Whether they’re kept for their companionship or used for labor, horses are an important presence in our lives. Beyond the companionship they offer, horses also outlive many other pets that we share our lives with, including cats and dogs.
As a new horse-owner, you may wonder how long can you expect your horse to live and what are the factors that influence their lifespan?
If you’re worried about these aspects, I have a lot of good news for you, including what you can do to improve the lifespan of your horse and offer it the best quality of life.
Average Lifespan of Horses
Statistics will tell you that horses, on average, live between 25 to 30 years. Compared to other domesticated animals, this is a relatively long lifespan. However, horses can live well beyond their 30s thanks to advancements in equine health.
With more knowledge on how to treat horse illnesses and more insight into the nutritional, medical, and fitness requirements of horses, their lifespans can be greatly improved.
Of course, there are also other factors that will influence a horse’s lifespan including their environment, stress exposure, and of course their genetic background.
Below, I will detail some of the factors that have an important bearing on how long your horse will live, so you can expand the lifespan of your horse and help it live a happy and fulfilling life.
Factors that Impact Horse Lifespan
While many things come into play in terms of horse longevity, experts agree that the following are the most impactful in dictating whether a horse will live well into its senior years or not:
Without doubt, genetics has a lot of weight in determining the lifespan of a horse. Certain horses will live longer due to their genetic profile. Others will have a shorter lifespan.
The breed of a horse is also important and will determine the type of work a horse will be doing throughout its life.
For example, horses used for labor usually live fewer years than horses that are used for companionship. Racehorses can also live shorter lives due to the risks associated with horse-racing activities.
– Food and Water
Nutrition is another key factor in determining the overall life expectancy of a horse. A horse that’s allowed to graze on high-quality pasture will undoubtedly have a better life expectancy than a horse whose main food intake is limited to budget feed.
While your horse does need some grains in their diet, grass and hay should make up most of its meals. A diet that’s high in carbohydrates will cause joint problems in the long run.
And your horse should constantly have access to food. If they go long periods of time without food, there’s a risk of developing ulcers.
Also related to nutrition is access to fresh water. It’s important to provide your horse with continuous access to fresh water, not just food. Horses with limited access to water are more likely to develop diseases.
If possible, maintain a good feeding schedule as well, which in turn will maintain the overall digestive health of horses.
The type of housing can also have a bearing on the life expectancy of a horse. A horse that’s kept outdoors in all types of weather with little to no refuge can potentially have a shorter lifespan than a horse with access to stables and a comfortable area to sleep, for example.
That said, the reverse is also true. A horse that’s kept in a stable with little to no exercise and little physical or mental stimulation can also live less because of the stress and boredom associated with that type of housing.
Keeping their stables clean should also be on the list of your priorities. Removing manure regularly will keep insects away and maintain a healthy environment for your horse.
Beyond the genetic predisposition to diseases of certain breeds (e.g. Arabian horses can produce immune-deficient offspring), disease management throughout the life of a horse is also an important factor in the lifespan of a horse.
I advise that apart from periodic visits to the vet, you’re also up to date on the core vaccinations needed for horses.
In addition, you should also consider getting some of the optional vaccines recommended for
horses based on their risk of exposure to certain diseases in your area, for example.
Beyond vaccines that can prevent many life-threatening diseases, make sure your horse is dewormed on the regular and has its teeth checked out and filed twice a year by a vet.
Because a horse’s teeth grow continuously and they can grow uneven, they need to be filed to avoid sharp edges and chewing problems.
Poor hoof management can also cause a decline in health, which in turn can shorten the life expectancy of a horse.
Circling back to the type of housing and how much exercise your horse gets, a horse with a high workload, for example, can have a shortened lifespan compared to a horse that’s exercised but not overworked.
And once again, a horse that’s not exercised enough can also have health problems but also mental health problems stemming from boredom, for example.
Horses should be exercised regularly and should be able to walk freely on pastures to get enough exercise. A horse that’s not exercised regularly can develop musculoskeletal problems.
Even in old age, a horse that is walked regularly will stay healthier than one that’s confined to a stable.
Stress can shorten the lifespan of many animals including humans. So if you want to make sure your horse’s quality of life is not affected by stress, you should reduce stress exposure.
An unsafe environment (an environment where there’s a risk of predators, for example), lack of mental stimuli, lack of exercise, dangerous work conditions, and other stress factors should be avoided or managed to reduce the amount of stress horses are exposed to.
What is the Recorded Oldest Horse?
The oldest horse on the record is said to have lived 62 years. The horse’s name was Old Billy and lived in Woolston, Lancashire, England, where he worked as a barge horse.
Despite spending its life dragging barges in the canals, Old Billy lived well into its senior years. It seems that physical activity agreed with Ol’ Billy and working as a barge horse gave him a purpose in life.
Therefore, if Old Billy could live well past 30 years, despite being a workhorse, with today’s advancements in equine health, today’s horses can also have long and healthy lives.
How To Tell the Age of a Horse?
In the absence of papers to verify a horse’s identity, telling its age can be difficult, and only an approximation may be available.
The more advanced a horse is in age, the more difficult it is to narrow down its age. For example, a horse that doesn’t have all its permanent teeth can be presumed to be below the age of 9 or 10.
Other than assessing whether a horse has its permanent teeth or not, the color of the teeth and the angle of wear are also useful in estimating the age of a horse.
Horses with brown teeth, for example, are believed to be over 20 years old.
Therefore, identifying paperwork is the most accurate way to know a horse’s age. While the color, wear and type of teeth can give insight into the age of a horse, they’re not the most accurate ways to tell the age of a horse.
How Long do Wild Horses Live?
Wild horses have shorter lifespans than domestic horses. Although mustangs can live up to 40 years, they typically live less than that.
Free-roaming horses that live in the wild are more exposed to extreme weather conditions including drought and are more likely to die from vaccine-preventable diseases and attack from other animals.
Domesticated horses also tend to have a more balanced diet, which can also contribute to their longer lifespan.
Horse Age in Human Years
It’s hard to establish an equivalency between human years and horse years. This is especially in the context that foals mature much faster than human babies.
For example, foals will start nibbling on grass and imitating their mothers merely days or weeks after they’re born. It takes years for a human baby to start eating on its own.
Keeping this in mind, a close enough equivalency can be drawn up.
A 1-year-old foal is believed to be the equivalent of a 6.5-year-old child. Horses reach physical maturity at around the age of 5, which can be the equivalent of 25-year-old.
By age 13, horses are already considered middle-aged, which in human years would mean 43 years old. At 30, horses are considered extremely old, the equivalent of a 99 old human.
Here is a table with a few examples for a much more easy comparison of horse and human ages:
|Horse Age||Human Age|
Horses can offer companionship, they can be used in races or for labor. Depending on their genetic background, their purpose and how well they’re looked after, horses can live well into their 30s, or much less.
As an owner, it’s your responsibility to educate yourself on the needs and requirements of horses and offer them a healthy environment in which their nutritional, physical, and mental health needs are met.
If you recognize your role in expanding the lifespan of your horse and improving its quality of life, you can enjoy their company for much longer than what statistics say.Horse Health