OP, I share your thoughts and concerns. I have just 2 horses (21 and 24) at home right now but I do not have any help as I live alone and am 68. Every night I go out and wish on the stars that I outlive my animals and when the last one goes, that I'm still in good health.
I figure if I'm very careful and very safety conscious and not have any accidents and keep doing this every day, I will outlive the horses and still be able to get around. If not, I'll pull a Scarlett O'Hara and "worry about it tomorrow!"
Back in my day, we didn't have as many warning labels because people weren't so dang stupid!
MSJ ~ good point, about keeping safe. But I guess I'm in total denial about my limitations. As we women age, there is the bone thinning thing, and all that.... but I don't want my horses to just be pets. I still think of myself as that wild and crazy rider of my youth. When I ride, I really charge hard. Sure the reflexes are not what they used to be, but I love to gallop. And that's the double edged sword. If I ride like an idiot I'll hasten my chances of severe injury, but doing the mosey walk for hours bores me silly. And I know it's contrary, and irresponsible. Here on the one hand I express concern about my menfolk or friends getting stuck with the horses if I become infirm, or die. But again, what's the point of doing all this caretaking and hanging onto them if I don't ride like I want?
These reports of older, and really old riders hard charging on the hunt field until they drop dead really resonates with me. That's how I'd want to go, should I have the courage to tempt such fate. I need to reconcile the two extremes.
I board, but I worry about this also. I'm 62 and been in remission for cancer for 5 years. The cancer has left my bones a bit brittle, so I have to be careful. My boy is about 16 and I've always figured he would be my last horse. But during the cancer treatments, I worried about what would happen to him if I didn't make it. So, now he has a young lady who loves him and would take care of him if my daughter does not want/cannot take him over. I've told the family, but I need to get the wills updated, that my smaller life insurance policy is to go to his support.
We are planning to get a few acres when we retire, but I told hubby, no way is Flower coming home. I like the social aspects of the barn and he is not horsey at all, so would be little help on the care end. Plus, we do like to travel. Just have to figure out how to keep up the board on a retirement budget.
I'm 56, my husband is 65 and we've got 4 horses, 19, 14, 8 and 3. Only the 3 oldest are at home and the 8 yr old usually spends a large part of the year with my trainer. The 2 youngest are actively showing and I am their amateur rider. I plan on keeping the 3 oldest forever, the 3 yr old, I hope to ride for a couple of years and then sell (I say hope because I'm terrible about selling horses). That's it for me on owning horses. My husband retired this year and does a lot of the day to day horse stuff. If something happens to me I've asked him to sell the show horses but take care of the older mares.
OP, last evening I attended a talk by Harry deLeyer, a Dutch immigrant that bought a horse off the slaughter truck and the horse was a champion show jumper. You may have heard of him as several books have been written about him-Snowman! Anyway, Harry is probably in his 80's to say the least and someone asked him if he still rode. He said he still tried to ride an hour each day. God bless that man!
Now, as far as doing what I did in my youth, NO WAY JOSE!!!!!! I did open jumpers where the jumps started at 4' and went up 6" with each jump off, evented at the Preliminary level and fox hunted a crazy mare, none of which I ever intend to do again! I guess I should be lucky that none of those things are still on my bucket list.
Even when I bought my farm at age 45 I was very safety conscious and try each and every day to maintain that.
Back in my day, we didn't have as many warning labels because people weren't so dang stupid!
This is a very important subject for so many of us to consider. I am 56, my husband is 62, and I have a disability. My disability doesn't stop me in my tracks but it does seriously limit what I can do and still be able to work for the next nine years until I can retire. My husband is in very good shape but wants to do other things besides be a servant to horses. He's been doing it for ten years now, for me, not for him.
Sadly, I've had to agree that the two horses we have now (ages mid thirties and mid twenties) are our last horses. Most likely we will outlive them as they are pretty old already. But if something were to happen so my husband can't take care of them, I would be facing some very difficult decisions. If something happened to both of us, well...
Neither of our horses are at all marketable. The older one is completely retired, needs her lameness managed to keep her comfortable, and is a very hard keeper. The younger one still drives me around the neighborhood, but he has health issues that have to be managed. My husband spends a lot of time keeping these horses happy and comfortable (and does a great job at it). No one else would want them.
If we both died with the horses still alive, I want my sister-in-law (who is horsie but lives quite far away) or our adult daughter to put them down with love and kindness. If just I died, I honestly don't know what my husband would do. If he died, I would have to get help--possibly a room mate with horses who would do most of the work in exchange for either low rent or no rent.
Our adult daughter loves the horses and is good with them, but horses are not her interest and it would be unfair to ask her to keep them. She is just starting out in life and needs to not be tied down by elderly horses.
I wanted to be the woman who still has horses in her 80's, but that is not realistic. I'm not even likely to make it to my 80's, and have to acknowledge that I can't do the things a healthy person of my age can do even now. Reality bites sometimes, but it can't be avoided. I try to be grateful for the time I've had with my beloved equines, whenever it might end.
I'm only a couple years short of 50, but have thought about it some. I know an occasional person in their 90's still training horses, That's where I wanna be and then some. (Jack Brainard is one I'm thinking of)
My research into nutrition has led me to a knowledge of what is possible. I think I know how to live healthy and fit to way over 100. One of my proofs was a man who died of a trail riding accident at 127. (That was not his published age, but probably close to his real age according to his last wife, years ago my mother knew someone who was a close friend of his last wife and got the inside story)
Another man was active growing his own garden and milking goats until age 152 when his living situation (and diet) changed and he died soon after.
Both men had one significant thing in common, their diet, but what they ate as their entire diet most people would find kind of hard to do. However I am laying my plans to do exactly what they did, and do it up better than anyone I've ever heard of. (it'll be easy if I get things arranged right) Once I get going on it I'll stick with it the rest of my life and just see what happens.
Oi! At 62 I bought an unbroken 2.5 year old. I wasn't dumb enough to start him myself, but after 90 days, I was riding him. And getting some flying lessons from him.. Two years of hacking my old "born broke" horse that I'd owned for 18 years had not done anything for my seat. Sigh.
Now he's nine. One year off for him for a ligament injury. Six months off for me with a broken arm (courtesy of my darling). I'm 68, and want to show second level next year on him (though we'll probably start at 1st level in the spring and segue up sometime by mid-summer - I Hope). Whatever. I'm still working full time, because who can live on SS and a modest pension and afford a horse?
So....I board. I figure if I get THAT old and feeble - but am still riding, hopefully by then he'll be amenable (and old enough) for someone of moderate skills to ride and I can half-lease him and manage that way - i.e., still be able to pay full board, so my only barn chores are grooming and picking out. As he presently is, he's a nice ride, but not for the inexperienced.
Certainly striking a chord with me--- I'm 55. I've always boarded. Shared one boarded horse with daughter who is now in grad school. DH retired this year, and for the past 4 yrs or so, I've been working on the homeplace and readying it for home horse keeping when we move there. Just this morning in these wee hours, I'm packing up truck for another trip, and will meet with contractor today to finalize contracts for: hay barn. manure bin area. equipment shed. and crush and run packed access/connecting work area to all of the above. With that accomplished in the next month or so, I'll officially be 'ready' (once a load of hay is purchased and tucked away) since barn, run in, washrack, interlocking mats in barn, aisleway, 12x24 run in, and stalls was already completed. Ramm 3 rail black flex fence (cross fenced into various turn out scenarios) with hot coat top rail and above bottom rail also already done . And what did I do? I bought a weanling states away who will be shipped once its move in time. Plan is: weanling will be my enjoyment in raising/training and daughter's dream at the end of grad school. Currently on the search for the perfect mini mare to complete the scenario. But really? I know I'll be focusing on these next 5 years as progressive, and after that.....I see this all as my (God willing) ageing gelding's retirement along with a fun mini friend....and then....a treasured property inheritance for my daughter, complete with well thought out and planned mini farm for a couple of horses for her. OR.....she can sell that's up to her, but that is my goal 'at this age' really....its for her future as I know I could never have dreamed of a horse property of my own at that age. And, I'll enjoy my years there so much looking over all that was finally accomplished. I may not have a long stretch of years to enjoy it, who knows. But I've enjoyed its creation and wonderful connection all the way to the beginnings of when my grandparents built the little cape cod kit house with their own two hands and a wheelbarrow.
"Indecision may or may not be my problem"
When I was very young and working in a riding center, one wonderful horse under my care was a late 20's old champion dressage horse.
I took all care of that horse, including exercising it.
I wondered why the owner never came by, such a lovely horse, until one day this to me really old looking lady, walking slowly with another lady's help, came by and it was her horse!
She was not able to hardly make it to the barn, but she had seen her horse had the best care anyway.
The horse really didn't care, it was happy and all horse needs attended to, including someone to give it scritches and treats, me.
I see that as a good way to handle such situations, if that is the way some lives, human and horse, go.
You delegate their care and supervise it best you can.
A tough subject, and I don't really want to think about it much.
I do think that doing the horse care work IS what keeps us "young", strong and healthy. As well as having goals, even at a more advanced age.
I used to jump in the open divisions, and local grand prixs. Then trained racehorses for the next few decades. Five years ago, we moved to this large acreage, and built... everything. I am approaching mid fifties, DH is the same. We are both healthy, other than sore backs every now and again. We do less work now than we did managing the race training center. Much less.
As long as I see Ian Millar in the jumper ring, I feel I have fifteen more years of doing the low level show jumping I am back to participating in currently. I ride lots of green horses, I raise and break them, and haven't been incapacitated in a permanent manner doing this yet. I ride with a good helmet, and vest, just in case. Because of the active lifestyle, my bones are stronger than most people's, there have been many cases in which one would have thought that the bone would break, and it hasn't very often.
In competition, the dead eye accuracy seems to come back, the drive to excel is still strong. The horse and I become one being to accomplish the job at hand. Though I have no wish to jump in the bigger divisions any more, the level that I feel comfortable at (and my horse) allows me the feel the thrill again. I like that.
Most of my horses do have value to others. The DH would liquidate the lot of them if I croaked suddenly. They would stand on their own merits, and make their own way in life with some lucky person. I think it is important to give a horse value, value to others. Value should they have to be sold.
I keep horses with the senior set. Maybe this can add some perspective.
The trainer I ride with is 72(?) and survived a BAD heart attack. He isn't really anything but barely racing sound. He lost his wife a year and half ago, closed the lesson barn & has been showing a lot since then. Between his young stock & boarders, he's got about 15 horses in training (breaking, not maintaining) & God only knows how many in the fields. Two colts are due in the spring.
He rebuilt/refurbished his tack trunks last spring. Told the guys who keep horses with him "I hope you like these, they should last another 20 years. I hope when I'm 92, I'm not still showing with you @ssh***!"
The (Amish) guy who's got my mare is 77 and a well worn 77. We're never really sure how many head he's got. Somewhere around 20. He generally still has a couple in training, but has finally admitted that he can't handle the roughstock like he used to. Often times his barn help is my 70 yr old mother. The barn is referred to as "Medicare Manor"
You guys are all still young, and I would put money that most have had easier miles then these guys.