Understanding the Age of Your Horse

It is important to understand a horse’s life-stage characteristics in order to fully comprehend what he is communicating. Knowing how a horse matures physically and mentally will help you design appropriate management and training programs.

Consider that one horse year is equivalent to 8 human years until he is two years old, after that, each horse year equals two and a half human years. Thus, the horse to human equivalent is as follows; a weanling is four years old, a yearling is eight years old, a two year old is sixteen years old, a five year old is twenty three and a half years old, a 12 year old is 40 years old, a twenty year old is sixty one and a thirty year old is 85.

The adult prime of a horse is the five to twelve year old. This is when his mental and physical ability is equivalent to a human in their twenties or thirties. They are at their peak for athletic performance and hopefully have many life experiences that have made him more sensible. His nutritional requirements are basic. He can remain physically fit with moderate exercise, and his immune system is at its peak.

The middle aged horse is 12-20 years old and will lose some stamina and muscle tone, however, depending on the breed and quality of training and conditioning can remain healthy and competitive into their twenties.

The Senior horse, at age twenty to thirty, is like his over-sixty human counterpart and will suffer from dental changes that may include lost, worn or broken teeth that may lead to difficulties in chewing and maintaining weight. It is important to switch to a senior feed to maintain the quality of digestion and nutrients. Vision and hearing may deteriorate and should be considered if behaviour changes occur.

The geriatric horse of over thirty years might be physically impaired, however, under the proper management and care, he may be useful and happy for many years. My favorite horse, Fella, lived well into his thirties, his spirit remaining strong until the end. In his last years he enjoyed free range of the farm and spent many afternoons napping on the freshly cut lawn.