Older horses: Is 20 the new 10?

  • Midnight Dazzler, 18, is owned by Richard and Carolyn Lissack. Since Harry Meade took him on in 2003, the pair have been in the top 25 at five CCI****s, including finishing eighth at Burghley in 2007

    Harry says: “When I got Midnight Dazzler I was under the impression he was on his last legs, but he was the only good horse I had, so I learnt to be over-paranoid about his management.

    “He takes more work than the other horses, as I keep him ticking over in the winter, walking and working quietly on the hills. That way he keeps a base level of fitness and never stiffens up. Working on the hills gets his cardio-vascular fitness up and reduces the risk of leg injury.

    “I keep the weight on him in winter and keep him warm, always starting work with a rug on him. I find he gets tight muscles otherwise.

    “He gets vitamin E and selenium for his muscles, arnica as an anti-inflammatory, and he’ll have a shot of Hyonate, (a brand name for hyaluronic acid, an intravenous joint lubricant), about a month before a big event and again a few days before. It’s about £120 a shot, and I don’t know if it makes a difference, but you want to give old horses every chance.

    “When he’s in full work he wears aluminium shoes — he flicks his legs and they take some of the pressure off.

    “You need to see the big picture with an older horse — I don’t risk him in one-day events. The only times Midnight Dazzler has run competitively in the past few years are at Gatcombe, Badminton and Burghley.”

    Read about other older horses that are defying their age, plus a feature on why horses are living longer than ever before, Lucinda Green rides Mary King’s former Olympic eventer King Solomon III – view pictures now, a special veterinary focus on arthritis and the latest products to help older horses, in this week’s Horse & Hound (31 January, ’08)

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