Horses are a costly investment in livestock. They don't come cheap--and neither does their upkeep--and many people who buy a horse for riding or draft work acquire them "used." This raises the important question of how long can a horse be expected to live, what breeds live the longest and how to maximize a horse's health to prolong their lifespan.
General Life Expectancy
Generally speaking, a horse that is well-maintained and stays in good general health can be expected to live between 25 and 30 years. However, both breed and lifestyle can greatly alter this expectation.
Life Expectancy and Breeds
As a rule, the two kinds of horse that are most likely to live long are ponies and draft horses. There are a variety of breeds that fall into these two broad categories, but as a rule these horses are likely to live past 30, with ponies reaching 35 not being uncommon.
The horse breed with the shortest life expectancy is the thoroughbred, which has a more delicate constitution. Combined with the rigors of racing, they do not tend to age well and usually live to be 20 to 25.
The oldest verified horse was Old Billy, a 19th-century animal that lived to be 62. The most recent horse to live to be relatively ancient was Sugar Puff, who died in 2007 at the age of 56. The latter horse is noted in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The quickest means of estimating a horse's age is to examine their teeth, but this requires some experience with horses to be able to do with any accuracy.
Horses are not dated from their date of birth; instead, all horses have an official birth date of January 1st. This can have a somewhat distorting effect on determining the age of a horse, since a foal born mere weeks before the end of the year will automatically become a yearling upon the New Year, at least as far as the record books are concerned.
Depending on the demands of their lifestyle, a horse needs to eat between two and 3.5 percent of their body weight every day. However, a horse is one of the animals that will often keep on eating so long as there is food, and therefore can easily overeat. At least 3/4s of this should be forage, such as grass and hay. The rest is made up of grain, such as oats. A horse leading an easy life in the paddock and barn--and not in training or doing manual labor--could do well on 90 percent forage. A draft horse or a horse regularly engaged in riding will need a higher proportion of grain. They also drink between 10 and 12 gallons of clean water a day when idle, and more if very active.
Horses do require a minimum of shelter from the elements, which can often be provided by a simple shed that offers protection from chilling winds and rain. They also require at a minimum regular care to the hooves.