How old is that horse? Horse Tips for Writers

How long does a horse live?

At what age are they still working?

Do you know how to equate horse age in human terms?


Guess that’s why you’re here then 😉

How long does a horse live

© Alan Heartfield | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Alan Heartfield | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The answer is, of course, as long as a piece of string.

Average life expectancy rather depends on the SIZE of a horse. Much like dogs, the larger the breed, the shorter the lifespan.

And of course, as husbandry skills and veterinary care improve, so that life expectancy increases.

So let’s talk numbers. Large breed horses (like shires, or larger competition breeds such as the Hanoverian) used to be considered old at twenty. These days, many of them live on to mid or even late twenties.

Pones have always lived longer, with average life expectancy that used to be mid to late twenties, and is now more like thirty.

Equating horse ages with human

As an easy rule of thumb, multiply your horse’s age by three.

So that thirty year old pony is around ninety, and the horse of twenty five is, in human terms, around seventy five.

Easy, yes?

Age of working horses

Now this is where we start to need to know a bit about what type of horse we are considering.

Take a racehorse, for example.

Anthony 92931/

Anthony 92931/

Thoroughbred racehorses are first ridden as yearlings – yes, at one year of age, or three, in human terms.

Sounds a bit extreme?

Yes, I think so too. At least the riders are, of course, very lightweight.

Horses first race as two-year-olds (six, in human terms) – still a very early age, and before they are fully grown, but this is the stage when you need to consider the rate of maturity.

Thoroughbreds are an early maturing breed, and will reach their full stature by four years old.

At the other end of the scale, most warmblood breeds do not mature until eight or even nine years old, and their ridden career starts at three or fours years of age to reflect this slower growth rate.

Age of working horses

Taking the above into account, you should not be surprised to learn that few thoroughbreds are still working into old age. Like human gymnasts, they tend to pay for their early careers with more joint issues as they grow older, often resulting in retirement or euthanasia.

Ordinary riding horses may well continue working into their early twenties. while competition horses tend to retire (from competing, at least) in their late teens, but may continue in light work for many more years.

Horses are considered to be in their prime at around nine years old (twenty seven, human), and getting past their prime after the age of twelve (thirty six plus).

These are, of course, rough guides, and there are always exceptions.


Horses that live past thirty start to have issues with eating, as by then their teeth tend to be ground down to little or nothing, and more care needs to be taken with feeding, but this can be managed, and more options are available as feed companies develop dedicated feeds that accommodate the specific needs of the ‘senior’ horse.

And speaking of those exceptions, I personally knew one pony who lived into her fifties! She was blind as a bat and on an almost liquid diet, but happy as a lark until the day she died.

I wonder how old this cheeky chappy is?

Any questions? Please do ask, about this or any other topic related to horses and I will do my best to answer.

And of course, please drop over to my dedicated ‘Horse Tips for Writers’ blog to see all my other posts.


  1. jenniferbielman · · Reply

    Love learning new stuff. 🙂


    1. Me too 😀
      You should never stop learning – it’s all downhill from there on in if you do!
      Glad to be of service.


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