What is a 'normal' age to lose a horse?

Annagain

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I think it would interesting to see if there's a correlation between size and age of death as well. I'm not sure this data will do it as YCBM originally only asked for larger horses but it's something I'd find interesting, I know it's generally accepted that small ponies live longer but it would be interesting to see if there's a difference between, say, 11hh and 13hh or 15hh and 17hh etc.

I never expected to get Archie (16.3) to the age he is now (at least 25) but never thought I'd lose Eb (14hh) when I did until the morning it happened (colic) when he was 27. He'd never had a day's illness before that. I thought he'd gradually slow down, retire and have a few years pottering around the field before we lost him in his 30s.

I don't feel getting Arch to where he is now is an achievement any more than losing Eb when I did was failure, even though it wasn't what I expected. Both those things just happened. Some would have had Arch PTS at 12 when his foot problems were first diagnosed and his (admittedly modest) competition career was limited. Others would have carried on jumping him and he might not be here now but I just did what I felt was right at the time, it was never with the intention of getting him to retiring at 24+ and enjoying life in the field for a bit longer.
 

Birker2020

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I’d also love to know for sure what causes a lot of the unknown/neuro/“down old horse” cases, but that’s the veterinary/investigative side of me...
I know of a couple of horses pts through Wobblers syndrome due to fall on neck or other neck injury, this is more common in geldings of the WB/TB/QH type.
Also a lot of information on this link from Sharon May-Davis about the malformation of a lot of WB types https://thehorsesback.com/c6-c7-malformation/ which makes absolutely fascinating reading. My horse has a issue with the C7/T1 'junction' which is transposed like the third example. This can cause general neck stiffness which is helped with physio and daily neck stretching exercise. It can also cause front limb lameness with my horse, which the vet and physio believe stem from the neck issue. As is the case with some neuro horses some days are much better than others and looking at her you would never know she has this issue. It certainly doesn't stop her from enjoying cantering around the paddock and she's on 1.5 bute a day which is a very small amount for her build/weight.

1612865537765.png
 
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I'm so glad this thread restarted. I pointed to it in an argument that i was having with someone recently stated that all properly managed horses could be ridden until they were thirty, and simply would not accept that the vast majority aren't even alive then, never mind fit to work.
Oh wow. I was naive but not that bad.

Retirement ages I've got -
12, lump where saddle ought to go and tendons about as strong as ice in the Sahara
9, ran out of money to find out what was actually wrong with her
11, behavioural issues although physically sound
25, arthritis (this is the 31yo we've still got.)

I knew one pony still working in his thirties, I rode him for a few years when I was between the ages of 9 and 11, he was eventually pts aged 38 apparently and that is definitely not the norm! I did cross country courses on him until he was 32 (early thirties anyway), then he got put on much lighter duties and stopped working altogether at 36 or so iirc.

But that's one, having probably known hundreds; I do definitely think size plays a role, this pony was 12.2 and our 31yo is 36".

(Although the two 24yos I posted about higher up were 31" and 15.3 😂 )

Horses I think are very much like Chinchillas in this regard; in theory, they should have very long lifespans, but in practice there's an awful, awful lot that can happen which sadly prevents that.
 
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Birker2020

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Longevity also has a lot to do with how much money/time/commitment an owner has. I've spent in excess of around £28K on mine over the years and I am guessing have spent at least three maybe four of the nearly 17 years unable to ride and rehabbing her from one thing or another. But I can only afford the one.

On a vet visit in Oct last year to have her coffin joints medicated the vet turned around and said watching her on the lunge you'd never know she had multiple issues with arthritis in her hocks, coffin joints, neck, and fetlock. She was really very sound considering and the vet even suggested putting her through a tendon splitting operation to sort out the suspensory branch issue that had been plaguing her for years. Of course I said no but he was prepared to do it as she looked so well at 23.
 

Errin Paddywack

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These are mine and my sister's horses from 1970 to 2017.

1) 12.3hh welsh gelding - put down due to total digestive system break down at 12.
2) 13.2hh NF gelding - lost to aneurysm aged 7.
3) 14hh TB x Welsh mare - bouts of very painful generalised lameness, couldn't find a cause, aged 15
4) 14hh appaloosa mare - rare skin cancer (not melanomas) aged 17.
5) 15hh appaloosa stallion - died due to grossly enlarged and thinned heart aged 12. (not congenital thankfully)
6) 13.2 welsh section C gelding - put down due to total digestive system break down at 23.
7) 12hh welsh gelding - cushings aged 30.
8) 15hh appaloosa mare - couldn't keep condition on, aged 21.
9) 15hh appaloosa mare - put down due to foaling problems (dead foal) aged 9.
10) 14.2 appaloosa mare - put down after bad foaling being unable to get up aged 5
11) 14hh appaloosa mare - went blind aged 29.
12) 15hh 3/4 TB mare - severe arthritis aged 34.
13) 15.1hh appaloosa mare - severe arthritis in her knees aged 17.
14) 14.2hh appaloosa mare - colic aged 23
15) 15.2 appaloosa gelding - penile cancer aged 24
16) 15hh appaloosa gelding - various minor ailments aged 23 (12 and 13 went together)
17) 13.2 welsh section C - found dead in field aged 24.

The two we lost due to foaling complications were mother and daughter and both were due to the foals dying before birth due to twisted cord. This usually happens because of an over long cord so might well be hereditary. The grandmother, No 8 also lost a foal to twisted cord but earlier in the pregnancy, not full term so survived. First one my vet had ever seen. She was 20 at the time so didn't have any more foals. I sold No 9's full sister and she was also put down due to a bad foaling and being unable to get up. Thankfully there were no other females in this line.
 

Birker2020

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These are mine and my sister's horses from 1970 to 2017.

1) 12.3hh welsh gelding - put down due to total digestive system break down at 12.
2) 13.2hh NF gelding - lost to aneurysm aged 7.
3) 14hh TB x Welsh mare - bouts of very painful generalised lameness, couldn't find a cause, aged 15
4) 14hh appaloosa mare - rare skin cancer (not melanomas) aged 17.
5) 15hh appaloosa stallion - died due to grossly enlarged and thinned heart aged 12. (not congenital thankfully)
6) 13.2 welsh section C gelding - put down due to total digestive system break down at 23.
7) 12hh welsh gelding - cushings aged 30.
8) 15hh appaloosa mare - couldn't keep condition on, aged 21.
9) 15hh appaloosa mare - put down due to foaling problems (dead foal) aged 9.
10) 14.2 appaloosa mare - put down after bad foaling being unable to get up aged 5
11) 14hh appaloosa mare - went blind aged 29.
12) 15hh 3/4 TB mare - severe arthritis aged 34.
13) 15.1hh appaloosa mare - severe arthritis in her knees aged 17.
14) 14.2hh appaloosa mare - colic aged 23
15) 15.2 appaloosa gelding - penile cancer aged 24
16) 15hh appaloosa gelding - various minor ailments aged 23 (12 and 13 went together)
17) 13.2 welsh section C - found dead in field aged 24.

The two we lost due to foaling complications were mother and daughter and both were due to the foals dying before birth due to twisted cord. This usually happens because of an over long cord so might well be hereditary. The grandmother, No 8 also lost a foal to twisted cord but earlier in the pregnancy, not full term so survived. First one my vet had ever seen. She was 20 at the time so didn't have any more foals. I sold No 9's full sister and she was also put down due to a bad foaling and being unable to get up. Thankfully there were no other females in this line.
That's really interesting although sad of course, about the foaling issues and the blood line.
 

QueenT

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I see a lot of posts which suggest that people expect their horses to live into their late twenties or thirties. My experience over more than forty years has been that most horses are dead long before this for one reason or another.

Can we do a poll? I'll keep count because the poll feature on the forum isn't up to the job.

So, if you can spare the time, can you list the age of all the horses you've known when they died, and whose age you are sure about when they died, and we'll count up what's actually 'normal.

Please don't include small ponies, which often live a lot longer than horses, or foals. Or horses in jump racing, where the death rate is far higher than any other horse activity and will skew the figures. Please only include horses you knew personally, whether owned by you or not.

I think this is important, so that people who lose their horses earlier don't feel they have failed in some way.

So I'll start.

1. 20
2. 4
3. 10
4. 8
5. 11
6. 26
7. 7
8. 8
9. 16
10. 13
11. 7
12. 5


So the average age of death of all the horses I have known die has been 13ish. I've had the impression for some years now that the average across the country is about 15.

Thanks for your help.
PTS at 14 due to cronic tendon injury

Plus, just saw a report based on a couple of insurance companies - average age for privately owned sporthorse is 17, primary causes of death are lameness and gastro-intestinal issues (... covers almost everything, right)
 

Quadro

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7 year old dropped down dead on a hack
5 year old, kicked in the field and broke his leg, had to be put down
17 year old put down due to his hocks
3 months old found dead in the field
 
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20 - recurrent diastema/periodontal disease. Also had cushings.
22 - peritonitis/leaky gut

This thread has helped me let go of so much guilt that the 22 year old didn’t make it to 25.
 

Birker2020

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I think it would interesting to see if there's a correlation between size and age of death as well. I'm not sure this data will do it as YCBM originally only asked for larger horses but it's something I'd find interesting, I know it's generally accepted that small ponies live longer but it would be interesting to see if there's a difference between, say, 11hh and 13hh or 15hh and 17hh etc.

I never expected to get Archie (16.3) to the age he is now (at least 25) but never thought I'd lose Eb (14hh) when I did until the morning it happened (colic) when he was 27. He'd never had a day's illness before that. I thought he'd gradually slow down, retire and have a few years pottering around the field before we lost him in his 30s.

I don't feel getting Arch to where he is now is an achievement any more than losing Eb when I did was failure, even though it wasn't what I expected. Both those things just happened. Some would have had Arch PTS at 12 when his foot problems were first diagnosed and his (admittedly modest) competition career was limited. Others would have carried on jumping him and he might not be here now but I just did what I felt was right at the time, it was never with the intention of getting him to retiring at 24+ and enjoying life in the field for a bit longer.
My vet said I'd done well to get my 17hh WB to the age of 23 and still riding her. But I know of loads of horses in the 90's that were easily aged 23, most were over that. But they weren't WB's. They were mainly Irish/TB crosses.
 

ITPersonnage

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OK so thanks to DF, I have had another stab at updating the data since her last post with the first plots. I have added all subsequent posts as well and because I have categorised causes slightly differently, and there are more cases you can't directly compare them BUT here I go. I also took the breed information and if there was a secondary cause I noted that too. Here's my version of DF's lovely box plot which shows the age distribution for each cause classification.
CauseAgebox.png


Next up is the histogram of the same cause data.
cause1countplot.png

So I got rid of the rarer causes where there were fewer than 10 cases to give this which even I can read :) the final category is "foaling complications". I can do more updates as time allows.

CommonCause.png
 

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DirectorFury

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I much prefer your categories for cause of death - they’re definitely more representative than the broad ones I used! Did anything stand out breed-wise? Though you’d have to control for breed prevalence within the UK which makes it much harder - I actually don’t know if population level horse data is available?
 

ITPersonnage

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Yes that is something I'm looking at, most breeding was reported as "Welsh X" or "TBxShire" for example so I classified all of these with the first mentioned (so Welsh and TB in those examples). But I may have got some of these wrong, not an easy task !
 
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Fuzznugget

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It’s been interesting seeing the replies to this. Mine have been:

4 - WB - severe tendon injury (in field)
6 - TB - racing injury (on track)
8 - TB - leg injury (from racing, retired & arthroscopy done which showed unfixable issues)
10 - PRE - severe arthritic changes

Have a 22 yr old TB (also off the track) who has so far survived a knee injury that should have ended any further ridden career, two bouts of colic - one this past December, and has now been shown to have a tumour at scoping that was not there in dec. He’s a hardy old lad.
 
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With the greatest of respect, if they don't make 23 I'd be a bit worried as my nine horses have all gone on to at least that and beyond. Happiness throughout life is key and a warm loving environment where they can thrive. I talk to mine every day and although they don't quite talk back ;) they know how loved they are
 

ycbm

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With the greatest of respect, if they don't make 23 I'd be a bit worried as my nine horses have all gone on to at least that and beyond. Happiness throughout life is key and a warm loving environment where they can thrive. I talk to mine every day and although they don't quite talk back ;) they know how loved they are

Are you seriously suggesting that people lost horses at less than 23 because they didn't love them enough?

If not, you might want to reword your post.

If so, that's wrong, incredibly offensive, upsetting to people who have lost their precious horses, and you should be ashamed of writing it.
.
 

shortstuff99

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Currently Cambridgeshire! (or where ever I fancy)!
Are you seriously suggesting that people lost horses at less than 23 because they didn't love them enough?

If not, you might want to reword your post.

If so, that's wrong, incredibly offensive, upsetting to people who have lost their precious horses, and you should be ashamed of writing it.
.
Seconded. I know someone who's very much loved horse had a heart attack and died at 15. None of that was to do with not loving him enough!
 

Wishfilly

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This is a fascinating thread and very interesting- it's very interesting to see the clusters in age that have been reported- the 6-8 cluster is very interesting to me because it suggests there's a proportion of horses that just don't stand up to work, which is a real shame.

It's very interesting to see the breakdowns by breed as well, which are perhaps not what you might expect, although the sample sizes are smaller.

Thank you so much to those who have contributed!
 

Velcrobum

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Late to the thread
1 15.2 TBxWelsh PTS @ 29yrs arthritis
2 16.2 TB PTS @ 10yrs Behaviour and severe hind ringbone.

Currently have 26yr old sports horse 16.1, 23yr old TB probably ex racer 16.0 and 8 yr old TB ex racer approx 17.0
 

Apizz2019

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Welsh Sec A 11.2hh - 28 years old and was competing at pc 2 days before his demise.
Pts due to colic

Anglo Arab 15hh - 12 years old, happy and healthy and in regular work.
Pts due to colic

Riding pony type 12.1/2hh - 19 years old.
Pts due to suspected DSLD in hind legs

Welsh C 13.1hh - 14 years old.
Pts due to field accident resulting in broken shoulder
 

TPO

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1996 welsh x trotter mare approx 16yrs old - lami/rotated pedal bones. PTS

2008 arab mare 21yrs old - fast growing cyst in nasal passage causes bleeds and behavioural issues. PTS

2009 TB gelding 8yrs - collapsed and died in field of new owner 3mths after I sold him. PM showed a hole in his heart that hadnt been picked up/just one of those things

2009 QH mare 16yrs (I think, need to double check) - arthritis and navicular, PTS

2010 TB mare 9yrs old - severe/advanced navic and vet said no options apart from denerving so PTS

2016 connie x gelding approx 14yrs - developed heart murmour/collapsed. PTS

2016 TB gelding 16yrs old - previous extensive medical issue, didnt come out of winter as well as normal, start of arthritis in knee and field mate was being PTS so made the call to let him go before he deteriorated further.

2021 TB gelding 14yrs - cellulitis PTS
 

Lady2021

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It probably depends on the owner views if they will retire or not. I know a man who who refused to retire any of his horses once they couldn’t be ridden. He just pts
 
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