I've been struggling with this since last winter. My old man in 21. Last winter he started really showing his age as far as not tolerating the cold and have more very stiff days.
I kinda want to retire him completely. He lives at home with me and will stay here until the day he dies. As it is now, I've been mainly hacking around just to keep some condition on him, but he does live out 24/7.
His riding limit is pretty much 20-25 min, his left lead canter is pretty much non existent. He has stifle issues and really cannot get his hindend under him at all.
He could care less if he is ridden, but I feel guilty. I've also got a younger horse that I am riding much more often.
How did you decide to come to full retirement for your senior horse? I know lots say, they just tell you. Mine has not been obvious one way or the other and he is "serviceably sound".
Sigh, mine are hours away from me, that's the only way I can afford them. So I understand the guilt. And once and a while I get a ping from them and I know something is wrong.
However, I don't think any horse minds not being ridden, they mind not being loved and fussed over. So, you can take them for walks (like a dog, you on foot), brush their manes, braid ribbons in their hair and talk to them and provide little comforts for them. They will get your love, and that's all they really want (besides their physical and their social-horsey needs being met).
If he wants to go out with you when you chose to ride your younger guy, perhaps you can teach him to pony, so he's still in on "the action".
I think the more you ride them, the better they are - fitter, and still involved. The worst thing you can do for a horse who is older but relatively sound is just retire it. Twenty-one is not that old. I had a horse I rode regularly until he was 30, and rode him bareback on light trail rides until shortly before he died at 34. He looked wonderful, and it kept him interested. Just being turned out in the back field and ingnored are the equivalent of equine nursing homes
I was starting to think that my guy was headed towards retirement. He was still going pretty strong but started to feel funny behind at times. Had the vet out who tapped his hocks. I am exaggerating but he drained like a gallon of fluid out of them. I felt horrible. I couldn't believe he wasn't dead lame with that much pressure. Two weeks later and he is a new man.
That said, there is nothing wrong with a comfortable retirement at any point for any reason. I see no reason why guilt should factor in at all.
I agree 100% with Lolalola. Horses, and I would say people as well, should stay in some sort of "job". My sister's horse is 21 and he gets ridden 4 days a week. He just started dressage last year, and went to a clinic this spring. It actually helps maintain what he has and has improved his back muscles. Granted, he does get Adequan once a month, but I would say he can outmove much younger horses, mine included! He also just did his first judged trail ride this summer and placed third in his age group. He still gets jumped, which he enjoys, and trail ridden on a regular basis. He thrives on attention and "going out". I would imagine that when he can no longer carry my sister, he will teach my cousin's little girl to ride.
I have known quite a few oldies but goodies that are still in work and comfortable at 20+ and I truly believe that with horses, its use it or lose it.
I have known quite a few oldies but goodies that are still in work and comfortable at 20+ and I truly believe that with horses, its use it or lose it
I know and that is why I feel guilt. Let me clarify, this horse is not ignored! He gets loved on every day. He does have a young friend and they run and play a lot. They had a good romp yesterday while I was gone in the ring as I came home to find a freshly dragged ring full of hoof prints and roll marks.
I guess even if a hack on the trail a few times a week, I felt that was still not enough - even though I think he likes that the best. He's not too happy working in the ring anymore. Before last winter, I was trying to move him up in dressage, but his hindend has too many issues. His stifle catches and he trips at canter.
Anyway, I'll probably keep taking him on hacks and hand walk -that's a good idea - I can get some exercise too
I am in the same boat. I have a 21 year old. He has plenty of issues-but I keep him in light work and ride him 3 to 4 times a week. I don't use a saddle and let him decide how much he wants to do. It is really funny. He'll let me know if he wants to be ridden. Usually he is at the pasture gate when I am at the barn. If he does not want to be ridden he will go to way out in the pasture.
I've talked to the vet and he says the best thing I can do for him is keep him in light work.
Mine is 24 and gets worked 3 - 4 days a week usually, sometimes more, sometimes less. We do whatever she is comfortable doing - some days that means popping over some little crossrails or taking a long trail ride with gallop sets, and some days it's just walking around the property.
The vet has told me several times when discussing full retirement that it would not be a good option for her as she is much happier with a "job."
Just do what you can and try not to feel guilty about it. (Easier said than done, I know!)
I had to laugh at this thread.... we are trying to decide if it is time to "retire" my mare at 28. She has her good days and her bad days, but she is always game for a good gallop. She is currently ridden 3-4 days a week, w/t/c on trails. Nothing strenuous or demanding. I am not even sure what retirement would entail for her. She loves to take my daughter on rides, so we plan to continue taking her on the shorter trails.
We took her stablemate on a short trail ride the day before he passed away at 36 years old (walking trail ride, but he was pulling to run!). He was sound and healthy right up until the end, and I truly believe it was because he was being used regularly. Again, nothing beyond his capabilities either, but he went on most short rides, even if it was being ponied.
I say keep up the light riding as long as it is tolerated. At least the walking outings. And don't feel guilty enjoying your time with your other horse, either!
Interesting you bringing this up. I have the opposite problem. I have younger ones that need ridden, but I keep going back to my trusty 23yo gelding that I've had for 17 years. It's like I can't say no when I have a chance to ride him. What's funny is that he's 30 miles away along w/ another of the younger ones and two others are in my backyard. Go figure. He's sound, healthy and looks and feels great for his age. We have a ball together, even if it's just a little bareback jaunt around the pasture. And he loves to flat out run, as do I.
I ride him once a week and work w/ the others as time and my body allows.
I have 3 older nags and the 2 ponies, 27 and 23, are in muuuuuch better shape than the 19 year old TB. Both of the ponies are ready to roll several times a week. I feel like I'm the stick in the mud for asking them to slow down and enjoy the scenery. I'm having to train my 4 year old so I can go slower, she is totally laid back.
The TB on the other hand, hasn't been ridden for several years now due to back problems. She still loves attention and will stand for a kid to brush her all day. There was no question when she was ready for retirement, she would rear up and flip over if ridden for more than 20 minutes. I knew it wasn't a behavioral problem and decided that her calling now was pasture puff. She loves attention but is perfectly happy to eat all day (and she is a hard keeper) and loves her stall at night when its cold (blankies too please). I tried keeping her out 24/7 but the ponies push her out of the run-in.
You know your horse best and they will tell you when they need to slow down. Keep your eyes open and don't be afraid to ask the vet if you notice something different. Also, every horse is an individual and some need more to do than others. Leading them down the trail, ponying, lunging, suppling with stretching, or learning some natural horsemanship can be great ways to engage a horse that you aren't able to ride (or not ride much). Spending time with an older equine can be great. They have sooo much personality and they know what they want (lots of currying). Good luck
I really think it depends on the horse. If your horse has full turnout, he can decide what he wants to do. Like people, some horses love to keep busy and some like to take it easy.
I have a retiree here that I think truly loves his retirement. He was evented until last year and his owner was worried that he'd fade fast but he really seems content with his life-he has buddies, can come and go as he pleases, is handled daily and just seems happy to me. I brush him weekly and he stands like a statue soaking it all in. I think if they are not ignored and still feel loved and cared for, either option can work for them.
The dynamic due (Mr. Harvey Horse at 16 or 17 and The Very Nice Horse at 30+) still like to go for a mad gallop on any trail you let them. Harvey also quite enjoys showing off over fences, and teaching folks that THIS is what through the back and pushing from behind into the bit feels like. TVNH pretty much just says ok to anything I ask, so long as I protect his soles from sharp rocks. I'll keep going till they say enough. In my heart I bought TVNH thinking that he was done, and i would have to PTS soon. And Mr. HH had a broken back. A 6-12 months of pasture rest and they are both as good as ever!
Do not take anything to heart. Do not hanker after signs of progress. Founder of theRiders with Fibromyalgia clique.