I will turn 60 end of next month. I have three horses I do self care here, on my owned farm. (No mortgage, just the usual costs, utilities, taxes etc.)
Every morning, noon and evening, I do the barn. Every day, all year(s). I ride, groom, attend to their every need, oh, you get it.
But so lately when I go up there I realize my eyes grow wide, I feel dazed, and worried. My boys are 22, 22, 16 years old. All in excellent health, will probably live into their 30s. Luckily my son
(28) helps evenings, and occasionally on his days off. I have managed to outfit and equip my barn with ways to make chores easier. De-icers in tanks, heated buckets in the stalls, keep the guys out 24/7 unless it's crappy out at night.
But it's still a LOT of work. Sometimes I go up there thinking I'll just toss the feed into the buckets, clean later. But that never happens. Hay nets need refills. Water buckets need cleaning before their refills. I always always always at least wet their grain with warm water (microwave in barn is Heavenly - I have never ever had a single choke episode since I started doing this). I at least dampen the hay to prevent breathing issues. I set up the hay and feeds for the next go-round. On the weekends and holidays I'm not working, the days are spent getting done all the stuff I can't do during the work week. Trailering out for rides, even relatively short ones makes the days reeeeeeely long. I have all the other stuff to do before and after I get back.
I can take the occasional day or week off, when I go out of town on business. My son can do the daily maintenance of feeding and cleaning. So, it's not like I'm stuck with an endless string of days of hard barn labor.
Anyway, it freaks me out now. I am in good health now, but what if that changes? What if I died? I don't feel it's fair to stick my husband (totally non horsey), and wonderful son with the horses should things go tragically down hill. My son loves the horses like he does our cats, but he's not horse minded, and frankly isn't as careful and mindful while handling them. You know, like making sure a gate is shut behind him when he goes into a paddock to halter them, and leading them through doors not entirely open.... he doesn't always clear the aisle of the hose or wheelbarrow when he leads a horse in. I spent decades on the race track, and all that safety stuff in hard wired into me. My boys aren't OTTBs, but I still handle them as if they were TBs on the track. As eternally glad as I am to have my son's help, the truth is, the handful of times one of my horses got hurt was because of his lacking an inate instinct about safe handling. And it's a good thing my boys are so gentle and forgiving - my son will walk alongside them in the pasture at their flanks (!!!) patting and annoying them despite my warnings that when they start off, bucking and playing...... oh, man.
I guess what I'm doing here is expressing my fear of the future, and I have no doubt plenty of you all on here have the same concerns. What should/could we do to make this easier on us and the beloved beasts as we age?
I share your fears and concerns.
Who will do the horsework when I'm gone? I just hope I out live the horses.
There seems to be only so much you can do to streamline the chores, it will always be work, work, and more work.
I just fed the horses at 5 am, goats are next, then chickens, cats, dogs, and birds.
All day, everyday.
Guess I'll just remain the Queen of Denial.
Good questions. I'm in my mid fifties and love doing barn chores, but I have part-time help that comes in daily and cleans stalls and refills the water buckets. Since both my husbad and I work full time, having part-time help makes it possible to keep our horses at home. I also have a reliable horse sitter who can turn horses out, feed and bring them in when I'm out of town.
Maybe you could look into hiring someone to help with barn chores. Is there a high school or college student in your area that might be
be interested in working part-time?
By the time we're 80, we'll be down to one old horse on the place that has lots of freedom to go where he chooses, probably with the last old cow we have. There is a point when stop buying or breeding. It should be long before you get too infirm to do it yourself.
We're in our 40s now, but we will not have this many animals ten years from now. And even fewer 20 years from now. Gotta think ahead, you know?
You are smart to consider this now and the part about what happens to them when you die should already be in your will. If it isn't, you need to think about it and meet with your lawyer to get it in there. If your family can't take care of them, is there a friend who would agree to take them (along with a good sum of money for their future care?) You could also arrange to have them euthanized if you die. A backup person should be named in there anyway on the freak chance that something happened to your whole family at once.
Consider that you may have to decide at some point between paying to board them, hiring help, finding new homes, or euthanizing if you can no longer physically care for them. Obviously, as they pass naturally, if you do not replace them you will eventually have a lighter work load by attrition. Likely by age 70 you'll be down to the youngest one.
I'm 63 now and a lot of days I find myself considering what I will do when routine barn chores become too much for me.
I'm here by myself and my family is in CA some 2K miles away & non-horsey anyhow.
Right now my Mental Plan A is to sell the farm, move to a small house or apartment & find a self-care or boarding place for the horses I may have left at that time.
My thought is that I can do routine horse care well into my dotage, and removing the maintenance of a farm from the equation will extend the time I'm able.
Plan B would be to have the horses euthanized - too chancy trying to rehome & I do not have, nor will I ever have any young horses.
The 2 I have now are probably my last - a 19yo WB & 13yo Hackney pony.
*friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon: Steppin' Out 1988-2004 Hey Vern! 1982-2009 Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
When I was 34, I rescued a donkey foal. The scary thought was that I knew this little creature and I would grow old together, as donkeys can live into their 40s.
If you have three that are hard to handle, you might consider letting one of them go to another home that you can pick out now. Two is easier. If you need three, why not replace one with a forgiving old timer that will just take things in stride and let anyone handle him.
I think you're wise to start thinking about this now.
I would think more about streamline feeding and barn chores, even if it means some concessions in the way you prefer to keep your horses.
My horses live out 24/7, with access to stalls, so I do not have to muck daily. Usually I clean sheds/stalls once a week, and it would be easy to hire a local teenager to do that if I were not able to any longer.
They are also on free choice pasture or hay and do not get fed any grain, which makes it much easier. If we travel, all I need is someone to check their water trough and check for injuries.
I do worry what will happen as the horses and I age; I am 55 and the horses are 13, 12 and 11. At some point they'll be harder keepers and require supplementary grain. Also, their current standard of care relies on DH and I being diligent pasture managers, mowing, picking, harrowing and rotating paddocks frequently. If we were no longer able to do that the way we do now, the horse's care would be very different. I guess we could hire that work out as well, but it would have to be someone we would trust with the equipment.
I can see getting down to one horse to make the chores easier, or possibly offering board to someone in return for their caring for 1 or 2 of mine. This terrifies me, if you read all the boarding and leasing horror stories in boards like this one, you realize that everything depends on finding the right person and the right agreement (in writing!)
I can't imagine going back to boarding, though realistically, if I'm in my seventies and still able to ride, if would make sense to save my time and energy for riding rather than farm chores.
I've found I pretty much have to have three horses. We're fairly isolated here; even when a neighbor did have horses (they moved after a divorce) the woods between the properties kept them from our view. When I had only two horses, the one I hauled out for rides caused the left behind horse to go berserk, tried very hard to kill himself. The third horse was a giveaway, small, VERY easy keeper. He just gets 24/7 hay, has a shed. One gets a cup of grain twice a day and all he can eat hay. My main horse, love of life, is a special needs kid. He foundered 5 years ago, so he's dry lotted. He gets three meals of low sugar grain with soaked beat pulp a day, his hay is always soaked. This is not optional, I will never cease taking special care of him. I would indeed have him euthanized should the need arise, because I would never trust anyone to keep up the schedule I provide for him. The other two..... well, who would want a by then late 20 year old pony sized eating machine? Maybe, I'd have to see. The Paint is dear, could probably sell or rehome him fairly easily. But there I am - I have to have three horses as long as I want to trailer out. Also, I trailer the laminitis horse out to the horse hospital for shoeing every 5 weeks. Who would do that for him? Most of my friends are in the same way. We're all older, we are all keeping a bunch of horses dear to our hearts. If I were asked by a friend to take her horse(s), I would seriously balk, and could certainly understand if she didn't want mine. I'm thinking we could arrange an agreement where we would at least arrange for their care until a final decision is made, to relieve the husband/kids from that horror. My will provides for them now up to a point, but no one is obligated to provide extraordinary care as they decline. All my guys are extremely easy to handle, have perfect ground manners, but finding folks to house and feed three more horses in these times is a lot to ask for. Thanks for y'all's input!
Well for one thing, I'm hoping work (as in full time working for a living) would be lessening demands on you soon, or going away altogether, so you have more time to do the chores. Also if you have enough retirement, you can maybe hire a teenager occasionally or once a week to do the heavier work. Don't get any young horses, have a written plan for the older ones (i.e. friend you know will take & care for them as you do, or euthanasia (NOT the baddest thing in the world for a horse who has had a good long life!).
I'm only 47 but taking care of my 2 on 5 acres is already harder than it was in my twenties! Right now I'm working hard on early retirement, so I can enjoy whatever equids I have into my 60's & 70's without the pressure of a full time job.
One other thought, if you do still want to ride actively as you get older, IMO nothing wrong with having a younger horse, with the plan being trusting someone else might enjoy your mount as well as you did if you pass. I don't feel like healthy usable horses need to be kept for life, as I do a dog or cat. It's the older or injured, retired horses I think a careful plan needs to be made for.
My goal in longevity has been to outlive my horses. My mother just died after a long decline, and watching what she went through has chipped away at my denial regarding being able to take care of them until I die.
I'd prefer to send those I still have when/if I become incapacitated to a retirement facility rather than depend upon friends to see that they get good homes. If it's not doable, I hope I'd have the cajones to have them euthanized. You can't expect to find someone who will give an old horse a good home, although that would be ideal.
I anticipated that situation a long time ago and moved my son to my ranch in Arkansas about 10 years ago - set him up in a new double wide. At 63 it just became a bit too much for me to take care of - 5 horses, barn, 3 acre yard, 22 acre pasture, and 50 acres of hilly woods with trails to maintain. I retired at 63 (3 years ago) and there were just too many things I wanted to do but the ranch left me with no time to do them. I "sold" (read that as give for a small stipend) my ranch to my son, and I moved to Branson - my original home. My son moved into the main house, is renting the doublewide, and takes care of my horses. I basically gave him his inheritance while still alive to see him enjoy it. Everybody wins...
DH is 67 and I am 56. We do all of the things you guys mention -- 4 horses, approx. 20 acres. Yes, it's work. We too try to streamline: heated buckets, out 24/7 if possible, slow grazers, lots and lots of gravel!
Obviously, I don't know the answers -- and finding "help" can be problematic. However -- I know quite a few old farmers around here who just keep going like the Energizer bunny. Maybe all this work keeps us younger? Sure beats the heck out of eating ice cream in front of the telly!
I also knew a guy whose wife passed, and he remarried at around age 90. New wife convinced him to move "into town" (though he did not sell the farm). After a year, he'd had enough. Bored to tears. Moved back to the farm and bought livestock so he would have something to do.
I am very early 50's. I have downsized livestock. I have one horse I ride, a free lease pasture pet horse, 2 small dogs, and DH. Riding horsey is 7 this year. Hope horsey will last until I am too old to ride or care for horsey.
I have friends who are going like gang busters on buying horses, and they are getting older.
One friend has 10 horses and she rides I would say 3-4 DAYS net total a year. She is completely resistant to downsizing. And she is looking at another horse this weekend btw, not kidding, and she is taking another one into training (???) for riding training (???). She has 5 or so big dogs, many many birds of all kinds, and cats inside and outside than I care to say. Got another friend and she is the same on the number of DAYS a year she rides. They have more horses than the number of DAYS per year they ride.
I know, I know, to each their own life. I know, I know, myob.
I'm 61 and think of this often, too. My horses are 11 and 13, with a 5 year old gelding coming to join the herd on Tuesday. I thought long and hard about buying such a young horse. I figure my older ones will be ready to retire when I am, and the youngest one will be in prime time to go to a child and teach them the ropes. Or maybe one of my grandchildren will still have the riding bug and want him.
I do all the horse care by myself, but have my place set up for easy horsekeeping. The winter is hard, but I just lower my standards and figure I'll do a big cleanup in the spring when the snow melts. I do their stalls every day, but the back turnouts may not get picked every day if the manure's frozen to the ground..for months. Automatic waterers and a small tractor make it doable.
I don't want to ever board again, so as long as I have horses I'll live here and keep them at home. I do see a time, however, when I won't have them anymore. Hopefully I'll be in my 80's! If I'm ever down to one horse I could see boarding with my trainer and moving to a smaller place, but even as I type that I cringe. Having my horses at home was a lifelong dream. I'm not ready to give up on it, but realistically I know that day will come.
I board, as my job doesn't have the kind of flexibility that would let me keep a farmette. My horses will be around 25 when I am eligible for SS. I have my doubts whether they will still be rideable at that point; little QH feet under a bulky QH body doesn't lend itself to healthy aging. I probably won't buy another horse to replace them, as the horse is likely to outlive me. I might lease a horse during early retirement; it depends on my finances and my own health.
Though I have always boarded due to job/travel requirements, I understand the issues as I watch friends in like situations. What happens when you are 80 is not the only issue...the other is what happens if you end up w/ some illness that is incapacitating? Worth thinking about how to handle that type of situation as well.
We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........
I'm thinking about this right now. I'll be 60 in a couple of months. DH is some years older than I and not aging as well though he's doing better than most men. He's also not particularly horsey, though he will pick up manure and help me with the hay hauling/stacking.
I'm in good health. Because I eat right, I have very few aches and pains. My stamina is still good. My family tends to live a long time. But. My heart horse just died and I'm thinking about getting another, maybe in the spring, both to keep my mare company and for me to ride, naturally.
I had such a wonderful time with my heart horse back in the day. Got him when he was two and we bonded unbelievably. I learned so much. I'd love to do it again, but a two-year-old Thoroughbred - even a three or four year old...should I be trying that? (Without a trainer this time, because the good ones have all died or left.) And if my new boy only lived to 22, as did my last one, then I'd be between 78 and 80. If he lived longer, well. And DH is going to be less help as time goes on.
Oh, and no kids, so no built-in help, like some folks have mentioned!