The age question when buying a packer (spinoff of "lower level packe for Bn-N-T)
Thanks to the leads that people sent in for my other thread, I've already started the search and have tried some horses! (can you tell I'm an A type? lol)
It's a lot of fun trying "been there, done that" type horses. One thing I will need to take into consideration is the age question. Some packers on the list my trainer and I put together are around 10, some are early teens, and some older. This is ideally a horse I'd like to have for at least a couple of years as I work through BN/N levels before I start looking for a younger and seriously competitive (and more expensive) horse.
For people who have been in a similar situation, at what point did you start questioning the horse's age, regardless of how much you liked riding it?
Miles, types of miles, genetic fortitude to be the strong and sturdy type and personality (some horses are just 'easier' on themselves than others) can be just - if not more - important.
My favourite example is Lenamore - a horse who loved his job and did it well into his late teens. At the very top levels, nonetheless. For the lower levels, I'm sure he could keep showing the ropes for many more years if his owners wished.
I was fortunate enough to ride and ex-3* horse in VA two years ago (my how time flies!) who was 20 at the time. He had been in a pasture, out of work, for quite awhile before the woman I was riding with acquired him. His fitness level was still impressive (he had been hunted occasionally), and he was sound as could be. I took him to a couple of schooling shows, but I have no doubt in my mind that he could have easily packed me (or anyone else) around Novice for another year at least. He was regularly hunted after she got him, and never had an issue. And now that I think of it, many of her hunt horses were older than 15, sound, and going strong. And I honestly think they worked harder than the horses my trainer has in her barn right now..
A young horse can get injured or go lame, too. An older packer shouldn't be hard to maintain for BN or N. I would buy a horse that can do what you want in the here and now. Age is more the issue if you expect to resell the horse. Then getting younger may be better. However, buying for what you want to do right now, not possibly in the future, is key.
I have a packer in my care who is 16 this year. His owner bought him at 14. He has plenty of mileage at prelim and above (including a gold medal from NAYRC). He is quite sound (TOUCH WOOD!!!!), and relatively easy to maintain (his breeding, I'm sure, helps that significantly- tough little Conn cross). The hardest thing with him is keeping him CLEAN
Another packer in my barn, about the same age, has SOME maintenance issues, but does very well as the BN/N packer type horse that he is. He is worth the maintenance stuff because he is a big hearted, kind soul critter who takes care of his mum very well.
I think the thing with packer types, especially older ones, often boils down to what the owner/rider is willing to take on in regards to care and maintenance. Buying a teenaged horse doesn't necessarily mean you'll be buying into extra work and care, but, especially with the ones that have worked hard, it often does mean you'll need to do SOMETHING. You just have to decide WHAT you are comfortable doing.
My packer is now 25 and still going strong. We adopted him when he was 16, I was hoping to get a few years out of him. We stick to jumping 2'3" max now which is the perfect height for me. I love having his age to use as an excuse for not having to jump higher.
I think age is all relative. My 25yo mare could still be playing outdoor polo if I had a venue to do it. As it stands now, she's a great lesson horse for kids and will happily pack beginners around courses for days on end.
My guy is 21 and could easily still go training level (was competing at training level at age 18 with no issues and since has been showing people the ropes at BN with N schooling). I think people have gotten too hung up on some magic age. Some horses don't reallly go to work until later and have "young legs", some are just built to stay sound. To have something to BN/N maybe a little training level for "at least a couple of years" I would look seriously at everything under 18 and some up to 20 with a known history and sound in current work
Age is only part of the equation - as others have said, what the horse has done and how hard he is on himself is highly relevant. For example, my older guy had gone Advanced and done 4 CCI* and ** (long format) when I bought him at 12/13. Since then, we've done more than 30 preliminaries plus a long format CCI*, and even at 18 or 19, he loped around a Training last week. Sure, there's been some maintenance (hocks, primarily) and a smattering of injuries/issues, but I would've missed out on a ton had I passed on him for being a teenager.
The downside is that you are likely to have some issues trying to resell one you buy who is a bit older, but you can often lease these horses out if they are still going (see, e.g., scubed's lovely guy who has taught a bunch of people how to event). But these been there/done that horses are worth their weight in gold (and certainly worth every penny of maintenance they might need) for their ability to teach and inspire confidence.
My would be packer for someone else is now 15. Has experience through intermediate and won two CCI*. He's just my hacking and playing around horse right now and will likely just hang out unless I can find someone who wants to play with him (I'm 4 months pregnant). He'd be amazing for someone who wants to play around at novice and training and would happily pack around an decent riding ammy. (hell, he took me around intermediate and I'm no pro!)
I almost leased him last year but people were turned off on his age. He was 14. Perfectly sound and would take anyone through who wanted not only experience, but wanted to win. It's unfortunate, but at least I know he's happy in his field with his buddies.
Don't turn down a horse based on age. If they are sound and fit, that's what matters.
Speaking as a general horse owner and lower than low ammy, I think of 13-14-15 as middle-aged, especially if there are few/no issues cropping up.
Generally, I would hesitate at 16-17 and probably wouldn't bite at all at 18 or older, because I'm the type who finds it difficult to move a horse on. Yes, I see the beauty of getting something that is doing what you want it to do! However, if odds are you will only have a couple of years at that level, then must look at caring for the beastie for years of retirement, possibly many more years than you got to ride, it's a little harder to take on.