Sunday, Apr. 21, 2024

My Horse Earned His 401(k) A Long Time Ago

We’re often reminded to prepare for our own retirements, but how frequently does it occur to us to think of how our horses will spend their senior years?

Beth Johnson reports in this issue on some well-known athletes who are competing through their later years (p. 24), but obviously not every horse can do this.
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We’re often reminded to prepare for our own retirements, but how frequently does it occur to us to think of how our horses will spend their senior years?

Beth Johnson reports in this issue on some well-known athletes who are competing through their later years (p. 24), but obviously not every horse can do this.

I’ve had the bittersweet experience, over the past few years, to watch as a beloved horse ages. He’s 18—not a real senior citizen but a far cry from the vibrant horse I first saw careening around just after coming off the track, 10 years ago.
   
To many riders, keeping a retired horse may seem like a burden, financially or in terms of time commitment. But I’ve found it a pleasure to accompany a special horse through his older years, to know the changes that have taken place for him and to appreciate him throughout the stages of his life.
   
Watching a horse age is a reminder that the efforts they make for us take their toll over the years. All that galloping and jumping accumulates, and seeing an older companion on a daily basis is an extra reminder to take care with young horses, not to push too hard or fast.
   
It’s also a time to appreciate a horse for his own sake, unconnected to any scores or heights of fences.
   
Sometimes I find myself just admiring my older horse, amazed at all he has done for me—the many jumps he saw me safely over, the mistakes he tolerated and always forgave.

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No matter how many years pass since our last competition, the bond that we have has never changed. I know he misses the level of attention he once received, but I think he still knows that he’s special.
   
I enjoy ensuring that he has just the right blanket or fly mask, the supplements he needs, and a scratch in his favorite place inside his stifle. And I still find him absolutely gorgeous, a classic Thoroughbred with a
huge, intelligent eye.
   
Obviously, not everyone will be able to keep every horse, but I look at sharing in my horse’s retirement years as an honor. It’s an amazing process to see your horse through a decade or more, like a family member.
   
I can’t help but wonder sometimes what we might have accomplished if I’d been a better rider, and I’m often troubled by specific mistakes I made at one event or another. But after a while, none of that matters, because the biggest prize is always right in front of me—the horse that I adore, who, for many years, was the reason I got up in the morning.
   
Of course, we usually outlive our animals, and knowing that, I value the time that I spend with him, the days that I have time to take him for a ride. We’d both like to be younger, but aging is a fact of life. I’m just glad we can do it together.

Beth Rasin, Managing Editor

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