It is not always possible to tell the age of a horse based on appearance, because some horses age better than others. The care a horse receives plays a part in keeping him looking young. The condition of a horse's teeth, combined with other factors, help professionals gauge the age of a horse and its overall health.
Looking at your horse's teeth should provide you with a rough estimate of his age. Your horse's teeth grow and change continually as he ages; distinct changes take place in the appearance of his teeth as he ages. The University of Arkansas provides charts and diagrams to help horse owners gauge their horse's age based on minor changes within the appearance of the teeth. If you are unable to tell the age of your horse by studying his teeth, a veterinarian or equine dentist should be able to assist you with the task.
Older horses often begin graying, especially on their heads, faces and legs. An older horse may have distinct gray hairs spreading throughout his normal colored coat. Horses that do not have the gray color gene will not turn gray but those that do, even in the form a blaze or other white markings, are more likely to gray as they ages. The older as horse is, the more gray he will have in his coat.
Signs of Aging
The increasing depth of the groove above the eyes is considered a normal part of aging. Young horses will have very little to no groove above the eye, an adult horse will have a slight to moderate dip and an old horse will have a very noticeable dip that will grow increasingly deeper as time passes. When combined with other signs of aging, such as a swayed back, a deep groove above the eye makes it easier to identify, if not an exact age, that the horse is in his senior years.
If your horse is registered, his date of birth will be on his papers as well as recorded with a breed registry. Even if you do not have the original papers, you can call most breed registries and have your horse's information looked up if you know what his registered name is. Another way to help determine how old a horse is involves looking through paperwork and photographs that relate to that horse. Many owners keep shot records and Coggins tests long-term simply as part of responsible record-keeping. If you know the name of your horse's previous owner or who the owner's veterinarian was, you may be able to narrow the horse's age based on records.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.