How long does a horse live? What life expectancy?


The question of the lifespan of an animal is very important, a fortiori that of an animal like the horse. Raised in a certain utilitarian perspective, his longevity leads him to experience a period of substantial old age, during which he no longer has the usefulness he may have had previously. What is the life expectancy of a horse and how can you ensure a long life?

How long does a horse live?

The progress made by Western societies leads to an extension of the length of life for humans, but also for the animals they live with. Thus, the horses experienced an elongation of the Average duration of their life. While this was still often limited to 25 years at the beginning of the 20th century, a horse more often reaches the 35 years today. The absence of conflicts in our Western countries, the improvement in the management of diseases and care contribute to this extension. The place we give to animals in our daily lives and the way we now treat them are also part of this evolution.

Beyond this general average, it should be noted that the lifespan is not the same depending on the size of the horse. The little horses, that is to say those whose height at the withers does not exceed 1.48 m, are placed at the top of the fork. This is especially true for the Fjords and Icelanders, renowned for their hardiness: they often reach 30 to 35 years old. Part of this is because of the way their body is developing. Their maturity is not reached until around the age of 7 or 8 years. This allows them to be able to be ridden for up to 20 years, sometimes a little more. Large horses rarely exceed 30 years, their longevity generally stretching between 20 and 30 years. But again, this is only an average. Depending on the breed, life expectancy varies.

The length of life depends on how you live it

A wild horse has a shorter life than a domestic horse. Life expectancy in nature hardly exceeds 15-20 years. This is explained by the quality of care and food, but also the security the environment, which positively impact the lifespan of a domestic horse. The difference between the lifespan of a wild horse and that of a domestic horse is also explained by the fact that domestic horses are the product of human selection work which breeds the best elements. Finally, as for us, there is a genetic factor, difficult to control, which will cause a particular horse to live longer than another of the same species.

For domestic horses, it is important to take into account the way we use them. We are more and more attentive to animal welfare and, it is clear that we use horses very badly, not taking enough into account the period of growth, which induces many back problems in these animals. The bone maturity of the spine, for a horse of 1.70m, is not complete until 8 years old. This should lead us to take precautions in the way we train horses before this age. Given this situation, veterinarians agree that 70% of horses over 20 years old will require specific care. Moreover, it is known that racehorses generally have a shorter life, not because they are poorly cared for, but because certain traumas are synonymous with end of life, such as a broken leg can lead to euthanasia. .

Offer a long and beautiful life to your horse

Here is what contributes to the longevity of the horse:

  • a good diet,
  • attention to their needs: socialization with other horses and regular exercise in particular,
  • attention to his health to deal with problems quickly.

It may sound simple and obvious. However, not everything is always rosy in a horse’s life: it may lack attention, either because the owner has neglected what it means to own a horse or out of ignorance of its needs. We cannot stress enough the fact that the acquisition of a horse is a project all the more expensive since the horse lives a little more than a third of the life that a healthy human can hope to live. This implies having a good lifestyle as well as a stable outlook for life.

To take good care of a horse, it is best to offer it living conditions as close as possible to what it may encounter in the nature.

This involves feeding it in small amounts, grass and other plants. Feeding your horse two to three times a day is increasingly recommended. It is essential to avoid overweight. The food quality is just as important as the quantity. Forage grasses and long-stemmed hay such as alfalfa should be preferred. The intake of cereals such as oats and corn should be moderate, unless the animal has specific caloric needs (growth, breastfeeding, activity involving a lot of effort). Since it is difficult to count calories, the easiest way is to consider that a horse overall needs 1.5 to 2% of its body weight for food each day. Obviously, grazing remains the ideal. If this is not possible, the “slow” feeder is a good option: equipped with small openings, the horse eats in a way that is close to natural food intake.

The activity is essential for the health of a horse, as it is for us! A horse should walk about 20 minutes a day. Remember that the horn from which the hoof is made grows constantly and needs to wear out. The evolution in a large enclosure during the day is ideal.

It is also essential that a horse sees other horses regularly: in nature, they live in herds. It is simply necessary to check beforehand the compatibility of character before letting horses evolve together. Offering him company also means visiting him regularly, to look after him or simply to stroke him. the mental well-being the horse promotes long life just as much as physical health.

Side health, horses can experience a lot of hassle. Much can be avoided by vaccines, deworming, regular care of teeth and hooves. But the horse can still contract common diseases, which can sometimes shorten the duration of its life: colic, laminitis (painful disease affecting the hooves), arthritis … You have to watch your horse and take care of its problems. health from the onset of symptoms.

Managing the old age of a horse

Old age is synonymous with physical and mental decline. This will considerably limit the activities that can be envisaged with a horse. The signs of old age are close to what a human being can experience: wear of the teeth, whitening of areas of the head, modification of the curves of the back and appearance of stiffness in locomotion.

The aging of this animal raises questions of an economic but also ethical nature, given the particular sensitivity of our societies to the animal condition. In addition to the fact that horse owners do not anticipate the cost of a horse over its lifespan, for some, the issue of this cost becomes more serious as the animal loses its usefulness. The case of racehorses is perhaps the best known. These high performance athletes tend to retire quite early. Some of them may be engaged in other activities, others, because they stood out for their performance, are chosen for breeding. But many horses also end up the slaughterhouse. Is it eligible or not? Horse meat has seen its heyday, but nowadays the consumption of pets is less and less accepted. It remains to be seen if the horse is one!

In December 2019, the deputy Loïc Dombreval was entrusted by the Prime Minister Édouard Philippe with a mission on the welfare of pets. Its scope included equines. It was a question of the management of their end of life, and that whatever the activity of their owners. In other words, professionals in the horse industry were moved by it because, in rural law, horses are production animals. We are therefore living in a period of transition on many subjects. Manners evolve, our way of being with animals with. Our relationship with horses will certainly continue to evolve over the next decades and so will the management of their old age.