Typically, horses live to about age 33, but many live much longer. Unfortunately, it's not easy to pinpoint the oldest or longest-lived horse. Many pure or part bred horses have registration papers that record when they were born and others may have passports or other identifying paperwork. But, over a horse’s lifetime, these records can be lost or may be exchanged with the wrong horse. Permanent identification makes this less likely, but it does happen. Determining a horse’s age by the condition of their teeth is imprecise; it does give you an approximate age, but the method does have some downfalls, especially when trying to learn the age of a very old horse. What's more, it's quite possible that the oldest horse is not well-known because its owner hasn't publicized its age.
On average, ponies outlive larger breeds; as a result, many of the claims of "oldest horse" relate to verified stories of ponies in their fifties or sixties. While the records are probably incomplete, these are some of the oldest known ponies:
- An article written by Dr. Bob Wright, who was a veterinary scientist specializing in horses for the Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture, lists a 66-year-old pony from Wales, a 54-year-old pony stallion from France, a draft horse who lived to be 52 and a mare from Missouri who was 53.
- Ted E. Bear is commonly cited as the oldest pony in the US, living to age 55.
- Sugar Puff, a Shetland-Exmoor gelding, was cited as the oldest living pony in the Guinness Book of World Records at age 56.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, "In February 2012, at the ripe age of 51, an Irish-Draught cross gelding by the name of Shayne was listed as the oldest horse in the world by officials at the Guinness Book of World Records. Other horses may have lived longer, but were never verified by Guinness. Shayne’s age had been officially verified by veterinarians. Horse passports were introduced long after the birth of Shayne. At that time, papers only existed for purebreds." Shayne was euthanized in 2013 after his legs gave way and he was unable to function.
According to Oldest.org, Shayne is only one of several horses known to have outlived the usual equine lifespan by many years. Some of these include:
- Prospect Point, age 38 (oldest thoroughbred)
- Magic, age 46 (Polish Arabian; age determined in 2015, but the horse may still be living)
- Orchid, age 49/50 (Thoroughbred Arabian-Cross)
- Badger, age 51 (Arab-Welsh Cross)
Additional longevity records from Guinness include:
- Al Jabal, a purebred Arab, was the oldest horse to win on the flat at age 19. Al Jabal was born in 1983 and may still be alive.
- The oldest horse twins, Taff and Griff, were born in 1982 and owned by the Veteran Horse Society, Cardigan, North Pembrokeshire, UK. Taff and Griff may well still be alive.
Longevity on the Rise
With our increasing knowledge of equine care and medicine, it's likely that we will see the standing records broken in the future. Several horses are on their way to beating Shayne's record.