When you get a horse, you will form a lifelong bond with them. From birth to their golden years, you will share many beautiful experiences. In order to help them have the best life possible, it’s important to provide care that is appropriate for their needs at every age. Here is everything you need to know about the life stages of a horse and how to provide care that will support a healthy, happy life no matter if they are a foal, yearling, or senior.
How long do horses live?
The average lifespan of a horse can vary based on several factors including their care, breed, and family genetic history. Most horses can live around 25-30 years. During that time, they will go through many stages of life, each requiring a different level and approach to care.
What are the life stages of a horse?
Once a horse is born, they will have six life stages. Each stage requires unique care and support, so it is good to understand when they begin. A horse’s life stages include:
- Foal: Birth to 3-6 months
- Weanling: 3-6 months to one year old
- Yearling: 1 to 2 years old
- Adolescent: 2 to 3 years old
- Adulthood: 4 to 15-20 years old
- Senior: 15-20 years old depending on the breed
Planning for each of these six stages of life can help you provide the best love and support for your horse.
How to care for a foal
There is nothing sweeter and more darling than a newborn horse. During this stage of life, the most important thing you need to do is to support the mother. Foals will nurse, so make sure the mother has a healthy diet. During nursing, she will need extra food and water. If the foal nurses for more than 30 minutes, their mama may not be producing enough food. If that happens, make sure to provide supplemental milk replacement for the foal and speak to your vet about how to support your mare.
Typically a foal will show interest in feed after about two weeks. They will not rely on feed as their food source, but they will begin the transition to solid food. So it is good to have high-quality roughage available to test. I recommend keeping the foal’s food separate from your other horse’s feed so they can eat what it needs. During this transition, foals may experience loose stools because they are still developing their digestive enzymes. Be aware this may happen and speak with your veterinarian if it becomes troubling.
Caring for your weanling
Once a foal has weaned from their mother, they will begin the weanling stage. During this stage they will eat a lot of food to help develop and grow. They tend to benefit from a high protein diet with a lot of variety. Weanlings are very similar to human toddlers, so they can be a lot of fun at this age. You need to provide time for them to socialize with other animals, provide fun activities to fulfill their curiosity, and exercise variation to encourage the development of agility. If you plan to raise a show horse, providing socialization and training during the weanling stage is vital.
Yearling care and support
Yearlings are essentially at the child stage of development. So they’ll want to play a lot and spend time socializing or exploring. When feeding, be aware of the fat content of the food. You want to make sure your feed doesn’t offer more than 8% fat. Also don’t overdo it on protein, which can lead to some development issues as well. The best strategy is to speak with your veterinarian. During the yearling phase, you want to avoid tying them because it can be a traumatic and dangerous experience. Also during the yearling phase, you’ll want to start training for grooming, especially with hoof care. Your ferrier can guide you on how to support your yearling during this phase, because it can be difficult for them to stand on three legs.
Adolescence AKA the teen years
Oh the teen years, we all remember them. They can be a trying time for everyone. During the teen years, our horses experience a lot of the same things we do. They will start becoming more independent, testing their boundaries, and building their confidence. This is a really enriching and fun time, but they can also be a lot to handle. So make sure that their day to day life is rich with activities and fun. This is a great stage to really begin training them to help them feel strong and independent. Just have a little more patience with them, as we all remember what it was like to be a teen.
Adulthood and into the senior years
Adult horse care is pretty standard. Once you get to their adolescent phase, you’ll know what your horse needs. However, when your horse enters their senior years they will need special care. The best way to approach senior horse care is with prevention in mind. Preventative care can help reduce the likelihood of illness or disease and help them feel good. Senior horses need dietary adjustments that include more antioxidants. As they age, they become slower so you’ll want to reduce their workload. However, senior horses still need to be active and exercise, just at an easier pace. During this time you should work closely with your veterinarian to learn how to identify and manage the changes that come with age.
Grooming at any age
Whether a foal or a senior horse, daily grooming is important for your horse’s health. During their younger years, grooming is about handling and training. While during their senior years, it’s about taking your time and working with their needs. At any stage, it’s important to be cognizant of your grooming products. Products that use natural ingredients like Kiss A Frog Hoof Wash or Not So Sweet Itch Body Wash will not only help your horse stay clean, but will support their overall health. Natural products are also easier to train with because they don’t offend your horse’s delicate sense of smell, so they are ideal for even the earliest stages of life.
No matter what stage of life your horse is at, there is always something new to learn. At EquiSpa we have natural horse care products for all stages of your horse’s life. Whether you have a playful new foal or a gentle senior, we can help you provide the best and safest care possible. Just leave a comment below or contact me directly and I will be happy to help.