How Old is that Horse, Really?

A few days ago my Trakehner gelding turned 17. I’ve owned him for 12 years and it’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since I brought him home.

So, how old is he in human years? I’ve been doing some research into comparing horse and human age, but haven’t come up with a definitive answer. According to the horse to human age calculator, a 17 year old horse is the equivalent of a human that is 37.4 years old. That doesn’t seem so old, in fact, that seems pretty young. I retired my first horse at the age of 17 and I was about 37 at the time. He certainly seemed older than I did.

Other sites provide different estimates. This one has a chart that looks more in line with what I imagined:

Human Horse
20 5
40 10
50 15
60 20
70 25
80 30
90 35

The good news is that like their owners (50 is the new 40!), horses seem to be aging more gracefully now than in years past. Joint injections are now far more commonplace, joint supplements are widely available and use far more widespread, and “alternative” technologies such as chiropractic, massage and acupuncture are used by many owners to help their horses stay more comfortable.

Certainly some horses are inherently more sound than others. Conformation plays a role in ongoing soundness, as does history of use and care.

One thing I find encouraging is the proliferation of aged horses in high end competitions. A quick review of the horses entered into the 2008 Rolex three day event shows that there are four aged 17 or older:

LIVINGSTONE: b. g., 16.3 hands, 18 years
ANTIGUA: b. g., 16 hands, 19 years,
DUNRATHS ALTO: dk. br. g., 17.2 hands, 17 years,
MR. BIG: br. g., 15 hands, 17 years

That’s pretty impressive! Rolex is a demanding course and to compete at this level a horse has to be in top shape.

Other disciplines have other “geriatric” stars: In dressage, Gestion Bonfire retired at age 19 and Courtney King is competing Idocus, currently 18, at the Grand Prix level.

The world famous Lippizaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna often compete well into their 20s: Siglavy Mantua I retired at age 28 and at age 22, Conversano Amata I is described as a “real demon for work.”

In the show jumping arena, you have famous jumpers like Milton, who retired at age 17, Gem Twist, who competed at the highest levels of jumping until the age of 18, and For the Moment, who was AGA Horse of the Year at age 21!

So, I’m hoping that I have a few more years of foxhunting on my buddy.

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