mobility, keeping the muscles in good shape and contributing to the flexibility of the joints. Young stallions need to stretch their muscles and joints while running, as well as lose the accumulated energy, so they are walked twice a day on the cord. The nature of horses requires constant movement, and this does not change with age, but it becomes even more important.
Did you know? All American wild and tamed Native American horses descended from feral individuals brought by the Spanish conquerors across the sea during the conquest in the 16th century.
The situation with old horses is a bit different - some caring owners of elderly animals believe that if a horse is difficult to move due to arthritis or old age, he will feel best in the peace and quiet of the stall. This is wrong - if you limit the activity of the animal, then it becomes weaker every day.
The benefits of a walk:
- Walking strengthens the health of the respiratory tract and develops lungs, especially important for old trotters.
- Regular walks can even reduce the likelihood of colic in the elderly horse, as it increases intestinal mobility and helps the animal to graze in the pasture.
Regular visits to the veterinarian
If the vet examines the horse only when something went wrong, the long-term health of the animal is at risk. By observing the animal every six months, the doctor will be able to notice the early signs of a developing disease. After the examination, the veterinarian will recommend the necessary diet, determine the timing and schedule of deworming and vaccination.
The horse’s needs, regardless of his age, largely depend on his lifestyle. Young growing horses require more vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients than middle-aged animals, and active athletes need more food that provides energy. A horse can find everything necessary for good nutrition in good quality hay, solid succulent feed (beets, carrots, raw potatoes) and feed additives containing vitamins and minerals.
Did you know? The longest-maned stallion responded to the nickname Dino and lived in the UK: the length of his magnificent mane reached threeyoh meters and forty centimeters.
The calories, vitamins and minerals provided by the horse's daily diet are its life support system. Food supports the basic functions of the body, nutrients contribute to the health of the immune system, which protects the horse from disease.A horse that has eaten fully throughout its life and in adulthood will almost certainly be healthier and live longer than its congener who is chronically undernourished.
Traditional horse feed:
- well-dried hay from young herbs;
- fresh grass (clover, timothy);
- solid succulent feed (beets, carrots, raw potatoes, sweet potato);
- clean water for drinking;
- beet pulp (fermented food);
- natural minerals (salt, chalk);
- cereals (oats, barley).
Things to avoid:
- Any changes in the horse's diet should be introduced gradually in order to avoid the occurrence of colic (abdominal pain, usually associated with intestinal disease) or laminitis (painful inflammation in the hoof tissue).
- Horses abruptly transferred from grains to pasture grazing are at risk of illness.
- If you have to travel with a horse, you need to take with you the usual animal food. Some animals may also need the water they are used to.
For older animals
An old horse with problems using hay or grass can be converted to feed beetroot, which contains only 10% fiber. Before feeding, the vegetable is ground on a fine grater: such food is easy to chew and digest.
There are special feeds for feeding older horses on sale - their protein, fiber and fat contents are slightly higher than in standard ones. Such feeds often undergo additional processing (extrusion), which facilitates their digestion.
For the life span of a horse, not only the breed and its genetic heritage are important, but also the conditions in which the animal lives or works. If the horse works "for wear", neither additional nutrition nor good care will help - the animal will die quite early.
- The thoroughbred horses live the longest, since their price requires people to take care of the animal (excellent food, care and supervision of a veterinarian). Arabian horses or Akhal-Teke horses can live longer than other breeds for almost a decade.
- Also known centenarians in the horse world are little ponies. These strong babies with a balanced character live up to 40, and in some cases (with very good care), and up to 50 years.
- Domestic horses of draft and working breeds with a measured lifestyle and reasonable loads live 25-30 years.
- Sporting racehorses live the least, since the loads on the joints of the legs and the cardiovascular system of the animal are very large, and the schedule of performances is intense.
Various activities are associated with horses:
- Sport - horses compete in the following disciplines: horse racing (running for a while), jumping over obstacles, horseback riding (the horse must be able to walk with a walking step, trot, gallop). Riding is the most fashionable sport, it is not only a horseback ride, but also close communication with the horse.
- Mounted Police - In some countries, horses serve in law enforcement in tandem with a policeman.
- Field work - In the villages horses are still used for field work and as draft animals.
- Hippotherapy - treatment by communication with the horse, it is well reflected in the mental state of the disabled. With the help of hippotherapy, classes are held with autistic children.
- Pedigree breeding - thoroughbred horses and mares left for posterity.
- For meat - some horses are slaughtered.
How to determine the age of the horse?
Horses have traditionally used teeth to evaluate a horse’s age:
- The age of a very young horse is determined by which teeth are present in the mouth and which are lost.
- The age of adult animals is determined by tooth wear - this method gives a fairly accurate estimate only up to nine or ten years.
- Appear shortly after birth. Sometimes two front teeth (above and below) are already present at birth. These temporary baby teeth are smaller, whiter and smoother than the permanent teeth, and also have a slight indentation on the gum line.
- In the foal, the central incisors in front and the first set of premolars (chewing teeth) first appear in the mouth. By the end of the second week of life, the following two sets of premolars appear. The second set of incisors usually appears at 4-6 weeks, and the third set (angular teeth) - between the 6th and 9th months of life.
- A one-year-old foal usually has all 12 temporary incisors (six from above, six from below) and 12 permanent premolars. He also has four permanent molars located on the jaw farther behind the premolars.
- All temporary incisors are already present at the age of two. At the age of five, all permanent incisors already exist or are in the process of growth. At the age of two to five years, temporary teeth are replaced, and some permanent teeth break out of the gums or grow to the level of others. But at both ages (2 to 5 years), the mouth is a good indicator of age. The only visible difference is that the 2-year-old foal has temporary teeth, and the 5-year-old horses have only permanent teeth.
- The foal’s milk teeth fall out in the order in which they are pushed out by the permanent teeth growing beneath them. Sometimes a children's tooth does not fall out, delaying the appearance of a permanent tooth in the jawbone and thereby causing an increase in the lower jaw. These "jaw teeth" are found in horses aged 2 to 4 years. When the milk tooth is finally removed surgically or falls out by itself, the permanent tooth breaks out of the jaw trap, and the seal on the jaw disappears.
- The first permanent molars appear in the back of the jaw of a foal aged 9 to 12 months. The second set replaces all children's teeth at the age of 2.5 years.
- Permanent teeth replace temporary teeth at about the age of 3 years. Permanent incisors push out baby teeth after about three and a half years and fully grow up to 4 years.
- Angular incisors appear around the age of four and a half years and completely wear out by the age of five, after which the young horse has a complete set of 24 permanent chewing teeth.
- At the age of four and a half years, all children's teeth will be replaced by permanent ones. By this time, the horse will have at least 36 teeth: 12 incisors and 24 chewing teeth. Also, an animal can have four fangs and up to four “wolf teeth”.
- Fangs appear behind the incisors at about 4 years old, although not all horses have them, they are most often found in males.
- Many trotters have another set of premolars called “wolf teeth” located between the cheek and a number of teeth. This usually occurs between the ages of five and six months, these teeth are small in size, with short roots. For some horses, they do not appear until two years, or never appear at all. It is advisable to remove “wolf teeth” before the horse starts training, as they cause discomfort in the oral cavity.
Determining the age of an adult horse:
- After the horse reaches five years old, the only way to correctly determine the age is to take into account the wear, shape and inclination of the incisors, as well as the Galvain channel, which by this age appears in the upper corner incisors.
- The young horse has recesses in the form of a small crater in the center of the grinding surface of the tooth. The crater is usually darker than the rest of the surface; an enamel ring surrounds it. When the tooth wears out, the craters gradually disappear. In the lower incisors, the crater disappears from the center of the tooth at about the age of about six years, from the corner incisors by the age of eight.
- Craters in the upper incisors disappear a little later: in the central incisors by 9 years, following them - by 10 years, in the corners by 11 years. Then the horse's teeth become smooth. These changes occur gradually and not always the same for each horse, since tooth wear can vary depending on the horse's diet. Ungulates that feed on grass wear out their teeth faster than their relatives, who eat hay, grain, and animal feed.
- Ridges on the surface of the upper and lower incisors begin to form after ten years of a horse's life, then the same happens on the corner and middle teeth. At the corner incisors, ridges appear at the time when the animal's age varies from 14 to 16 years.
- When a horse gets older, its teeth change shape. Initially, permanent teeth have an oval surface, by 12 years of life, the surface of the central incisors becomes round. At the age of 17, all incisors already have round surfaces. By the age of 18, most incisors take a triangular shape, and by the age of 23, absolutely all incisors become triangular. After this age, the teeth again become oval.
- It is easy to catch the difference between an oval-coated tooth of a 7-year-old and an oval-shaped tooth of a 25-year-old horse. The teeth of the young horse are wide in front and narrower towards the end of the jaw. The teeth of the old horse are long and protruding all over the jaw, they are narrow and stagger from side to side. Seen from the side, the teeth of a young animal are shorter and straighter and are located almost at right angles. The teeth of the old animal are longer and protrude forward. The older the horse, the more its incisors are tilted forward, as a result, the upper and lower teeth converge at one point, like a bird's beak.
- Upper corner incisors develop hooks on the posterior surface, changing with age. The hook usually begins to appear at the age of 8–9 years and is well pronounced at the age of 12 years. If there is a hook on the corner of the tooth, the horse is clearly over seven years old. Over time, this hook begins to wear out due to a change in the angle of the incisors and various wear points; by the age of 16, the hook usually disappears.
- The gum line on the inside of the mouth also changes with age. In a young horse, it goes right above the teeth. At the older horse, the gum drops, making the gum line different in height (scallop effect) and exposing more than half of the tooth root. Also, the inside of the jaw becomes thinner as the horse ages.
Features to consider when determining age:
- The wear and length of the incisors may vary, so some skill may be required to study the teeth. Teeth of different breeds of horses can grow at different speeds, depending on genetics. Some individuals have diseased or crooked front teeth at an early age, often depending on nutrition and the environment.
- A horse that has been fed hay and grain all its life (rather than pinching grass) will show less wear on the front teeth, they will also be longer. A horse grazing on sandy soil can wear out its teeth faster due to the abrasiveness of the sand that enters the teeth with food. A six-year-old horse, feeding on grass growing on sandy soil, may look like an eight-year-old animal.
- A horse that chews on tree branches will wear out its incisors faster than usual. Dental work on smoothing uneven surfaces of teeth can also change their appearance, which further complicates the determination of age.
In the 19th century, a horse named Old Billy lived his life moving a barge along the river, and was retired (to farming) at the age of 59, and died at the age of 62.
In the XXI century, the mare named Sugar Fluff, who lived up to 57 years and died in 2007, was recognized as the oldest horse.
A pony stallion born in 1919 on a French farm lived for 54 years. This age is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the maximum life expectancy for a pony.
The needs of young and old horses are very similar. One of the key differences is that the older a horse becomes, the more time it takes for him to recover from an illness, injury, or parasite infection. That is why an older horse needs extra attention, even when everything seems to be going well. The benefits of this approach will become apparent after a while, with the expiration of each animal year lived.