I have an 18 yr. old TB (successful a/a hunter until 15) who no longer jumps due to scar tissue around an injury suffered in the paddock. He had a year off following the injury and he appeared very depressed in his demeanor. So I agree with all the posters who say keep your horse in work! Mine does poles and some trail riding. At the risk of starting a train wreck -- I do use a small amount of ace in the colder months. I am older and very petite and he is a big, powerful horse, so it relaxes both of us to just take that extra edge off when going outside the ring, rather than riding in the ring (without the ace) every time out. Having a buddy would probably help for trail riding too, but there isn't one at my barn to go with.
It makes me so happy to hear about others who keep their older guys going!
, you can also try more trail riding. My mare likes to go out on the trail but she def got bored with it quickly when that was all we did.
I agree riding the same trails all the time can get boring fast and the horses can get a little barn sour and lazy about going out. That said, I do alot of trail riding with my older guy and there is nothing he enjoys more than hauling out to trail ride someplace. If you have a truck and trailer (or know someone that does) and your horse eventually gets situated to trails the possibilities are endless. There is alot more to trail riding than most people tend to think... I hardly show my 18 year old anymore because I'm just not that interested after experiencing other off farm activities. I much prefer to spend my money hauling out to trail ride with friends, do judged pleasure rides, hunter paces and the occasional foxhunt
I'm pretty floored that most are equating retirement with neglect, and view continued work as something an elder horse enjoys.
Horses are creatures of routine and habit, and going from full steam work to turnout is difficult if they haven't been allowed to learn "how to be a horse" during their younger years.
I'm not suggesting that older horses be tossed out in a field without care for their retirement years. Instead they should be gradually ramped down on their work level as appropriate to their condition. Regular grooming is part of responsible horsekeeping and all horses should be groomed as necessary, with trims, vet care and regular visits from the farrier and dentist. Throwing a saddle on them and taking them for a walk/light hack under saddle is normally very beneficial--but I could not consider this light use to be "work" and I would certainly not demand that the horse be expected to acquire many new skills under saddle in order to conform to some idealized view that it will be "happier" with any sort of "job."
By all means, keep your older horses moving. Just don't place demands or expectations on them that could compromise their well being in order to fulfill some fantasy of their owner's that the horse is "happy" because he is working.
I'm afraid that IME, I've seen a far greater number of horses kept in serious work well past the time that their comfort level has been exceeded than I have seen situations in which elder horses are gently used, with consideration for their diminished capabilities. In general, I've seen a huge lack of consideration for the horse on the part of owners who insist that their geriatric mounts are thriving in a full work schedule, when nothing of the kind could be further from the truth.
What a timely topic. My former hunter, Arthur, turns 20 today! I "retired" him in October because he wasn't staying sound jumping. We moved to a small dressage farm and at first, all I did was get on and hack a few times a week; not accomplishing anything. (Like your horse, Arthur is also not a fan of trail riding...)
Arthur quickly became sound in his current program (lots of turn out, great footing, and rest) and showed some frustration. I will be the first to say that Arthur is not what I would call a candidate for dressage...he doesn't even like to pretend to bend. However, we entered a clinic at "training level" and the instructor really helped me to work with Arthur and sort of draft his new job description.
Arthur has responded really well. He's no longer frustrated. I think the important thing is that he has purposeful work to do ...I guess we all need that.
Good luck to you. I appreciate that this is a very stressful time in managing your horse's well being.
I'm pretty floored that most are equating retirement with neglect, and view continued work as something an elder horse enjoys.
Huh? The term "work" is being used pretty loosely here. I have not read a single post that has suggested the OP keep her horse in serious work as you implied.
Riding a 20 year old horse that needs some "maintenance" to stay sound for 3ft+ jumping and easing their work level to Training level dressage and with some trail riding mixed in is hardly what anyone would consider "serious work". Are we reading the same thread?
Sounds to me more like "light to moderate pleasure riding" to keep the older joints moving and lubricated.
A 20 year old horse is not one that unusuable if it is otherwise healthy and sound. No one is advocating riding an UNSOUND horse. Or working a horse beyond it's capabilities. Many older horses just need meticulous management of footing, feed and turnout and maybe a program that doesn't include jumping.
Instead they should be gradually ramped down on their work level as appropriate to their condition
Isn't this primarily what everyone has already said? An older horse's program should cater to what they are able to do safely and soundly. The OP's horse is sound for flatwork & 20 years old, not lame and 30.
I'm afraid that IME, I've seen a far greater number of horses kept in serious work well past the time that their comfort level has been exceeded than I have seen situations in which elder horses are gently used, with consideration for their diminished capabilities
I agree. But I don't think this is the case with the OP. The OP is not talking about going and taking the upper level Dressage world by storm or doing 50 mile endurance trail rides.
My gelding is turning 19 next month. He is 100% sound and I have had multiple professionals (vets, chiros, trainers) comment that he is in better shape physically than most 12 year olds. He's never needed his hocks done and is maintained with sports massage/chiro several times a year, a joint supplement and Adequan loading dose once a year. This is far less than many 10 year olds get for "maintenance". He does need excellent footing for ringwork and I am at a barn that has that. He goes out on 1-3 hour w,t,c trail rides, hunter paces in the fall, jumps 2'3-2'6 XC once a week, jumps small jumps in the ring and does pole/cavelletti work, hacks in the fields, does hillwork once a week and we work on training/1st level dressage too. We do this all for FUN. When the day comes where we can only w,t on the trail a few times a week so be it. He enjoys the variety and has excellent muscling, fitness and topline because of it.
By reading some of the posts on this thread it sounds like many of you would be telling me to retire my 100% sound gelding simply because he is 19? Horses like people are individuals. It depends on the horse. I've known horses that were sound and able bodied for pleasure riding well into their late 20's/early 30's. I've also known horses that had to be 100% retired at 6 due to injuries or general unsoundness.
Age is just a number, it is not indicitive of what a horse is able to do.
As I said in my post, just like Lookinsouth, my gelding is 19 and in great shape. He still loves jumping 3'6" at shows. We do maybe 2 a month in the show season. We don't jump anything higher than 2' at home in the winter and very little at that. Not only is he sound but he is soooo sane! We ride outside all winter because we don't have an indoor and he is a saint. It all depends on the horse, not his age!
Someone else mentioned those and I'll add a plug for them in your case. They are really fun and they do provide a kind of training goal you or your Working Man Jumper may like.
He needs to be sound enough to walk and trot on a 5 mile or so trail ride, but that's it. Everything else is about getting him to apply his mind to dealing with creative obstacles meant to surprise the good trail horse.
It may take some time to get him to *like* being a superlative trail horse. But once he gets over the objection that "it's not the jumpers" he might appreciate the mental challenge of the job.
I agree that you should do what your horse tells you he wants. It sounds like you know him well. Do what he tells you he's game to do. Plenty of ex-show horses like the continued attention of being kept as a riding horse. If you put him out in a pasture, he'd adjust to that life, too. But so long as you want to find some way to keep him close and interested in an appropriate job, why not?
My guy isn't retired, or approaching it for another few years, but he has never hacked and the few times we attempted it, it wasn't worth my life.
He was a race horse and is now a hunter, but I have had an event rider working with him for the past year or so. She was determined that the field work would be good for him, so she kept hacking him out and putting up with his silliness. He is now her favourite horse to hack out and he loves it.
Sometimes it just takes time for them to figure it out. Also, if they are nervous and then we get nervous it can be a downward spiral. A solid buddy for the first few trips is a great idea.
If she needs to use a pelham, I don't think that theraputic riding is in his future any time soon! Plus, it sounds like *she* wants to keep riding him, just wants ideas of things to keep his brain engaged.
I'm with the others who think that keeping horses in *appropriate* work for their level of soundness is a good idea - I think it keeps them healthier both mentally and physically. Sending him hours away to a retirement farm, where she can rarely see him, doesn't sound like it should be a first option.
I'd suggest talking to your vet and farrier and getting their recommendations about how much work is currently best for him, and any limitations they feel he has. Show-ring type trail obstacles, patterns made of cones, poles, and cavaletti, and perhaps trail trials all sound like they might be good options for him.
Here are some of the "golden oldies" I've been blessed to be able to ride:
30 y/o Morgan mare I still ride sometimes, sound for W/T only, mostly gives rides to the kids: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAYWWXMM1H8
This pony just passed away, after more than 40 years. This picture was from my third time vaulting, about 3 1/2 years ago, shortly before he retired. He was a bright chestnut up through his mid-twenties, but faded with age. He was W/T only for a few years before he retired.: http://www.flickr.com/photos/82782698@N00/3617355594
33 year old QH in this picture from a Hunter clinic we did at 2' (we usually only did a couple of 1' or 18" fences once a month or so). He was a go-getter on the trails, and tended to jig a bit coming home. His vet and farrier said they wished that more of their equine clients were as sound and healthy as he was! http://www.flickr.com/photos/82782698@N00/3725840680/
Last edited by Whisper; Mar. 3, 2010 at 08:48 PM.
Stay me with coffee, comfort me with chocolate, for I am sick of love.
In My humble opinion, after years of riding and rescuing abused horses, the best thing I found for the older horses, hacking/ trailriding is good for them.
Keeping them sound enough to to do obstacle courses and going out on trails might be a challenge. But if you can keep them sound by proper shoeing and care, it is good for their minds to go out and ride the trails.
If they can't do jumping then find what they can do. At 20 they are not over the hill. My friend just lost her Old Man Thoroughbred cross at 30 years old. Well he almost made it to his birthday by just 2 days short.
He had heart. He was still being a lesson horse up until the Winter got too cold for him. But 30 is a great old age for any horse.
Spring will get here eventually and he would be happy just to go out and ride.
It wil be good for you too.
Seriously. No horse that age *needs* a job..and at some point, they *deserve* to be let off the hook as far as being their owners' exercise vehicle.
You needen't keep him at a boarding barn geared up for horses in work...send him to a retirement barn where he can mingle with other retirees.
I don't agree. This might be fine for some horses, but others do much better if they have a job. Lilly was one of the need a job types- I used to hack her a couple of times a week and do lots of in-hand stuff just to keep her brain ticking.
He's exceptionally sound on the flat. No gimpiness at all. Just the jumping really irritates his ankles and coffin joints. Frequent and repeated injections just isn't worth it anymore for me or him for a few ribbons. And if a retirement barn was an option, I really would consider it, but with where we live, sending him to one really would be neglectful. A boarding barn is my only option if I want to see him regularly and keep an eye on his well being. But the barn we are at offers him lots of time to just be a horse, so both him and I need to be satisfied with that and make the best of it.
I'm going to look in to some of the trail trials and stuff. We did play around with "horse playground" aka obstacle course the other day that was set up in the arena, and it was great fun when we were walking over the tarps, going through the 'car wash,' going over a wooden bridge, and he actually walked up and over a teeter-totter (made for horses). I wasn't riding, just had him on a lead since I wasn't sure what he would do.
I did get a new saddle since I started the thread (Wintec 2000 AP) so we can do more riding. My jumping saddle was hard to ride in with the stirrups longer, and my butt was getting sore from sitting in it for a long time.
I might give dressage a go while we work in the arena, just so I have something to work towards, and then have fun with trail rides. As the weather gets better, the idea of me just hanging out with him and riding around doing different things is sounding better and better. I'm also curious to see if I trailer him to a different set of trails if he would behave better. The ones I ride him on now he seems to have memorized since they are right out the back door and acts barn sour as soon as we start heading towards home. I guess that will be something to work on, too! lol
Thanks everyone! My darling boy is on a round of Ulcergard now because he got his face into an entire bag of gooey molasses cookies and got sick, so we are taking it easy until that clears up.