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Tell me about your retiree/semi-retiree event horses maintenance

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  • Tell me about your retiree/semi-retiree event horses maintenance

    As some on here might already know, I have a 17 year old Irish TB, Sam, who competed at advanced/intermediate/long formats for a number of years before I got him at age 9. I competed him at training and prelim until 2009 throughout various soundness problems.

    He's now 17 and has been battling with arthritis in his hocks for a few years, plus having OCDs removed. Usually hock injections plus maintenance (Adequan, cosequin and now previcox since he's not competing) works, but he can still have his off days.

    This spring and summer, I've noticed he's having more off days than usual. Most of the time he'll work out of his hind end stiffness, but these days, it can feel pretty ugly. Those are the days that I won't push it and just go for a hack. Last year and this year, we were competing at schooling shows at 1st and 2nd level and occasionally jumping BN height jumps.

    I have another horse who's competing and my family has had to cut back this year on some things, so spending a ton of money on a horse who's older and near retirement age isn't practical. Sam's maxed out on insurance claims for the hind end anyway!

    I've never had to retire a horse before, and sometimes I wonder how long I should keep at it. I think this will be the the last year for hock injections, mostly because of the competing horse, who I need to be putting money into. But Sam still loves to go and do. I took him to a local track a few weeks ago and let him have a little canter around it, then jumped a couple of small logs and splashed through the water and he got very amped up!

    I know he'll tell me when he's ready to be retired for good, but my main reason for posting was to ask the opinions of other COTH posters on maintenance. Of course I know it's based on individual horses, but I'd like to hear others' experiences.

    When did you stop injecting/treating your older event horse?

    When did you stop supplements? Sam is on U-guard (although I had him scoped once and his stomach was nice and pink. I had him on it for trailering/competing mostly). He's also on Cosequin/Adequan. When did you stop that?

    When did you pull shoes? My trainer thinks I should at least have his hind shoes pulled, but he needs heart bars in front because his heels are so low.

    I've consulted with my vets before, and they all thought that keeping him moving was important, but he hasn't been to see our regular vet since March, and I feel like he's gone a bit downhill since then.

    Check out my blog at http://lindsayberreth.com

  • #2
    Since it sounds like his brain is willing, is it possible to lease him to someone as a dressage/trail horse or even way low level eventing? We free leased an older intermediate horse last year to one of our teenagers to ride at BN. Her family covered his expenses that kept him comfortable to do his job (hock and stifle injections) and he happily toted her around for a summer (unfortunately, due to some old pasture injuries, his body couldn't keep up with his brain). She learned a lot from him, and he LOVED having a low key "retirement" job and being doted upon by a teenage girl and her little sister. We have another older horse in our care who isn't jumpable, but is a FANTASTIC First Level dressage horse and the best trail horse. One of our clients half leases him to have a nice, quiet horse to play on and enjoy. She covers his expenses, but he is pretty low maintenance if we're not jumping him. We have another horse who, if we can find the right person, we will offer a similar deal- they can ride him and enjoy him, but they are responsible for the things he may need to keep him comfortable (like joint injections).

    If he can do something like that, it may be a way to keep an older horse happy and feeling useful (some horses really do better with a job, even if it is just plopping along the trail) but lessen the expenses for you.

    If that's not an option, we stop maintenance and joint sups when they stop being ridden, or at least stop being ridden at a level that they need it to to do the job. So, if they are pasture puffs or the occasional trail horse or whatever, they don't get the pricey stuff anymore.

    The last horse I mentioned is probably similar to your guy. He is no longer competing with his owner but is still happy and willing to go and do stuff. But he will not get joint injections unless it is paid for by someone who wants to really campaign him again (only exception to this would be if he became uncomfortable in the pasture and it could be addressed by a joint injection of some variety). He is comfortable being flatted, trail ridden, and jumping once every couple of weeks at 3ft-ish, so his owner doesn't pour gobs of money into him unnecessarily (he has three other going, competing horses, so saving on vet bills where he can helps). I give him the occasional shot of Legend, a gram of bute here and there, and he still gets Cosequin ASU.

    The first horse I mentioned stopped getting everything when it was obvious he was not comfortable to be ridden (and he is not a trail horse candidate). No injections, no sups, shoes came off. He is happily living with another retired intermediate horse (who DOES still get Cosequin, I believe, but he has a lot more niggling issues) out in KateDB's pasture.

    My old guy never needed anything other than the occasional course of Adequan and at 25 is still one of the soundest horses I know. We pulled his hinds when we stopped jumping him (more because we had no one to jump him. Not because of his body). His fronts came off when he moved to his Country Club estate and was no longer being ridden at all (I threaten to jump on him bareback every time I see him, but he's half feral now and has ALWAYS been ornery...he'd buck me off!). He still gets a belly sup, but he has ulcer issues.

    So, yeah, it does kinda depend on the horse AND the human responsible, and what the human is willing and able to do.


    • #3
      It depends. I have retired five over the years and they all differ, but usually their needs include a good joint supplement like Cosequin, hay, grain as needed and regular farrier care, same 6 week schedule as always. Shots/vet care is a given.

      Your guy is youngish, he could be retired for a long time and be plenty expensive, so keep a rainy day vet fund. I swear my retirees spent their golden days competing with each other on who could come up with the weirdest ways to maim themselves. ALL of my emergency vet bills in the last 10 years have been bleeding oldies!


      • #4
        My horse was on the track for 4 years. Then I got him and ran around BN/N till he was 16. He started stopping. I let my daughter move him back down to BN for a couple of events. I hilltopped with him for year. Then he started being very off on the front. He was also pretty off behind as well. My vet is not a fan of injecting the joints, so I have not done that. I agree with him that it will break down the cartilage further. He was so uncomfortable that I thought that I might have to put him down. We played with his shoeing, and I tried various supplements and pain killers, and this is his current regimen.

        Riding, dressage or trail rides at least 4 X per week. More is better for him.

        1/2 bute per day. Cetyl-M. Flex Force HA. MSM. Finish Line U-7. Shoeing with popper pads in front and tiny heel caulks. He really didn't like the bar shoes.

        If I take away even one of these, he is off. I have also recognized that since he is not competing, when he first moves off from standing and eating hay or whatever, he will step funny, but when he is going along, he is fine.

        He looks great. Shiny, happy, fat. He is happy to be working some. When I laid him up for 6 months while figuring this all out, he was miserable, and miserable to be around.

        I am lucky in that this low level of work is fine with me for now because while paying 2 college tuitions, I have no $$ to compete or lesson anyway. We will see what happens once the twins graduate.

        Good luck with your guy. Another supplement that I have considered is Smartflex III Ultra. I may try that when my supply of my current stuff runs out.


        • #5
          I agree with YB - our older ones step down a level or two, but most of them do better physically/mentally if they still have a job, be it teaching a kid or a less experienced adult, or doing dressage, or otherwise having a regular program. These experienced horses don't for the most part tend to do great just being kicked out in a field and ignored - they've had too long a life when they are doing something every day. They can learn to just hang out, but I have found that they tend to lose some of their spark if they don't get to come in, get fussed over, maybe hacked/ridden regularly as their comfort level allows.

          With the older guys generally, regardless of what they're doing, I think it's really important to keep them moving: lots of turnout, lots of hacking, and keeping them fairly strong (I notice compensation when they get weak behind, so my older guys do a decent amount of walking up and down hills). I don't tend to pull shoes, but I also have TBs who are much more comfortable with shoes than without. As far as general maintenance goes, I tend to keep hocks up if they are getting creaky enough to be compensating somewhere else, but I might (in consultation with my vet) stretch out the period somewhat if they're no longer jumping. I do keep them going on any tummy supplement and often MSM, but I usually back off of a joint supplement or adequan.


          • Original Poster

            To answer YB- While I was interning at COTH last fall, I had one of my dressage instructor's adult ammys ride him for me. No money exchanged hands. It was just a wonderful opportunity for her to learn on a schoolmaster and help me out when I didn't have a lot of time. She rode him a few times a week and used him in lessons under the guidance of my trainer, who knows him well and can tell when he's having a gimpy day. Ammy learned a lot and has continued to ride/lesson this year too. But recently, because of his more gimpy days than not, she's voiced to my trainer that she's not comfortable making the decision on whether to ride him or not. She's a sweet woman and I know she would make the right decision, but she's so afraid of hurting him!

            I absolutely agree that as an older horse, he needs to keep moving and have a job. The problem is, he'll trot around the ring, be totally off from behind, and have a smile on his face! He's so stoic, so that's what makes it hard to decide when to stop riding. I don't think we're at that point right now, but I think I'm going to have to downgrade what I ask of him in the dressage work. I can definitely say he will not be ignored! We love our grooming sessions and he loves to go for trail rides with my mom and her horse, as long as he's not leaping sideways and spooking at everything!

            He had hock injections in March and the effect has not lasted long, so I fear we're at the point where they're no longer useful. I could do twice a year, but would prefer not to. I talked to my vet about ethyl alcohol fusion and he was very much against it for Sam. He's known him for many years and has seen us through all of the soundness issues. My other thought was to go to a completely new vet and see if they might have an unbiased opinion, but that costs money. I'm afraid of spending the money and having someone else tell us the same thing. The last new vet I went to completely missed the mark and gave him esterone injections because he thought he had overall body soreness, when in fact it was the hocks acting up again.

            As far as supplements, do you all keep giving them joint supplements until they pass away? Or just until they've stopped being ridden?

            I'm thinking I can drop the U-Guard. As I stated above, he never really had ulcer problems, it was just a preventative. He travels maybe once a month now to go on a trail ride. I could maybe do just a total/complete supplement instead with hoof/coat/stomach/etc support.

            Check out my blog at http://lindsayberreth.com


            • #7
              Not exactly a retired event horse, but I'll go ahead and talk about my guy's retirement.

              When I retired my first horse recently, he was on Adequan and had recently had his hocks done, as well as being on special senior performance feed and a super strict conditioning schedule. I weaned him off the work slowly, and slowly backed off his feed (super easy keeper, so all he gets now is pretty much a handful of the same feed twice a day, and free choice hay). He quit getting Adequan basically as soon as I retired him officially. He was almost due for an injection anyways, so I figured that was as close to weaning him off of it as I could get without going to extremes.

              However, your situation sounds completely different from mine... My guy was retired simply because he'd earned it after years of giving everyone his best, and had earned a peaceful life with the occasional trail ride and lots of love. No soundness issues, no health problems. Just one of those things when I knew it was "that time" I guess.
              Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.


              • #8
                For my horse, if I quit the joint supplements, he would not even pasture sound. He was hobbling in front, holding up his foot because his heel was so painful before we figured out the current melange.

                Living out is also great. He lives at my house with 24/7 in/out to his stall (with a fan of course).


                • Original Poster

                  Originally posted by AppyGoLucky View Post
                  However, your situation sounds completely different from mine... My guy was retired simply because he'd earned it after years of giving everyone his best, and had earned a peaceful life with the occasional trail ride and lots of love. No soundness issues, no health problems. Just one of those things when I knew it was "that time" I guess.
                  I envy you!

                  Check out my blog at http://lindsayberreth.com


                  • #10
                    I retired mine when I'd exhausted all maintenance options (he was getting a lot of stuff and was marginal to compete). I realized that I could probably retire him for life at my house for the cost of 2 yrs of trying to cobble him together.

                    He gets nothing now. No shoes (though, I had him barefoot through training--one of those rare OTTBs with decent feet), hay/grass, a little bit of grain with a multivitamin supplement. His metabolism slowed way down when he retired--he used to be hard to keep weight on and now he's a fatty.

                    I would have loved to find some intermediate, scaled back work option, or, honestly, to rehome him, but his issue was very unpredictable (in his back) and I thought he was too dangerous to be a schoolmaster or to be given away for riding purposes, and I was too much of a softie to put him down.

                    It is possible that his back could fuse, in which case I probably would ride him around--I retired him at 14 and he is 17 now. I got on him ~10 couple times the last 2 years, just to attempt a 10 minute walk, and he was very scary. This year he has been a lot better--he just goes like a TB who gets a 10 min walk every 2 weeks--so there may be some hope for light trail. But ultimately my priority is to stay sound myself, in order to ride my others and take care of all, so I don't push my luck.

                    I don't think he really minds the lack of riding/attention. I can actually catch him in the field now. He still gets treats after the others get ridden, and I let him follow me out on the lawn to eat if nobody is looking.


                    • #11
                      I retired mine from competing a few of years ago (17) and then I basically have only ridden him a couple of times since then. He gets turned out every day on pasture and stalled at nite. He is ridiculously happy. I left shoes on him for the first year, then pulled his rears and then this past winter we went barefoot. This is a horse that has low heels and flat feet. I took him off adequan and such and am just doing cosequin now mostly for my sake. He used to get hock injections when I was competing, but I stopped that and he doesn't mind a bit. Yes, he probably cross canters a bit more and prefers one lead, but that's it. The chiropractor looked at him a year ago and was amazed at how great he looked. He's fat and happy with dapples. I only have to give him a little tummy meds when he doesn't get turned out and stresses, other than that, retirement has agreed greatly with him. I see him daily, he's happy to see me and get his treats and just as happy that I leave. The couple of times I hopped on and rode him, he was happy and eager and ready for some light work.


                      • #12
                        My old guy is now 22. I still have him in front shoes since he seems to instantly get abcesses without, but none in back. Thankfully he's never needed injections (knock wood) but I do have him on a feed through gloucosamine/msm/yucca/condritin supplement. A few years ago he started not wanting to work much anymore and I thought that's it. After we redid our arena footing with rubber though he started acting 10years younger. It made a huge, huge difference!! He definitely does better with 24/7 turnout and some youngsters that he likes to boss around so that he moves around more, too. Keeping him moving and having a soft surface to ride on has made all the difference. He has been half leased out for the last 2years now so is in light work 2-3 days a week. He even does some small jumps in a lesson once a week and he looks better and sounder than he did when he was 18!

                        The only problem I'm having with him now is that he's getting harder to keep weight on. typical TB, he has never liked eating much. Teeth are fine, he just has never cared for hay. He's getting soaked beep pulp/alfalfa pellets, + grain and oil 2x a day in addition to free choice hay.
                        Blacktree Farm
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by piaffeprincess98 View Post
                          I envy you!
                          Lol, I lucked out with this guy... Pre and post retirement He really was a diamond in the rough.
                          Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.


                          • #14
                            We had to retire our daughter's mare at 18 years due to extensive knee damage..she came in lame one day and had multiple chips/fragments and DJD...it had been there for a while, but being the Thoroughbred she is, she never exhibited any signs of lameness, and they were schooling intermediate 3 weeks prior. She has lots of advanced milage on her.
                            We kept the shoes on her and were able to flat her until a few months ago, when all that milage seemed to have caught up to her. She also has fused hocks, and she is finally showing the wear and tear. Nothing major, just gimpiness and swellings.
                            So we pulled her shoes and formally retired her.
                            She is now barefoot. She gets Seminole Wellness Senior. She is on the SmartPak Senior supplements, as well as the BugOff and their Omega 3.
                            I feel the best thing to give the retirees is lots of pasture time...good grass (or hay. She gets as much o/a as she wants and a flake of alfalfa), fresh water (actually, all my horses get this! This is vital for all horses!) and lots of moving around to keep them limber. I am upset that for 2 nights in a row, we have had storms and so her turnout has been very limited. It is too hot during the day to leave them out, so hopefully tomorrow she will get a few hours in the morning. Already, this evening, her ankles were puffy. When that happens, I linament and bandage them for extra support.
                            I don't vaccinate as much, since she doesn't go anywhere. Floating is important, she gets checked twice a year for uneven wear and tear.
                            Lots of grooming, keeping her hooves in order and basically keeping her looking like she always did! Other than her arthritis, she looks amazing!
                            Lori T
                            www.facebook.com/LTEquine for product updates on the lines I rep


                            • #15
                              My daughter's 21 year old OTTB has been out of competition for a while. His hocks needed injecting way more that we were comfortable. He still flats and trail rides as much as possible, as he gets really cranky when not in work (LOVE the TB work ethic!). We have not injected his hocks for 4 years, but do keep shoes on all around and he gets SmartPak Senior every day.

                              Now he is boarded at my friend's farm, and has the opportunity to go in and out as he pleases. He spends his days leading his herd of 2 and eating beautiful grass. When my daughter goes to see him, he comes right up to greet her and gets upset when she leave. He loves to be worked, just not sound enough to compete.
                              Member of My Balance is Poo Poo Clique


                              • #16
                                I think sometimes the real workmen wont tell you when they are ready, since they wont be ready until they are really broken. Sometimes you just have to make the hard choices yourself.

                                My 21 year old, who actually never had a joint injection even when running Prelim at 19, is pretty much fully retired now, not due to arthritis but a combination of my young horse needing focus and him not being quite up for Training/Prelim anymore. It broke my heart as he was pretty sad for awhile, he loves to work and he loves jumping, but he is actually very happy now living out and moves around enough in his huge pasture that he never seems stiff when I get on for the occasional monthly hack. I thought about leasing him to someone to go BN but he never was good at suffering fools and I worried about his fragile ego, plus this summer has been so hot and humid it would have been too much for his breathing to compete. He could hack daily, but I dont have the time or the inclination if the weather isnt nice. It doesnt seem worth jumping him, he would like it but I worry about his front feet and the wear of being a front-heavy QH after a lifetime of eventing catching up to him. He is embracing being nearly feral, he never much cared for being in the barn and all the fussing.


                                • #17
                                  My 22 year old never competed like yours did, and was retired more b/c of my life/ broodmare issues than anything.

                                  He lives out 24/7 with 3 buddies and is happy as a clam. I had him on UGard for ulcer issues, but have removed it with what appears to be no issues (if you can throw a flake of alfalfa the calcium in that can have a similar effect- but we don't even do that anymore b/c the horses he is living with can't have it.) He needs to wear front only shoes for 2 cycles in the summer. I have learned by trial and error that he is fine all year round except for the really dry ground we get in the summer.

                                  I switched him to majesty's joint wafers which have worked well for us. They are great for horses living out b/c they are like a treat. So the person who feeds just gives it directly to him so I know he gets it every day. I have tried removing joint sups and always think he is gimpier without. Although as I said he's still pretty sound.

                                  Good luck!


                                  • #18
                                    When my horse stopped eventing, we made the switch from Adequan to Acetyl-D-Glucosamine. I don't know why I didn't make the switch sooner. It does a great job for the low level Dressage work he's in now (4-6 days a week), and its easier on the pocketbook.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Just had another thought. What do you guys do as far as feed? Sam has been on Enduro Event since he came from a BNT's barn. He loves his food and seems to be doing fine on it, but I wonder if or when I should switch to a "senior feed". I asked my vet (not my regular vet, but one who knows the horse pretty well) about it once, and he gave me a muddled answer and gave me a brochure for Platinum, which is really expensive.

                                      I know each horse is different, but what are the basic ingredients in feed that an older horse still in light work needs?

                                      Check out my blog at http://lindsayberreth.com


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by piaffeprincess98 View Post
                                        Just had another thought. What do you guys do as far as feed? Sam has been on Enduro Event since he came from a BNT's barn. He loves his food and seems to be doing fine on it, but I wonder if or when I should switch to a "senior feed". I asked my vet (not my regular vet, but one who knows the horse pretty well) about it once, and he gave me a muddled answer and gave me a brochure for Platinum, which is really expensive.

                                        I know each horse is different, but what are the basic ingredients in feed that an older horse still in light work needs?
                                        Neigh (my old man) switched to senior when he moved to his current residence, but only because his pal was already on it (then, after they both lost a startling amount of weight, I made the executive decision to switch from the Blue Seal senior they were on to Triple Crown Senior). If he was still with me, he would most likely still get what he was getting...a ration balancer and all the hay and pasture he can consume (part of the reason they are both heavily fortified with a concentrate is that their pasture is wooded, so not tons of great grass. They get lots of hay, but Neigh also gets about 4 lbs of the TC senior).

                                        Our two who live with KateDB I don't think get anything! But they are both still in their teens, and are very spry, happy, healthy, and have a 10 acre field all to themselves. The only reason they are retired is that their bodies can't keep up with their brains. Neither got much when they were still here and in work (well, when Ruby was a UL horse, I fed the crap out of him...as a BN horse, he got basically nothing We liked him fat and lazy with no extra calories to spare).