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Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;


How Old is Old?

 By Dorinda Troutman, RMR Staff Writer


May 2013 issue  


According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, depending upon the breed, management and environment, the modern domestic horse has a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

Now, better health care, nutrition and feed are keeping many old horses active into that old age and beyond.

In addition to excellent feed that compensates for poor teeth, all equines that live into extreme old age seem to have something else in common. They are not alone. They live with other equines.


Over many years of featuring twice-yearly photo albums of both families and kids with horses and mules in Rocky Mountain Rider Magazine, we have often marveled at the ages of the equines. They are usually being used as bombproof teachers of tiny youngsters learning how to ride and care for their first horse. Many of those horses and mules have been older than 25 years old.

In the December 2007 issue of RMR there were so many elderly “teachers”in the photos chosen that 13 very mature horses were featured on a double spread inside the Kids & Horses photo album.

Mules Roamer, age 37 (owned by the Owens family from Chilliwack, BC) and Cleo, age 25, (seen happily carrying Jack Chambers, age 5, in the Dayton, Washington Fourth of July parade), were both featured in the December 2012 Kids and Horses Photo Album.

One of the most indelible senior horses featured in RMR photo albums has been Star, a buckskin Quarter Horse gelding owned by the Barger family of Helmville , Montana . Star is now more than 30 years old and has carried three of the Barger girls: Riley, age 12, Jessy, age 9, and Alaina, age 7, through barrel racing, parades, flag ceremonies and all manner of events (and in great photographs). Each girl began riding Star at age 2. Mom Jodi Barger says that Star is now semi-retired but is still being ridden bareback around the ranch and carrying the flag in parades.  


The Barger girls, of Helmville , Montana , carry the flags in a 2012 parade. From left, Riley is riding Star, age 30+; Alaina is riding Possum, age 22; and Jessy is riding Joey, age 24. Photo by mom, Jodi Barger.

Many horse lovers followed the story of Elmer Bandit, the half Arabian, half Appendix Quarter Horse gelding who holds the U.S. Endurance mileage record. In 2010, Elmer, at the age of 38, completed a total of 20,780 certified competitive trail miles. Elmer died in October of that year. He stands as a testimony that only because a horse is old, it does not mean he is ready to be retired.

Elmer’s career spanned a remarkable 34 years. His longevity has been credited to great genes, excellent conformation (including good feet and strong cannon bones) and the life-long excellent care by his owner and endurance rider, Mary Anne Wood. As Elmer aged and developed problems chewing, he was fed two carefully balanced and soaked meals of senior feed and alfalfa pellets each day. He was also pastured 24 hours a day with other horses his entire life.  


Elmer Bandit was still competing in endurance riding at the age of 38.


The oldest verifiable record of horse longevity was a horse in the 1800s named Old Billy who lived to be 62 years old. The Guinness Book of World records lists the world’s oldest living pony at age 56 when he died in 2007.

In February, 2013, the current world’s oldest living horse died. Shayne, a 15-hand liver chestnut Irish Draught/Thoroughbred who lived in England , was 51. His owner moved him to a horse sanctuary after his pasture mate died, in order for him to continue to have equine companionship. Shayne remained remarkably healthy and fit until he died. He enjoyed a special diet of high-calorie and easily-digested feed four times a day.  


Shayne died in February 2013 at age 51 in England.

The previous oldest living horse was a Welsh/Arab named Badger, who also lived to 51. He died in 2004.

No other person has stepped forward to claim owning the oldest living horse since Shayne passed.

Two elderly donkeys living in Great Britain recently died after each lived 54 years.

One Colorado donkey has them all beat. The longest currently living equine is a 72-year-old donkey named Flower who lives with a companion donkey on a farm in Colorado . Flower came to her present owner with a brand inspection card that states she was born in 1941 in Nebraska .  


At age 72, Flower is the world’s oldest known equine.

There may be many more very old equines in the world, and some may be even older than Shayne or Flower. However, their age may not be verifiable with registration or brand papers, or by having the same owners their entire life, such as the equines mentioned above.

See pictures of all the old “teachers” in RMR Photo Albums online at    

Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;

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