The average lifespan of quarter horses is 25 to 35 years. However, most quarter horses live longer than average because of medical advancements and veterinary care.
There are many factors that dictate how long they can live. For instance, nutrition, exercise, size, and genetics are “key” factors affecting the lifespan of quarter horses and all horses in general.
While horses can live for over five decades, they tend to develop health problems slightly before or after living for two decades. The oldest living registered quarter horse dubbed “chief” has lived for 57+ years. Chief is one of the oldest horses to have ever lived, close to the 61 years of a horse called “Old Billy”.
Factors That Affect A Quarter Horses Lifespan
1. Living Conditions
Like any other horse breed, quarter horses living in “perfect” or ideal conditions will live longer. Each quarter horse should have at least 12 by 18 feet of living space in regards to living space. Smaller barn spaces are unpleasant and capable of hindering growth. If your quarter horse is big and spends most of its time in the barn, a larger space is always better.
Ideally, your horse should have enough square footage to lie down, turn around, and get up comfortably. While 12 by 12 feet of space is ideal for a 1,000-pound horse, more space (i.e., 12 by 18 feet) is recommended for an adult quarter horse. The dimensions also matter. Generally, the wall length should be 1.5 times a horse’s length. The barn should also be well ventilated.
The diet of quarter horses is made up of fresh grass, hay, and grains such as rolled bran, oats, and barley. Horses also need supplements and concentrates to complement typical diets that may lack essential nutrients. Since quarter horses are considered hard-working horses for their racing and endurance-running prowess, their diet should be made up of large quantities of grain to provide adequate energy. Dietary fat sources should also be considered. For instance, substituting some grain with corn, canola, and soy is advisable to avoid problems associated with high grain diets i.e., laminitis and colic.
In regard to precise quantities, each quarter horse needs to eat approximately 1.5 to 3 percent of its body weight. Horses also need supplements that are dictated by the deficiencies in specific diets. The nutritional needs of quarter horses will also vary depending on the physical activities they are subjected at a given moment. There are more precise feeding guidelines to consider if you want your horse to get the best nutrition and live as long as possible.
In a nutshell, feeding should be designed around performance. High-quality forage should be part of every good feeding program. A minimum of 1% of a horse’s body weight in forage daily is enough to ensure a horse maintains healthy gut function. Forage can be from pasture, hay, or other high-fiber feeding sources. Supplementation is also critical to ensure the horse gets everything they need in their nutrition to stay healthy for a long time.
Important: Quarter horses should not be overfed (feeding over 3% of their body weight daily). Overfeeding can cause weight issues that make it impossible for a horse to exercise adequately, which in turn, introduces other health issues.
Since quarter horses are performance horses, they need more exercise than other horses to stay healthy and live longer. There are many reasons why quarter horses should get adequate amounts of exercise. Exercise improves stamina, endurance, organ function (heart and lungs), tones and boosts the function of muscles, ligaments, and tendons, facilitates/maintains bone/hoof development, maintains proper digestive function, increases immunity, prevents behavioral problems, and boosts alertness. The benefits of exercise have a proven link to the overall health and wellness of horses.
Generally, quarter horses need exercise daily. Their exercise needs for optimal health and longevity are linked to their behavior in a natural environment. Horses are active animals. Quarter horses are more active than the typical horses. Since horses cover at least 30 km daily in wild situations, they should exercise above this range.
The best type of exercise is slow and steady movements out while grazing coupled with occasional bursts of speed. Quarter horses let out on their own to graze can meet their own exercise needs. Paddocks can also offer adequate grounds for exercise. However, they must be safe to avoid injury. If the quarter horses in question are for professional racing, professional exercise programs are required. All in all, exercise is a critical factor for longevity for all horses, including quarter horses.
Quarter horses also need preventative vaccines to avoid common diseases that kill them prematurely. The AAEP (America Association of Equine Practitioners) offers detailed guidelines for horse vaccination based on many factors. Anything there is to know about vaccinating quarter horses, and other horse breeds are present on the AAEP official website.
Like humans, all horses need vaccines for survival. The goal of horse vaccines is to help horses develop as well as maintain individual and herd immunity against common infectious diseases like rabies, encephalomyelitis, tetanus, influenza, botulism, rotavirus, and other diseases known to kill horses or compromise their health significantly.
Genetics also has a role to play. While all quarter horses have a similar lifespan, there may be slight differences from the three types of quarter horses namely; the heavy bulldog, thoroughbred, and popular intermediate types.
The bulldog, as the name suggests, has a muscular appearance. Genetics make the horse have physical advantages that can translate to better physical health. While having natural masculinity can help boost immunity, there are many other factors that dictate a quarter horse’s lifespan, as discussed above.
6. Grooming And Care
This is another obvious but commonly overlooked factor affecting how long a quarter horse or any other horse will live. Poor grooming and care will expose quarter horses and all other horses to serious diseases and health problems that lower their lifespan.
How Can The Lifespan Of A Quarter Horse Be Prolonged?
First and foremost, quarter horses should have specialized dietary programs made to meet their specific needs. Given that two-quarter horses can have different activity needs since one is racing and the other has been kept for other purposes, professionals should be engaged to prepare dietary programs that match specific needs. Coupled with supplementation, vaccination, good living conditions, and proper grooming and care, quarter horses can live beyond their average life expectancy.
It’s also worth noting that the exercise needs of horses decrease as they get older. Putting an old quarter horse on the same intense exercise regime as a young horse can be counterproductive and increase the risk of death.
Lastly, quarter horse owners should check for signs of poor health and act accordingly. A horse’s dental formula can give clues on health. Wearing out/missing teeth is an indication of deteriorating health. Looking out for such signs can help a horse owner take action to prolong their horse’s lifespan.
How Can I Know The Age Of My Quarter Horse?
If there are no documents (registration papers) present, it can be a daunting task trying to determine the exact age of any domesticated horse, let alone quarter horses. However, it’s possible to get an estimate when there is no formal proof of a horse’s age.
The most common method is examining a horse’s teeth. However, this method works best for estimating the age of a young horse (as opposed to old horses). This method is reliant on the teeth structure of horses. The most important consideration is the general structure of a horse’s teeth by age.
At birth, horses have no teeth. By age 1, horses have temporary teeth, and corners have no visible signs of wear. By age 2, the corners have signs of wear, and temporary teeth are developed fully. The roots are also joined to the gums at this age. By age 3, horses have a permanent center tooth. The center teeth become permanent at age 4. Canines also start showing at this age. By age 5, a horse has a “full mouth” marked by the loss of all temporary teeth and the appearance of permanent teeth.
Horses that are older than five years tend to have corner teeth with some wear. The dovetail develops, and cups appear before disappearing. Determining age during this time is open to interpretation. Once a horse reaches 14 – 15 years, interpreting age is harder.
Besides considering the dental formula, muscle mass, coat, and a horse’s back can indicate senior age. Old horses tend to have a swayed back and a thicker denser coat. Older horses also have lower muscle mass. Other signs include droopy lips, poor eyesight, drooping fetlocks, GI tract problems, and increased susceptibility to illness.
Which Horses Live The Longest?
Smaller, less bulky horses tend to live longer than their heavier and taller counterparts (such as draft horses). As a result, Arabian horses and ponies will live longer than larger horse breeds like American quarter horses.
When Is A Horse Considered Old/Senior?
Any horse above 15 years old is considered a senior horse.
In a nutshell, you should expect a quarter horse to live for 25 to 35 years. The lifespan is dictated by six main factors ranging from living conditions and nutrition to exercise, vaccination, and grooming/care. Although most horses tend to die from age-related causes, there are many things horse owners can do to increase the lifespan of quarter horses. The percentage of horses that die of health complications can be saved by taking the simple measures discussed above.