Owning a Veteran Horse by Jessica Blackford


Jessica is our South West Territory Manager.

She owns 2 veteran horses, Point and Phantom, and regularly competes with them.

Here she shares her knowledge, experience and a few tips she has learnt along the way!

Veteran Horses

A horse is classed as a veteran horse once they are over 15 years old – but that doesn’t automatically mean they are ready for retirement! Many go on to enjoy active and healthy lives well into their 20s.

Like humans, horses are living longer than ever, which may be down to improved diet and a better understanding of equine science. But ageing is unavoidable, and the signs include stiffness, reduced muscle definition, thicker coat, grey hairs and dental problems.

As your horse gets older, you may need to think about reducing their workload, or managing their diet differently. Older horses are prone to losing weight because the digestive system becomes less efficient. It can be important at this time to consider using a gut health supplement to support good digestion.

Weight loss is frequently the first sign of ill health and changes in condition can be quite subtle and easy to miss if you see your horse every day. Use a weight tape or body condition score chart regularly (once a week is ideal) to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Regular dental checks are also important, as a horse’s teeth stop growing at around 20 years old and gaps can begin to appear.

Broken teeth and root abscesses are more common in the older horse. Bad breath can be a sign of food collecting in the gaps between the ageing teeth which could result in an infection.

Older horses may also lose the ability to grind their food and will need to be fed a hay replacer such as a mash type feed. However, with good management, your veteran horse should be with you for many more happy years.

Phantom and Point

I have the pleasure of owning 2 veteran horses: Phantom, a 25yr old, and Point who is 18yrs old. I have owned them both for quite a few years and there’s nothing they enjoy more than going out in the lorry for some jumping! The main thing I have noticed as they’ve got older is that they take that bit longer to get fit, but I make sure I never overwork them and keep them on soft surfaces when jumping and schooling.

They are both fed a high fibre diet and supplemented with a feed balancer to make sure they are getting everything they need as well as a supplementation regime to support their joints and gut.

In the stable, I like to have a deep bed with thick banks using dust free bedding. I also have rubber matting down to help prevent slipping when getting up and down, to increase comfort and to support their joints when standing in the stable for long periods.

One of the things that every veteran owner must remember is like the older person, horses can have the odd off day and take that bit longer to recover. So never push them and if you feel they aren’t themselves, just leave it for another day.

Top Tips from Jessica


  1. Make sure you have an exercise programme to suit the individual horse.
  2. Always allow time for a good warm-up and cool down.
  3. Feed a well-balanced diet and consider the inclusion of a product to support joint and gut health. 
  4. Limit dust to keep their airways healthy.
  5. Get the dentist out every 6 – 12 months to check their teeth.
  6. Have regular visits from your farrier.


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