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When to retire your Grand Prix dressage horse?

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  • When to retire your Grand Prix dressage horse?

    To anyone who has retired an FEI level dressage horse (in the absence of any career-ending illness or injury), how did you know the time was right? And did you retire them completely from riding, ride them yourself lightly or let them be a schoolmaster to teach others?
    My GP horse has been retired from FEI competition for a couple of years, but I've been riding him at home and someone else has also been riding him a couple of days per week and showing him very lightly 4th level. He just doesn't seem happy in his work, and it is definitely hard for him now, though he is not lame or injured in any way. But, he is a very big horse, 18 hands, and almost 19 years old. Just not sure what to do! He is turned out 12+ hours per day in a large pasture and is happy with that. I love my boy and want to do what is right for him. He has certainly earned his retirement, and owes me nothing. If it's best to ride him lightly, that's what I'll do, but it seems like he just is not happy being ridden any more. I will never give him up. He will be with me forever in whatever capacity is best for him. What are your thoughts on this, from those of you who have found themselves in a similar place?

  • #2
    I have a retired GP horse who was given to me 6 years ago after being off and on for 6 years prior to that with injuries. I got him when he was 18 and he's now 24. He has been sound for me, the odd little thing here and there but nothing significant. What I found with him is that if I gave him a week off because a leg seemed a bit puffy, he was absolutly incensed. He would run to the gate if he saw me at the barn. If he was in his stall and I didn't come to get him he would whinny and kick the door. He was clearly telling me that he was fine, let's get on with it. He is quite the thing to ride and clearly has no idea that he isn't going to the Olympics tomorrow, lol. This summer he has been off with a pulled muscle deep in his bum and it's taking a really long time to come around. What I find interesting is that he's not looking to be ridden this time and is quite content haning around with his buddy. I'm not sure if this is the end of work or not, it's a wait and see thing, but this time he's fine with it. Maybe he knows.

    We also have an FEI pony who has been a schoolmaster for the past 6 years. He's had some medical issues this year and he clearly doesn't want to be ridden right now even though physically he's better. When we take him to the arena and head for the mounting block, he tries to go the other way and we have to drag him to the mounting block. He's never done this before and has always seemed happy to work, but he's older too and we'll have to figure out what is best for him. He's good to hack (unlike the GP horse) so maybe we do a change of activity for a while and see what happens. I guess I'm a big softy, but I just can't force them to do something that they are clearly not enjoying.

    Good luck with your boy, it's tough when it gets to this point. Some days it feels like we need and old horse support group!

    Comment


    • #3
      I have never had a Grand Prix horse so I can't answer that part of your question but wanted to say that I don't think it matters what other people have done with their horses, Grand Prix or otherwise. What matters is what is best for your particular horse. It may take a thorough exam from your vet to help you make your decision but in the end its up to you. Many horses are happy not being worked and turned out in a field. That doesn't mean they can't be taken out of that happy situation and do a little work for their keep however. Assuming they are sound enough to do the job being asked.
      McDowell Racing Stables

      Home Away From Home

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Mayflower Farm View Post
        This summer he has been off with a pulled muscle deep in his bum and it's taking a really long time to come around.
        Not to sidetrack, but can I ask how you diagnosed this?
        I suspect that one of mine may have pulled a muscle in his bum last week; his legs are cool and tight but there is a very slight hitch in his getalong on the heels of a more intense school.
        The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
        Jinxyhttp://tiny.cc/PIC798&http://tiny.cc/jinx364
        Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
        The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY

        Comment


        • #5
          4th level collection may be too much for him. What is his attitude like if you just trail-ride or hack on the buckle for a few weeks? What about doing training/first level work where no collection is required?


          Sometimes its hard to balance the work they know how to do with the work they are physically capable of doing comfortably. Then, you need to balance that with the amount of conditioning his body can handle. I know one horse who can't do hillwork or trot sets, or any sort of pounding because of various lower leg issues (ringbone, navicular spur, etc.) - so while he might be comfortable to work at third level, they really can't keep him fit enough to do it. Instead, he teaches beginners about training level and the stretchy circle.

          Comment


          • #6
            I would say it really depends on his work ethic. Does he want to be ridden? If yes, then you just need to find the level and discipline he's comfortable with.

            Comment


            • #7
              The goal of riding should be to have a happy horse who would rather be with you out riding than grazing in a pasture. If he is not enjoying what you are doing then change it so he does. There is no "retire" just work with him to make his life enjoyable. Play around, teach him tricks etc...

              Comment


              • #8
                I am a riding instructor /trainer so I get offered older "Schoolmasters", and various rescues to join my teaching program regularly. I have noticed that older horses get crabby of course when their bodies are uncomfortable. Like at that age arthritis starts to kick in. It is a tough thing to determine because you can turn a horse out to pasture and then their muscle tone can disapear.
                I would do excessive turnout time in a large area, make certain all tack is fitting him properly now not 3 years ago, and then do different things like a trail which is more mentally stimulating as well as lower level movements.

                If you have a good trainer who will take care of his body first and the student second...being a schoolmaster can be a great life with lots of attention. Again it matters if the instructor is super caring and protective of the horse.

                I am so happy to see so many people care for their horses in through their Golden years.

                I have 4 rescues and the most recent is a Grand Prix Dressage Schoolmaster. He has an old injury that was never allowed to heal. It is absolutely ludacris..I am in the process of taking over ownership. His owner wants him to remain on bute daily and be worked. He has had this injury for over 5 years...I am still trying to get the records...the owner is dilussional and thinks he needs lots of regular work and that bute is the magical fix. The only reason he was hyper in his stall at her house is not because he needs work but because he was bored and lonely. He is in a large pasture with 28 other horses and is sufficiantly stimulated and exercised by the other horses at the walk.

                I am appalled at the ego-centric High Class horse abuse that happens in this country!

                Let the poor guy Rest!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Sometimes high performance horses just need a little vacation (rest and relaxation) You're doing lots of turnout, that's good. Change up his routine a bit, maybe some trail riding or light jumping? If he's sound, it may be that he just needs a short break. Do something that is just for fun. Maybe he just needs to sit on the beach and watch the sun set for a bit....

                  Sue
                  "Horsemanship is not merely a matter of bodily skills, but is based on scholarship and, therefore, is a matter of the mind and intellect." Charles de Kunffy

                  http://www.equiimages.com

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                  • #10
                    First off he's a very big horse. Wow! He's lugged around alot of weight for his life.

                    I made the decision to retire by 1st horse when my warmup took 30-45 minutes. It was just too long.

                    I know it's a shame to have to retire a horse's career that has soooo much knowledge. My horse was still a good trail horse and on occassion I threw in an upper level movement now and then just to reminice about the good ole days.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Not to sidetrack, but can I ask how you diagnosed this?
                      I suspect that one of mine may have pulled a muscle in his bum last week; his legs are cool and tight but there is a very slight hitch in his getalong on the heels of a more intense school.

                      This is also how he presents. Legs feel good, but he has a hitch on that side. I saw it most when he trotted in the field. At first he would primarly walk and canter, not trot. It was actually difficult to feel under saddle, didn't feel as bad as it looked. I was hoping all he needed was a chiropractic adjustment, but the chiro (who is also a vet) identified it as muscle did an acupuncture treatment and showed me some gentle stretches to do. He commented that it was very deep and would take some time to heal.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Mayflower Farm View Post
                        Not to sidetrack, but can I ask how you diagnosed this?
                        I suspect that one of mine may have pulled a muscle in his bum last week; his legs are cool and tight but there is a very slight hitch in his getalong on the heels of a more intense school.

                        This is also how he presents. Legs feel good, but he has a hitch on that side. I saw it most when he trotted in the field. At first he would primarly walk and canter, not trot. It was actually difficult to feel under saddle, didn't feel as bad as it looked. I was hoping all he needed was a chiropractic adjustment, but the chiro (who is also a vet) identified it as muscle did an acupuncture treatment and showed me some gentle stretches to do. He commented that it was very deep and would take some time to heal.
                        Thanks so much!
                        I am zipping home early to take mine in but I feel much better with some support for my "Please God Not a Suspensory or Ligament Tear" theory.

                        Please give yours a pat, Alph and I will be thinking good thought his way today as well.
                        The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                        Jinxyhttp://tiny.cc/PIC798&http://tiny.cc/jinx364
                        Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                        The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          It sounds like your guy is probably ready to ramp down. That's exactly what happened with my FEI horse; he was still sound and OK performing the work, but he just didn't feel enthusiastic about work anymore. I didn't retire him completely, but we went to doing more hacks around the field, trail riding, riding bareback, etc. He was immediately happier, so I don't think it was a soreness thing, I really can only describe it as he just decided he had done enough work and he wanted to play. When he stopped feeling enthusiastic about that, I retired him completely and he lived several more years hanging out in a field.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I have a 20 yr old TB who showed thru PSG and knew most of the stuff for Grand PRix - not really confirmed in passage, but the rest was there. I quit showing him last spring for only one reason: his conformation (long in the back) made the level of desired collection difficult, and I did not want to hurt him by trying. We tinkered w/ changes down thru one's, piaffe and so on while I was horse shopping. Then I leased him to a woman who is schooling first/second level. She is in heaven with him, not just because of what she's learning but because she can hack him anywhere and there is nothing at a horse show that will ever bother him. Perfect solution for everyone as he still needed and liked having a job, I know where he is and who the trainer is, and he's only a couple miles away. When he says he's ready to be a pasture puff, then he'll get that option.
                            We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My FEI horse was retired from the show ring at 21, and lives happily as a pasture pet now in his mid 20's. Once I stopped riding him ( I had family issues which didn't allow the time for daily riding) his condition did decrease somewhat- he looks "old" now with a dropped topline and so I do not ride him casually.He keeps the weight on and he is otherwise healthy, just not riding fit. With an older horse, unless you keep them in regular work, it is probably better to just let them live out their days in the field.

                              I knew it was time when he started to miss changes and to fuss in the piaffe work- it was obvious to me that he was getting uncomfortable with the higher demands of the work.
                              If it ain't broke- TRAIN IT!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by 2tempe View Post
                                I have a 20 yr old TB who showed thru PSG and knew most of the stuff for Grand PRix - not really confirmed in passage, but the rest was there. I quit showing him last spring for only one reason: his conformation (long in the back) made the level of desired collection difficult, and I did not want to hurt him by trying. We tinkered w/ changes down thru one's, piaffe and so on while I was horse shopping. Then I leased him to a woman who is schooling first/second level. She is in heaven with him, not just because of what she's learning but because she can hack him anywhere and there is nothing at a horse show that will ever bother him. Perfect solution for everyone as he still needed and liked having a job, I know where he is and who the trainer is, and he's only a couple miles away. When he says he's ready to be a pasture puff, then he'll get that option.
                                I think this is a great idea...I was blessed to be given 2 GEEZERS in their 20s to teach me dressage. Both owners knew my family (I was a high schooler at the time) and I could provide the best of care, and both horses loved their new life being...well...the loves and center of my life! They kicked butt and took names in pony club and recognized dressage with me at first level plus lots of hacking until age 27...sound every day of their stays with me. I love the geezer and wish more people would get over the notion that they are the "best" home for their horses at every stage of their lives. Geezers have so much to offer a growing rider (young or old!) if it is the right person, especially since it sounds like you've outgrown this horse...and it truly gave my two new life at a time where they were literally wasting away and were so sad/depressed to be turned out. Just something to consider--every horse is different and obviously, I wouldn't want my guys to be in pain (or your guy), but I think many horses like to show off and teach the ropes! They gave me a love of dressage I've never shaken and I am so thankful (and tell those owners who were so generous and who I don't think have EVER doubted they did the right thing) for their owner's faith in me!

                                I just finished my Bronze and I am hoping my current 20 year old can help me towards my Silver. Good luck to you and your boy!
                                Last edited by HollysHobbies; Oct. 5, 2010, 07:44 PM.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  My 20 yr. old GP schoolmaster just helped me earn my Silver medal - 1 show at 4th and 1 at PSG = Medal! He is such an incredible gift. Spent his life with a pro, international level trainer/rider and I bought him at age 19. He is my soulmate, HOT HOT HOT and sensitive but so very sweet and insecure. We're considering Int-1 next month - we'll see. So far, my program of just listening to him is working. I have no doubt he will tell me in no uncertain terms when he is no longer amused by me...LOL! I joke with my vet that just as soon as he retires from the FEI dressage ring, we're going to take up eventing so I can say we're doing conditioning sets instead of the old man simply taking off with me!
                                  There have been some good suggestions - I think it makes sense to keep them moving as much as possible IF they are comfortable in doing so.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I may have mentioned this guy before but I lost a great GP horse that while retired still did lessons at 29. He came to me out of shape at 27 and while I wish I could just let horses be horses he had to 'work' for a living. He loved it. His top line did return. The vet told me to 'quit bringing' him to see him and he literally ran onto a trailer at any opportunity to go to the local schooling shows. He was sound until 2 days before he died.

                                    He was wasting away and so loved to be back in work and arround people again.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I just got a horse that evented through intermediate..I am switching to dressage after many years in the hunter ring. He is a wonderful horse to learn on and will not be jumped, he got sour about it, and has a ton to teach me. Backing them down and lots of trail riding seems to have him very happy.....he still has a job although nothing like his previous one but he is happy and still very much loved...
                                      I vote for trail riding and a lower level ride...as long there is nothing physically wrong....
                                      Best solution for all....It doesn't matter what discipline they have done they need to be happy....
                                      Mai Tai aka Tyler RIP March 1994-December 2011
                                      Grief is the price we pay for love- Gretchen Jackson
                                      "And here she comes. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's ZENYATTA!"

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
                                        Thanks so much!
                                        I am zipping home early to take mine in but I feel much better with some support for my "Please God Not a Suspensory or Ligament Tear" theory.

                                        Please give yours a pat, Alph and I will be thinking good thought his way today as well.
                                        The good thoughts must have been working, he looked good in the field yesterday, I'm hoping to give him a go on the weekend! FYI, he's been off 4 months.

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