At What Age Should a Horse Stop Being Ridden? Our Vet Reviewed Guide

As a horse owner, you’re aware that at some point, you’ll need to stop riding your horse due to its age. But at what age should a horse stop being ridden? It’s a good question, but there’s no set answer. Horses, like people, age differently, and what’s right for one horse may not be suitable for another.

So, how will you know when to stop riding your horse? There will be signs, which we’ll discuss below. We’ll also share how to keep your senior horse in good health. Keep reading!


At What Age Should a Horse Stop Being Ridden?

As we said, there isn’t a specific age you should stop riding a horse, but in general, most horses will need to stop being ridden between 20 and 25 years of age. Because a horse’s age is 3 years for every one of our years, then 20 years of age actually equals 60, which makes a horse an official senior. Plus, there have been studies1 that show that 20 years old is when a horse’s aerobic capacity starts to lessen. The heart has to do more work to pump blood as normal during exercise, which results in a horse being slower and becoming more easily tired.

However, all horses are different, which is why there’s a range in the age one should stop riding them. Some horses might have been injured or worked hard when younger, which can result in premature aging. Other horses might have had a normal athletic life, making it easier for them to keep up in their older age. So, how do you know when to quit riding a horse?

Female jockey on dapple gray horse jumping over hurdle in the open arena
Image Credit: FXQuadro, Shutterstock

The 5 Signs It’s Time to Stop Riding Your Horse

When a horse is ready to stop being ridden, it will let you know. You just need to know the signs to look for. What are they?

1. Trouble Maintaining Weight

While trouble maintaining weight isn’t always a sign of being too old to still be ridden, it can be. Much like humans, there are external signs when horses age, such as their coats looking duller or becoming underweight. It’s not uncommon for older horses to take on a thinner appearance with frailer limbs and sunken eyes. And if you’ve tried to put some weight back on your horse by switching to a different feed, but it still hasn’t happened, the horse is probably too old to be ridden.

2. Seems Frustrated After Activities

How does your horse typically respond when you show up to ride them or do other activities? They’re likely pretty happy to see you and excited about doing something. So, if your horse suddenly goes in the other direction temperament-wise and instead seems cranky or frustrated— at any point before, after, or during a ride—it could be a sign of discomfort or even pain. And that means your horse could be at the point where you need to stop riding it (although you might only need to reduce how much activity they’re doing instead of stopping altogether).

3. Has Trouble Keeping Up

Have you noticed that your senior horse is having difficulty keeping up with other horses on rides? Then it’s a good sign that it’s time to drastically reduce how often they’re ridden and switch to more relaxed exercise.

woman riding a horse in the field
Image Credit: Rebecca Scholz, Pixabay

4. Has a Chronic Illness

Chronic illnesses, like Cushing’s, can cause a horse to age earlier, so if your horse has been diagnosed with something chronic, you’ll need to watch out for that. If the horse has had this illness since it was young, you’ll likely have to stop riding them at an age younger than 20 to keep it as healthy as possible. And older horses that have been more recently diagnosed may no longer feel up to being ridden, depending on the illness.

5. Required Medication No Longer Working Effectively

There are several degenerative or chronic conditions that can affect an equine’s joints, bones, and muscles. So, it isn’t uncommon for a horse to deal with these issues from early on, especially since many can be managed with medication or treatments. However, as a horse gets older, medications designed to treat these conditions may stop working; in that case, it’s important to no longer ride your horse to avoid any more damage occurring.

American Quarter Horse herd in Montana
Image Credit: Christy berry, Shutterstock

Senior Horses & Exercise

Not being able to ride your horse doesn’t mean you should stop exercising it altogether, though! Horses of any age benefit from exercise as it prevents obesity, reduces the risk of injury, maintains muscles and flexibility, and offers mental stimulation. When it comes to senior horses and exercise, the trick is how you exercise them.

Here are a few tips:

  • Do shorter amounts of exercise frequently. Instead of taking your horse out for a single arduous ride, let your horse out for short walks every couple of days or so.
  • Keep stretching! Stretching is vital as your horse ages; otherwise, the horse could get stiff and suffer pain. Doing a series of stretching exercises a few times a week will be highly beneficial for your senior horse.
  • Continue walking your horse and engaging it in activities it enjoys. Your senior horse needs exercise and to do activities it enjoys to keep it from becoming bored. So, continue with light walks and other activities to keep your horse healthy and happy.

new horse shoe divider

Final Thoughts

The age at which a horse should stop being ridden will vary by horse, but you can expect this to happen between 20 and 25 years of age. Your horse will give you signs when it’s ready to be done with being ridden, though, so as long as you know what to watch out for, you should be able to retire them as needed. But retiring from riding doesn’t mean your horse no longer needs exercise! Senior horses should still engage in stretching, walks, and other light activities to stay healthy.

Featured Image Credit: Nichole, Pixabay

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