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Long-lived horses
Prospect Point in the last years of his life. Source: Horse is Love

Long-lived horses

The average lifespan of a horse is about 30 years. In the wild they rarely live more than 15 years, but with home care, veterinary supervision and good nutrition they live longer. Like people, horses have their own long-livers, who, contrary to nature, live longer than usual.

Purebred centenarians

Thoroughbred horses can live into old age after retirement, with an average life expectancy of 25-28 years, but can die from various causes such as diseases that cause suffering and contribute to the end of their life cycle. Examples include Northern Dancer and his mother Natalma, who both lived to 29 but succumbed to severe colic, and Nijinsky who developed laminitis at 26 and had to be euthanised. It is unclear if late-life diseases in thoroughbreds are due to genetic abnormalities or the horses' active sporting backgrounds. Prospect Point, an American thoroughbred, holds the record for the longest-lived at 38 years and 204 days before being euthanised due to deteriorating health.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Australian bay gelding Tango Duke, owned by Carmen J. Koper, lived longer than other thoroughbreds. He was born in 1935 and died in January 1978 at the age of 42.

Old Billy The Barge Horse. Source: Historic UK
Old Billy The Barge Horse. Source: Historic UK

Old Billy

The exact breed of Old Billy, the stallion, remains a mystery. Born in Woolston, Lancashire, England in 1760, he faithfully served the Mersey and Irwell Navigation Company as a barge horse until his death in 1822. Despite doubts about the accuracy of historical records, it is believed that Old Billy lived a long life, equivalent to 150 years by today's standards. Throughout his life, Old Billy had one master, Mr. Henry Harrison, who first met the horse when he was just 17 years old. In 1921, a year before his death, Old Billy was immortalised in a portrait by artist William Bradley. As a special honour, the Navigation Company entrusted Henry Harrison with the care of both Old Billy and another distinguished pensioner.

Until the age of 50, Old Billy was not easy-going, especially after work; he was even considered evil. He was in such a hurry to get to the stable, have lunch and rest that he bit and kicked those who could detain him, as if making it clear that he would not allow anyone to encroach on his free time.

The horse's skull is now in the Manchester Museum, and the stuffed head is on display in Bedford's Higgins Museum. He has false teeth, cropped ears like in the picture, and a light spot on his forehead. Perhaps the horse's moderate physical activity throughout its life led to its longevity.

Shane with a volunteer. Source: Daily Mail
Shane with a volunteer. Source: Daily Mail

Badger и Shayne

Badger, the legendary Arabian-Welsh horse, lived to the impressive age of 51 and was recognised in the Guinness Book of Records. In contrast, Irish gelding Shane also lived a long life of 51 years (1962-2013), but their final years unfolded in starkly different ways.

When Badger was discovered by volunteers, he was in a pitiful state, clearly worn out from a lifetime of being used as a riding horse by multiple owners. In his old age, he was eventually sent to a horse shelter to meet his end. However, he was rescued by the Horse Veterans Society, where he was given proper care, nursed back to health, and shown kindness in his final days. This experience may have softened his opinion of humans before he passed away.

On the other hand, Shane spent his later years at the Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary, having been well-loved and cared for by his owners on a farm in Chingford. He was always treated with respect and received proper care from the volunteers. His diet was carefully managed to keep his weight at a healthy 480 kg, with special treats like sugar beets, alfalfa, and cabbage. Unfortunately, Shane collapsed on February 22, 2013, leading to the difficult decision to euthanize him. The crematorium generously offered to cremate his body for free, touched by Shane's remarkable longevity.

Orchid with a volunteer at the Remus Nature Reserve. Source: Mirror
Orchid with a volunteer at the Remus Nature Reserve. Source: Mirror

Orchid

This horse is known as the oldest mare in the world, she lived for 49 years, spending the last years of her life in the same Remus Memorial Game Reserve in Essex. Before getting to the volunteers, she went through the indifferent attitude of her previous owners and even outright bullying. The blind horse was loved in the reserve for its cheerful disposition; it loved to gallop and goat, and loved to crunch cabbage leaves. After a year of happy life, she developed colic and the mare had to be euthanised.

Sugar Puff with his owner. Source: horseandhound.co.uk
Sugar Puff with his owner. Source: horseandhound.co.uk

Long-lived ponies

Sugar Puff, the oldest pony in the world, made it into the Guinness Book of Records after being born in 1951 and passing away on May 25, 2007. Throughout his life, he participated in 22 races from 1979 to 1982, winning 2, coming in second in 3, and third in 3.

After retiring, Sugar Puff was taken in by owner Sally Botting, who used him to teach children how to ride him. He also made appearances in cheerful Christmas processions. Sadly, at the age of 56, Sugar Puff fell ill and had to be euthanised by a veterinarian. Sally Botting had grown accustomed to his presence, believing he would outlive her.

Another pony, Scribbles, may not have made it into the record books, but he lived to be 51 years old in 2009. Scribbles remained active and cheerful, working at Cornwall Riding School until his retirement.

These stories highlight the importance of caring for animals in their old age, allowing them to live happily beyond what is considered normal. They serve as a reminder of the kindness and generosity that can be found in humanity, even in our technologically-driven world.

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