View Full Version : How old is too old?

Hunter Mom
Dec. 25, 2009, 07:58 AM
Reading another thread, several people commented that a horse who was 12 or 13 was considered "old" by many people, which got me wondering.

Mare turns 14 this year, and she is just now (within the last two years) calming down and becoming a very nice horse for a variety of people. It seems to me that many horses are coming into their maturity about then. Especially if you're looking for a kid's horse - if they're sound and happy, why wouldn't you look at a horse in their teens? What do you consider too old? What if the horse hasn't shown any signs of being unsound? Does the amount of work they've had change the "oldness" of a horse? What about (flame suit on) breeds - are some prone to more issues?

Dec. 25, 2009, 08:06 AM
To me, it depends on what I want the horse for. If it's for me I like going younger, and usually cheaper, but I also have a lot of miles under my belt. If it's for a kid, or beginner, I like middle age to older(10+). I want people to have good experiences. Now if it's for my mother, it's got to be DEAD BROKE, I really don't care what age it is.

Dec. 25, 2009, 08:45 AM
As well as workload, age, and breed, I would also consider the build of the horse. The conformation will play a huge role in how long the horse will last.

Dec. 25, 2009, 09:52 AM
I think, for children and adult ammies, particularly the "re-riders" or late riders that need a steady, "been there done that", that a horse in their teens and even twenties is an OUTSTANDING choice. Too many people discount the value and usefullness of these "older" citizens. Actually to me 12 or 13 is a "perfect" age. One needs to look at the soundness of the horse, the job they have been doing and the amount of maintenance required, but for many, particularly on a "budget" this is the best choice. When people come to me looking for a "cheaper" horse I give them the lecture, cheaper generally means young and needs training, Older that needs maintenance, or someone elses problem. The young horse can be a good choice for someone either capable of doing a large part of the training or willing to put the money into it, but not for most children or ammies. The horse with "problems" is not a good bet for 90% of the people. And the older horse has a wealth of knowledge to give to these riders. We have SEVERAL horses that are still showing and are in their twenties. Granted, they have stepped down a division or two, but they are "passed down" to other students of mine that need those horses to learn the ropes on. I love them, and when they are "done" they can have a home here!

Dec. 25, 2009, 10:25 AM
I think it depends on whether you're willing to give the horse a forever home or are looking for resale.

My children's hunter was 15 when we bought him (advertised as 9, hahaha)
He had a good 3 years showing in the 3' and then started having a lot of coffin joint problems.
We did a short lease on him for a less experienced rider, but he was basically retired when he was 18. If we kept up on joint injections, it was possible he could have gone a little longer at the lower levels, but he just sits around in the pasture now with his friends and loves it.

It depends on the horse though, some need retirement at 15 and some last until 25. I would do a thorough PPE so you're aware of any potential issues.

Amount of work definitely plays a factor... my gelding had a hard show life and broke down fairly early.
I have another gelding that spent a good portion of his "young adult" life on pasture, so he's about 17 now and still doing well.

Beau Cheval
Dec. 25, 2009, 01:21 PM
I would say it's about resale value. Say you buy a horse at 12 or 13. By the time you're done with him he's 14 or 15. The next person who would buy him would maybe get another good two years out of them if they've been ridden, jumped, and cared for judiciously over the course of their 15 years. By then, their resale value is pretty much nil. If they've been cared for meticulously, perhaps you have 2 years for a lower level lease <3' or =3', but by then you're done. And the likelihood is you probably ran into some type of health/ soundness/comfort issue and they stopped being jumpable somewhere along the line and now they are in the light work zone, which pretty much means a pet. And a very expensive to maintain pet. However, the people that I see buying the 12-13 year olds are the people who really understand the worth of an experienced, good quality mount for their younger rider and have the money not only to purchase a 12 or 13 year old horse that has been cared for meticulously (so probably an experienced horse from a reputable barn who would probably be salable in this kind of situation until age 15) and are willing not only to pay for that, but are willing and able to keep this horse for the rest of his life.
Of course, you run into horses that have been cared for extremely well and are also just naturally healthy, sound, able bodied horses that can be doing bigger stuff (3'6) until they hit 20 (like the horse Nikko Ritter rode on Horsepower..he was like 17 I think?) but these guys are few and far between, because usually somewhere along the line someone jumped a few too many jumps, or they landed wrong, or the start getting arthritis or whatever.

Dec. 25, 2009, 07:22 PM
I think one thing people haven't talked about with an older horse is what people do to maintain them. My son has an AMAZING horse who will be turning 18 on Jan. 1. He lives on Cosequin ASU, Suceed, Farrier's Formula, Stongid. He shows on both Adequan and Legend. He is checked out by a vet twice a year and injected whereever he needs it. My son still shows him in the 3'6-3'9 jumpers, which is not that big to this horse. He is 17'2" and when he was young jumped the Grand Prix's. The thing is we are very careful with him at home. He must stay very fit with lots of good flatwork and hill walking, but not a lot of jumping. This is hard on the less experienced rider like my son, because he doesn't get a lot of practice time at home. He does jump some at home , but very small. Also when we do show him we are very careful, usually not more than 2 days in a row, 2 weeks in a row. etc. All that said his horse is the BEST teacher in the world. We have never taken him anywhere without a list of people lined up offering to buy him. He took my son from his short stirrup pony to the High Children's jumpers in less than 2 years. I would highly reccommed an "old packer" to anyone trying to teach their kid what it feels like to really do it correctly. If they ride well the horse reponds and if the kid doesn't ride well they always stay safe anyway. I am hoping our big boy lasts for another few years; there has never been a horse I trust more. I tell my son all the time he doesn't realize it, but he has his horse of a lifetime now. It is a privledge to have this horse in our lives.

Dec. 25, 2009, 07:35 PM
Some years ago I was fortunate enough to lease a hunter from a respected trainer; he was 17, had done Madison Square Garden, regular working hunters in his prime. He was an excellent teacher for me; He was restricted from doing anything higher than adult ami classes, and he was still VERY competitive. I had him two years, no maintenance except hocks done about every 7 months. We knew the time, as his changes got "iffy". After I moved on, he was actually sold to a woman whose daughter showed intermediate and then childrens with him. I think he was 20+ when someone just decided to trail ride him and jump an occasional cross rail.
I was told at the time by others that he was an "opportunity of a lifetime" to ride. It was probably true, but some years later I bought a horse at 15 who has been my dressage equivalent. Will be 20 for real in March, and is still QUITE capable of all the Prix St Georges movements and then some.

My PERSONAL belief, with no scientific support, is if they are sound at 14 or 15, they will stay sound in their work if it is reasonable and consistent - of course always a risk of weird accident or something...

Dec. 25, 2009, 07:53 PM
I echo everything ShawneeAcres wrote.

I'm an adult "re-rider" and I recently bought a 22 year old gelding. I was looking for something 15-20 years old, but the stars aligned on this guy. I did find a 15 year old mare that would have been a good match, but her price was four times that of the 22 year old.

I think a lot of folks who are put off by older horses are either fairly new to the sport or work with trainers who have never maintained a horse in a usable state to old age. When my guy's number is up, I'll be looking for another 15+ year old that I keep through its last days.

Dec. 25, 2009, 09:01 PM
This is one of those things that is very, very individual. My BO's horse at 17 retired much much sounder than mine did at 11. I think, unfortunately, older horses will all have some jewelry of sorts once you look at the films, and some it won't bother and some it will. Short of a gifted psychic, there isn't much way to tell other than to buy a horse who you absolutely love and understand that no matter how old they are, any good time you get is very very precious. Yearlings can hurt themselves in a field and be done before they even get going, so I think that's a good rule no matter how old the horse, but especially with an older one.

Another thing to keep in mind, is that in some cases, there's wisdom to the old advice, "If he's not lame from all of that, you ain't gonna break 'im" OTTBs in particular often have some OMG xrays and legs, but they remain sound longer than a horse who has always had clean legs and develops something at an older age.

Dec. 26, 2009, 08:55 AM
I think it depends mostly on how sound the horse is and how much younger they act. I have a 13 year old Belgian Warmblood who is completely sound (never been lame, trainer has had him since he was a baby) and he still does 4'6" jumpers and everything. have a freind who owns a 15 year old horse who i have ridden who still jumps 4'6" (he is veryyy athletic) and spooks at everything and acts like a three year old sometimes! He does have arthritice issues so he cant stand for too long and must be worked but also cant be worked to long in one lesson.

Overall if the horse is sound and likes his job, i see nothing wrong with a horse in it's teens.

Dec. 26, 2009, 12:00 PM
If your not looking for re-sale, then getting those in the early, mid or late teens is a great opportunity to get to ride some amazing horses for next to nothing! Of course, you have to be careful in this age range when looking, as so many horses are pounded on so young that they are finished at this age. BUT the good ones that were created by the best trainers and had their careers managed well (yes, they may need some maintenance) will continue to shine and they usually love their jobs! My sister had one that she got as a free lease when he was 18yrs old and retired from the open jumpers (owner just thought it was time and didn't want to ruin him) and she showed him in the 3'6" adult eq and the like until he was 25yrs old. He only needed Cosequin and legand in the spring. I got my jumper when I was 14yrs old and he was shown (we dropped him in height from the 3'6"/4'range to the 3' height when he was about 20) but he continued to show until he was 24yrs old. Had his hocks injected for the first time at age 22yrs (was on oral joint supps prior to that and had had legand series once). On rads, he was still clean! That said, some hold up better then others! But I wouldn't discount the older guys as long as your not looking to make money on a re-sale project.

Dec. 26, 2009, 02:15 PM
I agree with others who have said that it's more about resale than the actual age of the horse. If you're looking for a forever horse, age often doesn't matter. And I certainly would look for a 12+ year old horse for my mother (who needs the packer type) if I were ever shopping for a horse for her again. But the truth of the matter is that a lot of people expect to get what they paid for back out of a horse when they sell it. Each year past 12 or 13 makes the horse less appealing to a new buyer (generally speaking).

If everyone kept horses in "proper" routines, I'm not sure this would be the same case. But the sad truth is that there are a lot of homes/trainers out there who miss some aspect of conditioning/shoeing/footing/feed/bodywork/vet or some other part of maintenance that result in horses breaking down earlier than they might otherwise (meaning a 12yo might not be as sound or fit as it *should* be). And in addition to that, there are a lot of trainers out there who don't understand keeping an older horse fit and sound, meaning they advise their clients to buy younger to save themselves the trouble.

With that being said, there are a lot of trainers that "get" older horses and do well with them. But age can be an unknown factor in soundness, and often people want to minimize whatever risks they can control.

Dec. 27, 2009, 12:03 AM
Let the horse be the judge of how old is too old. I used to ride, show, and jump a schooling horse well into 19yos. As long as they are fit, sound, healthy, and still have that drive, why stop? Just listen to your mare, she will tell YOU when she is ready to retire!

Dec. 27, 2009, 08:55 AM
I had one lady come looking at one of my horses who wanted something that

-"had to be a TB"
-"wasn't started too young" (i.e., she wanted it to be a late 3 or 4 when it was started)
-"wasn't older than 6"
-"was well broke and could take care of her and quietly go on long trail rides too"

I was like, "Um, you aren't giving anyone much of a training window there..."

I think 12-15 is a great age to get a horse to move up on.
They can stay sound and competitive well into their teens; Michael Matz had ones clocking around the international GPs at 17.

I have known lesson horses happily teaching beginners the ropes well into their thirties. Couldn't retire 'em if you tried; they'd get too depressed.

Dec. 27, 2009, 10:13 AM
What an awesome thread! My horse will be 14 next March. We're starting showing next season (jumpers/2 phase and hunting). I've been really nervous that he's too old to start showing and I will quickly need a younger horse. He's never shown signs of breaking down, doesnt have bad joints (though is on Cosequin for Preventative Maint). My trainer keeps telling me that he can everything I want to do, and dont worry about another horse until I'm ready to move up to a level the horse can't reach.

I'm glad I opened this....I've had him for 4 years, and he sat unused in a field for 3 years prior. No one knows what his past life was.

Dec. 27, 2009, 12:14 PM
It was years ago, but my wonderful junior horse was the same age as I was when I got him - 16. We did the big eq and the junior jumpers. That horse never held me back - if anything, he could do more than I was capable of ;) When I aged out, we did the A/O jumpers and the USET. He did require maintenance (regular hock injections), but he loved his job and taught me an incredible amount.

Finances were a major part of why I ended up with this horse. He was considerably less expensive than an 8 or 10 year old horse with equivalent experience/talent. My parents were realistic about resale value: they approached it without a whole lot to spend knowing they probably wouldn't get it back. It worked really well for us.

This is why I internally roll my eyes when clients tell me they don't want to look at anything older than 8 for their teeny kids who are jumping crossrails. I have a big picture of my junior horse jumping 4'6" at age 17 hanging on my office wall that I direct them to in situations like this ;)

I retired my wonderful lesson pony 2 years ago at age 38. Her joints are still amazingly sound, but she has a respiratory issue due to having no teeth that prevents her from being ridden. But (knock on wood) she is otherwise sound as a dollar.

Dec. 27, 2009, 05:21 PM
I think it depends on the horse and what your plans on for the horse. The first horse my parents bought me for my tenth birthday was a 16 year old mare. We pulled her out of retirement, but she had always been sound and was only retired because the girl had gone off to college. That little mare took me from cross rails classes to juniors. We cleaned up on every level and she never took a lame step. I out grew her after 7 years and at that point she was 23 years old. There wasn't a resale market for her. We leased her for a year to a cross rail rider and then she broke her leg in a freak pasture accident and we had to put her down. She was the best horse, but my mom sometimes comments on how we probably couldn't have ever resold her because we bought her so late in her life. But she always said she'd buy that old horse 100 times over because she taught me so much and built my confidence.

Dec. 27, 2009, 05:23 PM
My mare had her very best year at age 13. She will be 16 but is still going strong, even though she takes a bit more maintenance (but I do too!).

It also depends on how the horse was taken care - was it pounded to death in the show ring? Did the owner(s) limit its showing so it would last. And soundness. Is the horse generally sound? Has it always been that way.

Dec. 27, 2009, 05:52 PM
My current show hunter is just starting to calm down and really come into himself at 14 (will be 15 end of March)! He is completely sound and still jumping 3'6" on a regular basis. He was my Jr Jumper several years ago and now due to mentally not wanting to show in the jumpers he is clocking around the A/O hunter ring. I have just started hock injections bc he didn't need them until now.

I also bought a 30 something yr old mare a few years ago for my mom to start riding again. She was the best horse that we looked at for her and we were looking at horses from 12 and up! Now we were told that she was 18-20 when we bought her but my vet and dentist both laughed when they saw her teeth and agreed that she was easily 30! :lol: Now she wasn't very well taken care of before we got her so she had some issues but my mom was just w/t and would only canter for like 5 strides on a good day so she was perfect. I would trust this mare to take my mom on trial rides and for hacks down the roads and she only had 1 eye!

I think a horse is only as old as you allow it to be and there is always someone who can use and love a horse no matter how young/old it may be! And as many people have said before I have seen GP jumpers in their late teens and twenties who are still winning!

Dec. 28, 2009, 10:45 AM
well, my big mare will be 25 in may, and, beyond the occasional stiffness, is sound, still drags me around wanting to do MORE, and is sounder, fitter and healthier than some of the 5 and 6 year olds we have in the barn. and thats after doing the big eq, then eventing to prelim. she's on cosequin, but that's it. she's amazing. a client of mine has a 33 yr old gelding that she got last year for her kids that is fantastic! again, on a joint supplement, and he's not the easiest keeper in the world, but he's perfect, and still going strong! so really, it depends on what you're looking for, and the particular animal itself. some are crippled at 4, sound are still going strong at 34. if you're looking for yourself, or for resale, and what your goals are can all play a part as well.

Dec. 28, 2009, 11:38 AM
We bought my mare at 11, and now she's 14. We have stepped her down a bit to 2'9"-3' and she does require some maintenance but she has a great brain and is a dream to ride. I'm in my 30's and have 2 small children so I was looking for a horse that knew its job and would take good care of me. She's been wonderful!
She's had a few minor soundness issues, but nothing specifically related to age. She is on joint supps, isoxuprine and monthly Legend along with having chiropractic done regularly and we've only had to inject her hocks once in the three years that I've had her (she was regularly injected by previous owner). Most importantly, I'm careful to keep her in condition, as she is a big mare, and only jump her a few times per week. She has a forever home with me and I would never pass up an older horse with a terrific brain. They're so enjoyable!

Dec. 28, 2009, 11:45 AM
Kind of depends on what you want to do with the horse as well. You want 2 lessons a week and show every weekend-at 3' or better? Probably going to be awfully hard on a late teener or early 20s type, especially on the more competitive circuits.

Fact my first 3' horse was 23 or so...also a fact it took alot out of him and he needed a full week to fully recover. Not lame either-kind of dull. tired I imagine despite a good home schedual.

My 20 year old now is still active BUT the maintainance to keep her so adds up cost wise and she also is kind of flat for about a week after a show. I don't think she can do the tent stalls on pavement anymore so we stay close to home.

And that old GP horse that won in his early 20s was the same way-he got alot of help and needed alot of time after.

The insurance companies will not provide MM coverage past about age 17...and the premiums get noticeably more expensive about 15. My MM policy terminated and converted to a surgical only with a 5k cap when mine hit 16 and was dropped altogether at 17. If statistics showed late teen and older horses were a good risk? They would be delighted to sell us MM policies.

Older horses can be perfect but any buyer needs to consider if they can swing the costs associated with keeping them going, accept some limitations and possible retirement.

So it's sort of not fair to assume a buyer is clueless if they specify nothing over 12 or so-they may know what they need and know they need to resell when the kid goes to college.

Mind you, not defending the ignorant and not saying they never suit. But of you are on a budget? Aquiring something that will need extra care can backfire.

Dec. 28, 2009, 12:32 PM
just got to add... that proof of age not always being a factor - Judgement. He just retired this past year and in the summer he was still doing the GP's.... With the right breeding, maintenance and preventive care... age shouldn't really matter.

Dec. 28, 2009, 12:52 PM
I've never had problems with "older" horses. I personaly think that 10-13 is a horses prime.

My oldest horse is 21yo. He is a TB and he was on the track until he was 7yo. I got him when he was 9 and did the jumpers with him, as well as playing around with hunters and eventing. My sister currently rides him and shows him in the jumpers. I would not expect him to go out and show 4' anymore, but he is perfectly sound and happy doing 3'-3'3 with my sister. He likes having a job.

If you want to turn around and sell them later, it might be a drawback. Some people (not everyone) won't buy a horse older than 12 because they do look towards selling it down the road. However it is not impossible, my sister sold her outgrown 19yo hunter to an adult beginner for the same price I paid for him when he was 11yo (At the time he had serious issues so I got a heck of a steal for a A circuit hunter). Again, he too is perfectly sound and happy to do his job. The lady who has him now loves him, he is perfect for her and very experianced :)

Dec. 28, 2009, 12:58 PM
I believe that Shutterfly was 16 when he won the FEI World Cup in Las Vegas in April. He was the oldest horse in the competition.

Dec. 28, 2009, 01:14 PM
My guy is 23 and still cleared for the 3' jumpers. I got his legs xrayed recently and they are clean. Pretty inpressive for an old OTTB.

Every horse is different. Some stay healthy and peak later than others.