Objective To describe management practices and routine preventive care of aged horses in Queensland, Australia, including effects of owner characteristics, affiliation to an equestrian group and retirement of the horse.
Methods Owners of horses were contacted via Equestrian Australia (EA) and asked to complete a questionnaire about their aged horses (e.g. age, breed, sex and colour); their use and management, including preventive health care; and use of equine healthcare providers.
Results Horses aged 15 years or greater represented one-third of the total horses owned in the population sample. The median age of the horses was 20.7 years (range 15–44 years). Basic husbandry and preventive health care varied depending on demographic region, age of the horse and its use. Affiliation with EA was associated with the breed and use of the horse, but not with management or preventive health care other than frequency of hoof care visits. Retired horses had reduced basic husbandry and preventive health care compared with non-retired horses. There was reduced preventive health care in rural compared with urban areas. The majority (61%) of horses in the current study had not been visited by a veterinarian in the previous 12 months.
Conclusion Aged horses constitute a large subgroup of the Australian horse population. Although basic management is at a high level for most aged horses, it appears to be reduced following the horse's retirement and in the more rural areas. There was limited veterinary involvement in preventive healthcare strategies for aged horses, especially in rural areas.