When people have time, I would love to hear your opinion on how many years from now I can reasonably expect to show my horse in 2'6" - 3'+ classes. I understand that he will likely be able to hop over 2' courses for longer, but I'm interested in how long he will be able to show on rated circuits:
Gelding/17.3, Percheron/TB, 15 years old
I have his health history since he was 3 years old. He has had no significant issues. He choking on a horse treat two years ago. He has not had colic, has not had any lameness and has very solid hooves and feet. He spent the last three years with barefeet, but currently has shoes on his front feet to prevent any issues while jumping.
He was purchased when he was 3 by a woman who rode dressage and some fox hunting. He was later trained by a professional trainer to level 2 dressage, however, in my experience, he hates flat work. Unfortunately, his owner was diagnosed with cancer and just rode him lightly for the last year of her life. She willed him to her best friend who cared for him very well, but let him be a horse in a field 24/7. All in all, before coming to me July 2012, he spent the last 3-4 years doing little to no work.
We are training him for the hunter ring. He seems to really enjoy jumping and has not had any issues other than those I would expect from a green horse. He has had to figure out how to use his body, learn to go over the jumps, not around them, and jump from awkward distances. We have not run into anything that is not able to be solved fairly easily. I've also not had any issues with swelling or lameness, but I do have him on supplements for joint health and insist he always jump in splint boots.
Anyway ... if you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I would love to hear people's opinions. I have my opinion but I'm not very experienced at predicting this kind of thing
~ In the chaos of the showing, remember riding should be fun for all, including our 4-legged kids.
Well, since you asked about RATED competitions? Not locals which can be more older horse "friendly"?
Obviously, depends on the horse. And where you show. On the rated level, the 3' classes are pretty competitive and alot of horses are in there. If the unrated 2'6" is offered at the rateds? It tends to be pretty big and the top ones are good.
This 15 year old is complicated by the fact he has never jumped in a regular program and is looking at alot (like hundreds) of training fences and hundreds of flatwork miles on a regular basis (like 4 to 6 days a week, jumping twice) to get to the rated proficiency level and be competitive.
But, in general, at 3' you probably are looking at 17 or 18 as a kind of cut off point when most are simply not as competitive at USEF rateds-there ARE exceptions but in the rateds? It's tough competition and older horses start looking like something other then younger horses when they hack alongside them, line up right next to them and/or are sandwiched between a 7 and an 8 year old going over fences. It's the step at 3', not the height...and there will be combinations thats ask for both lengthing and shortening of stride. Old joints make that increasingly harder and there is only so much you can do to fight the clock. This one may well be low mileage but his joints have been supporting and propelling him for 15 years-and he is a big un. And it's the joints that get them as they lose flexibility with age and use.
They can go into early 20s and still hold up well against top competition levels, step at 2'6" is more forgiving and no combinations. Most stop showing when the horse starts to show it's age against the others in the ring and age starts taking a toll on movement overrall. No way to predict exacly when that will occur.
Ummm...the splint boots are going to do squat to keep the usual old horse issues from coming up. You might want to get on finding a good joint health program but thru your vet so you know what you are getting. Having shown 3 older horses in the Hunters, the glitzy lable otc stuff with unknown ingredients (called proprietary) is nowhere near as effective as the Legend, Adequan and judicious/conservative use of NSAIDS, many of the newer ones are tummy friendly. You have NO IDEA what is in some of the orals-just because it's sold as a "supplement" does not mean it is chemical free (no such thing anyway), safer or will get you an extra second of useful competition life out of the horse.
Oh, if he shows no joint issues? Does he need anything at all? NOTHING has been shown to work as a joint degeneration (due to age and mileage) preventitive. If there are no symptoms? He can go without as my 24 year old did, oh, he got 1g of bute and that was before some of the newer, more gentle products. That one was quite the iron horse, the other 2, not so much once they hit 17 or so.
Ask your vet for recommendations. And good luck to you.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
I would agree with findeight as a general guideline. Every horse is unique; I have seen some that had to retire at 15 because of arthritis, and others that kept going until 25. His size is definitely working against him, and the lack of work for a while is probably negligible overall - it's great that he wasn't pounded around for a few years, but he probably also wasn't fit or moving around a lot. I do think given his age and background you are more likely to get maximum years with him if you develop a strategy now, with the help of your vet, to prolong his usefulness.
There are plenty of things you can control in his life that will impact long-term soundness - religiously keeping up with proper, timely shoeing and general health care, feeding high quality feed, keeping him at an appropriate weight, maintaining his overall fitness level, etc. I have a fair amount of experience with older horses (some that have shown into their 20s and lived to their 30s), and I have to say that what I found to be more beneficial than any supplement in maintaining soundness was consistent work with plenty of time for warming up and cooling down. Weekend warrior riding is very tough on older guys, and the more consistently he can be worked, the better. If some of that work can be hacking out, even better for both his body and brain. When he does go to a show, the more he can be out of his stall and going for long walks the better.
I do tend to be aggressive with treating arthritis early, because in my experience if you wait until a joint is totally deteriorated, there is not much that can be done. My vet is great about evaluating my horse on a lungeline, walking around, or under tack as part of routine vaccinations. One of the problems with arthritis is that it can sneak up on you - when you are riding the horse regularly, it's easy not to notice a stride shortening slightly, or a tiny bit of stiffness creeping up. If you can catch it then, there are plenty of fabulous treatments for arthritis available now, and you're very likely to be able to keep him comfortable for quite a while even after he develops it. Having done both, I also tend to go more for Legend, Adequan, etc for treating joints, because in my experience it's just been more bang for the buck.
Good luck with him, he sounds like a great guy. I do think he's at the perfect age where there is a lot that you can still do to prolong his soundness and comfort level - it's much easier to manage a horse's life to discourage arthritis at 15 than it is to start dealing with it at 18 or 19. Truly, keeping him fit and moving, with well-trimmed/shod feet, and at a healthy weight will go an awfully long way.
You need to have an honest conversation with your trainer about whether your horse, regardless of age, is even a rated 3ft candidate. It's a tough division with a lot of fancy horses and there are plenty of horses that will never be rated 3ft horses. He's a big, off-breed horse that hasn't had years of correct training and fitness and that's going to work against him. Only a professional who has seen the horse in person can tell give you some answers.
I have an 18 year old who I will be showing this year. We will be doing 2'9 which is a step down for him, but step up for me. We do regular lessons but dont push him too hard. He loves to work and doesnt show any signs of slowing down.
I have a 17yo who last year won blues at all the AA shows we did, doing the 3'/3'3 jumpers, I've had him 9 years and he's done a considerable amount of jumping with me ( not so much the last 4 years) but I bought him as a kid-friendly 8yo doing the 1.40's so you KNOW he did a heck of a lot of jumping before I got him!
He loves jumping and showing, but I've known some horses who at age 14 even have just lost the want/will to get down the 2'6 lines easily. It very much depends on what the horse tells you it's capable of doing- not something a bunch of strangers could do!
Thanks everyone for your input. The one really nice thing about my guy is that he isn't built as big and bulky as a Percheron, though he is no tiny thing, and he doesn't move like a Draft. He carries himself like a big warmblood and his conformation is such that nothing is out of synch with the rest of him.
I do agree that the key to keeping him in good shape is consistent work and good health. I'm very particular about these things and actively watch his weight, feed, supplements, and feet. I'm lucky that my trainer is knowledgeable about these things so between the two of us, nothing goes unnoticed for long. As far as jumping, he loves it. The challenges are
1. He is a green over jumps and a bit of a bully, which means he can easily run out at the last minute if he thinks you will let him and aren't committed to the jump. It is funny because he isn't trying to avoid jumping, he is just trying to avoid jumping from bad distances or if you aren't ready.
2. He is not impressed with smaller jumps. When he first started he put in effort, but now he realized he doesn't have to try over these and will often just hop or step over them. He does jump is great form over higher jumps but that requires my to be ready for higher jumps too.
Anyway, I was guessing we have about 3 to 5 more years of rated showing ahead of us. This is fairly consistent with what people have said, so I feel good about it. I am definitely going to stay on type of the arthritis thing and make sure I'm looking for signs of discomfort, such as selling. I'm also going to make a concerted effort to make sure he stays fit.
Thanks again everyone for your help.
~ In the chaos of the showing, remember riding should be fun for all, including our 4-legged kids.