Q&A Questions and Answers:
How old is too old [for a horse]? How long does a horse usually live?
As with people, there's a pretty wide range of life-spans with horses. Roughly, the age range for domesticated horses is from 20 to 40 years, depending on how hard a horse is worked, how well it's cared for, what diseases it is exposed to, and so on. Genetics also plays a big part. Some blood lines simply live longer than others. There's a 36-year-old horse in my neck of the woods that still regularly competes at local fairs and horse shows.
If you are looking at a horse to buy, you need to think about age in terms of how much use you will get out of it - and how hard it will be on you when it eventually dies. The older the horse, the sooner you will have to deal with losing it.
For a young rider in their early to mid-teens, I'd like to see him or her start out with a steady, sound, and well-trained eight- to ten-year old horse (preferably a gelding). If the rider is about 14 and the animal lives to about 25, the rider will be around 30 when he or she has to deal with the death of that four-footed friend. (If I seem to be dwelling on this unpleasant subject, it's probably because several friends of mine recently had beloved horses die unexpectedly, and it was almost as hard for them to handle as the death of a child.)
Of course, there is no guarantee that any human or animal will live to see tomorrow, so we're talking averages, not absolutes. A lot will also depend on how wise you are in riding and caring for your horse. Horses are highly accident- and disease-prone. Just a single foolish gallop over a rough field can result in a dead horse - and maybe a dead rider as well.
As I write this, Willy is 22 and still in fairly good shape. In human terms, we'd call him a senior citizen, and not as athletic as he once was, but, Lord willing, he's still got a lot of miles left.
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MINNESOTA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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