A few weeks ago, I attended the Kentucky Equine Research (KER) Convention to cover presentations by a number of great veterinarians, researchers, and equine nutritionists. There were some interesting and informative lectures given this year, and I'm in the process of writing up articles as we speak.

During a presentation on feeding aged horses, Kathleen Crandell, PhD, who works as a nutritionist for KER, made a point to discuss something I found exceptionally interesting: What's the "proper" term for the senior horse? In her opinion, "aged" is the best term to use when discussing old horses, and here's why:

Crandell said that there are four common terms people and researchers, via the literature, use to describe this demographic of horses--old, senior, geriatric, and aged--and she discussed each term with the audience.

Old, she said, tends to have some negative connotations surrounding it. It also can give the impression that the being it describes is near the end of its life. Are all horses over the age of, say, 20 near the end of their life? Sure, they're closer than when they were younger, but some animals are still healthy as a horse (no pun intended) and actively competing at 25 or 26 years of age.

Next, Crandell discussed "senior," and noted that most commonly in her experience "senior" is used to describe specially made food for aged horses rather than the animals themselves.

And finally, she explained that she often hears the term "geriatric" used to describe aging horses. In human medicine, she said, geriatric describes an older person suffering from disease. While that might describe some old horses perfectly, it is the polar opposite from the 25- and 26-year-old competition horses we discussed earlier.

Aged, on the other hand, tends to have a more positive connotation, she said. Aged cheese or wine, for example, is often coveted (although I can certainly think of some items of which the aged varieties would probably not coveted--milk, meat, or eggs, for instance). She also said that aged is more all-encompassing than some other terms.

So what do you think? What's your preferred term for old horses? I think Crandell's points are very valid, and I do think "aged" is a good term to use to describe the older equine demographic. Will I refer to these horses as "aged" in every article I write or every conversation I have? Probably not, but it's definitely some food for thought.