When I compare the longevity of horses from my youth to the ones in my barn today, I realize the wonder of the advancements we’ve made in veterinary medicine and, especially, veterinary nutrition. The lives our equine friends are so extended that riding a horse into his mid 20s is pretty commonplace.
When I was a kid, we were lucky to have a horse make it to his early 20s without a devastating illness, whether it was navicular, colic, or something that either couldn’t be diagnosed or had no known treatment. Today, there’s virtually no limit to vet care, assuming you can afford it.
My mares are 20, 19, and 18 and look and act far younger. I feed optimal nutrition with individualized supplements. We restrict access to the lush field to help maintain proper weight and, when they’re in the barn, they have free access to the best hay we can find. (Amazingly, they only nibble on it, never cleaning it up.) We feed a pelleted senior feed, which they devour, and, of course, carrots. And we ride as often as possible, because we see that even maximum turnout isn’t enough.
I know that my own body tells me when I’ve been lazy and picked up too many pounds because my knees start to hurt. I figure it must be the same with horses. And because weight loss never comes easily with dieting alone, we schedule riding, i.e. exercise.
Yes, it’s an effort to make this happen, and I know I’m not alone in that. I’m astounded by the number of times I’ve read a veterinary article telling us our horses need more exercise. How can that be? Why aren’t we riding? Technology, that’s why.
It’s why the 40-hour work week is a dinosaur. It’s what fuels our frustrated, frenzied lives. Cell phones. TV. Internet. Facebook. Twitter. E-mail. Information overload! Even our kids (kids!) are stressed. As the world demands we do more in less time, we skip riding to try to keep up with it all. It’s simply too much!
So, let’s all say, “Enough!” Schedule riding into your day, and make it happen. Turn off the cell phone. Ignore the computer. Stop bringing work home. We need at least a small amount of uninterrupted riding time for the health of our horses . . . and ourselves.
Cynthia Foley, Editor-in-Chief