Senior Mustangs At Skydog
We absolutely love our older mustangs. Sadly it is an age where even a hard working and “useful” mustang can find themselves dumped at auction or in a feedlot. When horses get older, sadly they cannot work as hard and can suffer lameness or a whole host of other ailments that need more costly vet treatment. They sometimes start losing their teeth at this age if they haven’t had dental work, and that means expensive mashes and softer food that they can digest rather than stalky hays that they can chew when they are younger.
As horses get older, they face common age-related conditions and diseases that require management and care. These are some of the more common ones —
Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, also known as PPID or equine Cushing’s disease, is a common endocrine disorder in horses. A long, shaggy coat with irregular shedding patterns is one of the most notable clinical signs and horses will need meds to manage such a condition.
Endocrine disorders, such as PPID, can make senior horses more likely to suffer from laminitis (founder). Some of our older equines such as Adeline, Casey, Vinnie the donkey and Hailey suffer from this and need expensive boots and meds to counter the effects of their condition.
Osteoarthritis and joint disease are common in aging equids. Medicines can help keep an arthritic old horse comfortable as well as exercise and movement.
Recurrent airway obstruction, commonly known as heaves, is similar to asthma in humans. Genetics, housing and husbandry, and allergies can all play a part in causing this disease. A heavey horse's clinical signs, such as shortness of breath and coughing, can worsen as he ages. Luckily with the fresh air and lack of allergens at Skydog Oregon, we don’t currently have a horse with heaves in our roster of older horses.
A cataract is an opacity or clouding of the eye lens, which is the large transparent structure found midway between the cornea and the retina that the horse uses to focus images close to his head. While horses of all ages can suffer from cataracts, they are often associated with aging or trauma. Our beautiful Dani California came to us with cataracts in one eye and has to have her eye removed to prevent pain and discomfort as time goes on. She does amazingly well and both she and Rosa who is also blind, are helped around their large pasture by Storm who is their eyes.
Swayback, also referred to as lordosis, lowback or softback, is the excessive curvature of the spine and a telltale sign of aging. Research suggests genetics plays a role in causing severe swayback. Beautiful Grace came to us swayback and her daughter Sunshine also has the same condition. They both get around fine and neither need meds or help for their condition at this point.
Dental disease is common in older horses and can cause quidding, which is the dropping of feed during mastication (chewing). Poor chewing can lead to weight loss and an increased risk of choke. Handsome Lep is probably our worst case of this and he and Dorothy came to us with very few teeth and have special mash and meds as a result. Their hay is soaked to make it easier to eat and they get a wonderful combination of alfalfa pellets, beet pulp, senior feed and supplements.
Old horses often become unthrifty, meaning they are harder to keep weight on. Dental problems and endocrine disorders, as well as an aging digestive tract, are all possible causes of weight loss. We have taken in several horses who are skinniness attributed to old age but all have come back to good health with the right diet and lots of extra care.
Eighty percent of gray-colored horses will get melanomas, which are cancer tumors. Melanoma tumors can become larger and more prevalent as a gray horse ages. Our Swayze was rescued out of a kill pen with melanomas around his rectum which he has had lasered off twice to keep everything moving back there. We keep a close eye on all our grey horses for signs of this.
Prince Harry, 25
We recently found Harry in a kill pen in Louisiana and when we looked at his brand and saw how old he was we knew we had to help him. We understand that a horses value drops dramatically in their later years due to the extra expense of caring for them. We immediately bailed him and he is currently in quarantine in Texas awaiting his freedom ride to Malibu.
We might find he would do better there for the winter so we will assess him and decide where he ends up. He has a curly wave to his coat which may just turn into full curly in the winter so that would be incredible. And if not - we will love him just the same for the rest of his days.
Darling Harry doesn’t have a sponsor and would love one to help him with the extra care he will get when he arrives with us.
Dorothy, like Prince Harry above, was found in a kill pen in Kansas with no interest in her. She isn’t just old she is tiny and probably of little “use” to anyone at this point at her life.
She has become such a popular horse at Skydog Oregon due to her sweet gentle nature and love of scratches. She is currently in the barn but will be added to a herd as soon as she is stronger and has gained some more weight.
It would be wonderful for her to have a sponsor to help with the extra feeds and special hay she is on. She is just the most lovely girl and we are so glad she never had to make the trip to Mexico to slaughter.
Dorothy was named by one of our board members Johnny Buc Lockwood due to her location and his love of the move Wizard of Oz. She certainly has come over the rainbow from a kill pen to Skydog Sanctuary.
Lep was a saddle horse who was rounded up at as a yearling by the BLM. One of the wranglers gentled him and he worked his whole life at the corrals at BLM Burns.
He was too old to work, his teeth were falling out, he had rain rot and a urinary tract infection when he came to us but now he looks like a show horse.
28 years of hard work and what those eyes must have seen. He is such a good boy and loves his mashes, and best friends Hawk and Billy the donkey. They all share a nice sandy shady pasture where they take life easy and keep each other company.
What a good old boy Lep is and we couldn’t be more grateful to the wrangler who asked us to retire him rather than euthanize him.
We found Swayze in a kill pen in Colorado where he was marked as a mustang. We decided to rescue him but sadly he went down in the trailer on the way to us. We got him to a vet in Laramie WY who said that he had cancer and we should euthanize him but somehow I knew that if he got to Skydog he would at least have a chance. So the vet cleared him to travel after hydrating him and getting him feeling better. When he got to us he was sick with strangles and his cancer turned out to be some gnarly melanomas on his butt and tail. We fundraised for his surgery and people were amazing in donating for him. He is an old boy and has a bit of arthritis which is helped being down in the summer sun of Malibu in his later years. The ice and snow are not for our boy Swayze and he lives happily here with his girl Remi who he adores. And turned out he wasn’t a branded mustang but we love him just the same.
Many years ago when we first started Skydog, we were asked to take a belgian draft horse named Biggie who a lady had rescued from a kill pen and now their home offer had fallen through. We are a mustang sanctuary but somehow we agreed and we had the honor and privilege of taking care of Biggie for the last months of his life.
Sadly Biggie had brain tumors and was put to sleep at Bend Equine about six months after he came to us. Jon was with him and was devastated as he adored that horse and I promised one day we would get another Biggie. Well this week that promised is fulfilled in honor of Biggie Samson will come to live with us.
We do not need funds as he comes fully supported by his incredible savior from a kill pen and thanks to her kindness he will have the retirement, space and care he needs for many years to come..
We were contacted by Caitlin at Rancho Relaxo, a wonderful rescue in New Jersey which we follow and adore. They had rescued an old mare from a BLM holding facility in Nevada and had her at training in Nevada. She was over 20 and not responding well and they all felt she just wanted to be wild again.
We said yes to working with Rancho Relaxo and yes to Madison. They were right, she is one of the wildest horses I have ever met and she joined Goliath’s herd where he and Grace are also in their mid twenties so she fits right in. They are easy keepers and live out on over a thousand acres for their herd of seven with one more horse about to join them so keep your eyes peeled.Goliath, 26
Our seniors are some of the most cherished horses we have at Skydog, I think everyone has a soft spot for an older horse who has been dumped at that age and their chances are so slim that it’s always an honor to pluck one from the slaughter pipeline before they are killed in the most painful, cruel, terrifying and brutal fashion. There is an enormous difference in euthanazia and slaughter and it is always the kindest most loving thing you can do to put your horse to sleep where they have lived and loved surrounded by people who care.
We have had to euthanize a few horses over the years, for different medical reasons, and for me it has always been a good way for them to pass. They literally are given a shot to sleep as if they would be having a surgery and once they lay down they are then given a shot to stop their heart. I have never once seen a horse thrash or fight the drugs, they go to sleep peacefully and lovingly which is the exact opposite of horses at slaughter houses.
If you cannot afford to keep you horse into old age with the special needs they have, I would always suggest that option, however hard it is consider. It is way better than hoping a rescue or sanctuary will do it for you to save you the pain. If you have ever loved your horse or are grateful for their wonderful service to you then please don’t drive them to auction hoping someone else will ever love them as much as you have. Sanctuaries like ours are very few and far between and we cannot nearly hope to ever accommodate every horse who needs a good retirement.
more of the amazing skydog “Oldies”
Click on any of the photos to read their stories and find out more about them.