Veterinary journal (London, England : 1997)2011; 192(1); 57-64; doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2011.03.021

A survey of health care and disease in geriatric horses aged 30 years or older.

Abstract: This study reports on aspects of preventive health care and on the prevalence of disease in geriatric (≥30 years old) horses and ponies in North-West England and North Wales. Of 128 questionnaires mailed to horse owners, 87 useable responses were received and 69 horses were subject to veterinary examination. Of the animals examined, 16% were underweight with body condition scores (BCS)3/5). This contrasted with the owner responses that reported 23% of the animals surveyed to be underweight and only 3% to be overweight. When assessed at trot, 77% of the horses were lame on at least one limb, with 97% having a reduced range of motion in at least one joint. Only 16% of these animals were reported by owners to have been lame within the previous 12 months. Owner-reported changes to hair coat were significantly associated with hirsutism or abnormal moulting detected at clinical examination (39%). At least one ophthalmic lesion was identified in all of the horses and ponies examined and 17% of owners reported that their animal had experienced visual problems within the previous year. Although dental abnormalities were detected in all animals where an oral examination was performed, only 42% of owners reported that their horse suffered from a known dental disorder. In general, despite a high prevalence of disease detected in these geriatric animals and with the majority having multiple abnormalities at clinical examination, there was under-reporting/under-recognition of these health problems by owners.
Publication Date: 2011-05-06 PubMed ID: 21550271DOI: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2011.03.021Google Scholar: Lookup
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  • Journal Article
  • Research Support
  • Non-U.S. Gov't


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This research investigates preventive health care and disease prevalence among geriatric horses in North-West England and North Wales, illustrating the gap between veterinary assessments and owner self-reports.


  • The researchers contacted horse owners through mail, sending a total of 128 questionnaires. A total of 87 responses deemed usable were received and they proceeded to examine 69 horses.
  • These examinations focused on body weight, lameness, range of motion in joints, external appearances such as coat health, ophthalmic lesions i.e., eye health, and dental abnormalities.


  • The researchers found that of the horses examined, 16% were underweight, and 10% overweight, contrasting with reports from owners which reported 23% of their horses underweight and only 3% overweight.
  • An overwhelming 77% of these horses were lame on at least one limb and 96% had a reduced range of motion in at least one joint. However, only 16% of these lameness cases had been reported by the owners in the past 12 months.
  • Changes to hair coat reported by owners significantly corresponded with hirsutism or abnormal moulting detected clinically. These coat conditions were found in 39% of the horses.
  • Eye examinations showed that every single horse had at least one ophthalmic lesion, but only 17% of owners reported their animal had experienced vision problems in the past year.
  • Dental abnormalities were detected in all animals where an oral examination was performed, contrasting with 42% of owners who reported on this issue.


  • Despite the high prevalence of disease detected in these geriatric horses, and with most having multiple abnormalities, there was significant under-reporting or non-recognition of these health problems by owners. This gap likely contributes to the overall health care of geriatric horses and indicates the need to sensitize owners to recognize and report signs of health deterioration.

Cite This Article

Ireland JL, McGowan CM, Clegg PD, Chandler KJ, Pinchbeck GL. (2011). A survey of health care and disease in geriatric horses aged 30 years or older. Vet J, 192(1), 57-64.


ISSN: 1532-2971
NlmUniqueID: 9706281
Country: England
Language: English
Volume: 192
Issue: 1
Pages: 57-64

Researcher Affiliations

Ireland, Joanne L
  • Institute of Infection and Global Health, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, Leahurst, Neston CH64 7TE, UK.
McGowan, Catherine M
    Clegg, Peter D
      Chandler, Keith J
        Pinchbeck, Gina L

          MeSH Terms

          • Age Factors
          • Aging
          • Animal Husbandry
          • Animals
          • Cross-Sectional Studies
          • England / epidemiology
          • Female
          • Health Surveys
          • Horse Diseases / epidemiology
          • Horse Diseases / therapy
          • Horses
          • Male
          • Prevalence
          • Surveys and Questionnaires
          • Veterinary Medicine
          • Wales / epidemiology


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