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OLD horse and putting them back to light work

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  • OLD horse and putting them back to light work

    As some may know, my old guy and love of my life, Neigh, is coming home to me in the next week or two. Sad circumstances...his MUCH older companion, Fury, was put down on Saturday and he's now alone.

    Any way, while I am sad about Fury, I am over the moon about bringing Neigh home. It has been 4+ years since he has lived with me, and every time I see him, I want to burst into tears when I leave him. I am so excited to see his face every day again.

    Here's the question. Neigh will be 27 in April. He retired sound and fit...basically, I just ran out of riders who were an appropriate match for him. I am seriously considering putting him back into light work...maybe 3 days a week of hacking. Is he too old? Would it be bad for him in any way? Or good? Knowing him like I do, my gut says he'll be cranky seeing other horses working (especially since his pasture will be up by the xc course) and would happy to have a job, even if it is a light one.


  • #2
    I'd say let Neigh decide. Try it out, if he becomes crankier, you have your answer! I have a feeling he might enjoy a nice jaunt or two a week.

    For reference, I have a friend who runs a beginner lesson barn with some nice, older schoolies. She had to put one down last year due to cancer complications, but was a surly 32 and toted kids around up until the last month of his life. She also has "her" horse, a cantankerous old man at 28 who is also still "happily" giving lessons to the more advanced kids as he still hasn't outgrown his bucking... I once rode at a barn with a horse that supposedly was 41 when he never woke up from his nap, he would get downright depressed if he didn't go out for his weekly shuffle around the property.


    • #3
      I started boarding 2 seniors about 5 months ago. The 26 yr. old has terrilby arthritic knees, so can't be ridden. The 29 yr. old, however, has plenty of energy and his owner still rides him ocassionally. She's had him since he was 3, so she knows when he "doesn't feel like it". Unfortunately he had to have surgery to remove an abscessed tooth, and it's getting harder and harder to keep weight on him, so he hasn't been ridden in a couple of months. My point is, if you know your horse you'll know if he can be ridden, or not.
      "Everyone will start to cheer, when you put on your sailin shoes"-Lowell George


      • #4
        OP - somewhat different circumstances, but I have a 23 yr old who a year or so ago was so neurlogical that we thought he'd never be rideable again. Cervical arthritis was the cause. I had him injected and 3 months later started a slow process of first just ambling around w/ me on him. Then a bit of trot was tossed in and finally some canter. Now he is fully capable of a 30-45 minute session that includes a smidge of transition w/in gaits, a little counter canter, shoulder in and leg yields. He looks stronger and healthier. He's on basically an "every other day" schedule.
        So I vote for giving it a try; you won't know unless you do; just take it slow and see how he feels day by day. Good luck!
        We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


        • #5
          I attempted to "retire" my appy when he was 24. He kept jumping the fence into the lesson ring and joining in. He was very safe so he ended up in a handicapped riding program. He was much happier there and worked happily until he was 32.
          The rebel in the grey shirt


          • #6
            Absolutely! Start slow, build up slowly, as long as the horse is pretty sound, exercise is essential for a health and soundness. When I was a teen I was competing in 4-H and stuff with a 26 year old mare who looked fantastic and was never lame a day in her life. We only retired her because I went away to school and I didn't want to subject her to yet another crazy kid like me. (She was then a beloved therapeutic riding horse for many more years.)

            Exercise is key for any creature to live a good long life. The most ancient horses always seem to be found in lesson barns.

            I learned to ride on a large pony in the 80's at a local barn. My sister who is ten years older than me learned to ride on the same pony in the 70's. (and my sister said, "she was old then!" ) There were rumors that the old mare had been the farm owner's eventing pony before that. The pony passed away in 2007 and was still toting around little ones at a snail's pace a month or two before her passing. The pony was 35+, I never got an exact answer on her age but it was hinted that she was closer to 40.


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by JWB View Post
              I attempted to "retire" my appy when he was 24. He kept jumping the fence into the lesson ring and joining in. He was very safe so he ended up in a handicapped riding program. He was much happier there and worked happily until he was 32.
              Did I mention Neigh's an appy?

              I have strongly believed from day one that the reason this situation has worked out as well as it has is because he has not been surrounded by working horses all day. When he was with me, he was pretty damn cranky when not ridden, and was so full of himself when he was ridden, he'd often tank off with you and/or go on a little bucking spree. Did I also mention he has a wicked sense of humor? Nothing he loved more was than going for a hack with me, and running off with me, just for s**ts and giggles.

              He is a pistol still. When I visited him about 2 months ago, he galloped down the hill, jumped off a bank, and hopped back and forth over a ditch to get to me. My mom (his main caretaker) is always calling to tell me about his shenanigans. He routinely waits for her at the gate, alternating between standing up and fly bucking. The boy's got some juice left in him.


              • #8
                My 28 year-old came back into work this year after several years of field retirement. The kid who lives here needed a safe first jumper -- by 'jumping', I mean crossrails and 2' max -- and this horse is as safe and honest over fences as it gets.

                He's fine with it, and he hasn't forgotten any of his training. He gets out 2-3 times per week, either on trails or in the ring or at the indoor we haul to. I also use him for beginner lessons with an older teenager. None of this is strenuous, and I think the work is good for him.

                This spring, he'll do some crossrail hunters at schooling shows. He almost went to one in October, but then we realized it was the Halloween show, and this horse has a strong dislike for costumes.

                Like others have said, I'd let Neigh decide what you do. Even sitting on them bareback while you teach can be a fun 'together' activity for the horse. Some horses enjoy ponying -- either as leader or pony-ee -- and I've done this with the older ones as well.


                • #9
                  I played polo in college on a 28yo. The only reason we retired him at 28 was because we were convinced he was going to give himself a heart attack trying to keep up with the younger horses. He was pretty sure he was 28 going on 4. We ended up giving him to a former club member who trail rode (tough, technical trails...not just mosey along on flat manicured trails) him until he died of cancer in his late 30s. She rode him until a few months before the cancer got bad and she put him down.

                  I took lessons growing up on several Saddlebreds who were in their mid and late 20s.

                  I've known several endurance horses competing at 50mi rides who are in their mid to late 20s.

                  My mare is in her early 20s and gives beginner jump lessons to kids 5 days a week and will be doing her first 4H shows this summer. This is her 'retirement' job. She played high goal polo for much of her life.

                  Barring any physical issues, I'd say hacking a few days a week would do him some good. Movement and exercise is good for everyone, young and old. I tend to give the older guys more leeway in telling me what they're up for, but I certainly wouldn't hesitate to work a sound, older horse.


                  • #10
                    The best dressage schoolmaster I've ever ridden was 34 years of age at the time I took lessons on him, and I know he was in work for at least several more years after I moved away. He was a smart and active sort of horse that did better with a job than with the boredom of retirement. He had a sway back that needed accounting for but was otherwise very sound and loved to work. Unlike your horse, however, this one was kept in some work throughout his geriatric years. I wouldn't hesitate to put a horse of Neigh's age back into work as long as he is sound and able to do so happily - it is great for them to stay in shape. I would certainly take it slow in bringing him along, however.

                    Good luck with your beloved senior!


                    • #11
                      I'm just now putting my 25 year old retiree back to light work because my TB has a bowed tendon. We are just going on trail rides around the neighborhood and hilltopping in the very slow group with our local hunt. Just walk trot, but he loves it. It seems to be doing him good, so as long as he is happy, I guess we will keep going!
                      where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?


                      • #12
                        My 22.5 year old was getting ready to show Third Level this summer before she was diagnosed with ringbone. After injections and some maintenance, she's back to working 4/5 days per week. Bring him back slowly, and I bet he'll be no worse for wear, and would enjoy doing a little "work" again.
                        Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

                        A Voice Halted


                        • #13
                          I don't have any real advice besides take it slow which I am sure you already know. I will say that my 25 year old (in 40 minutes!) has to be ridden very regularly. I shoot for 5-6 days per week but pay someone if I can't get out there at least three days per week. He just doesn't move around enough on his own and when he does it is with his head in the air, pulling himself on his front end. Frequent hacks long and low get him moving correctly and keeps his back strong. I guess the point of all this is less isn't necessarily more with the seniors.
                          McDowell Racing Stables

                          Home Away From Home


                          • #14
                            My 23 year old TB moves, looks and eats better when in light work. He is a bit arthritic so I keep it light and he was always a pretty hot explosive horse so I am the one who rides him because he is likely to get himself all excited and hurt himself sometimes - I think. But I put him in the rotation for light lunging just walk trot and he is in turnout all day. He raced a lot and then I rode him and showed him for years so though he looks 12 years old - I know his joints are a little older than 23. Let your horse tell you - and I would of course, have your vet check him out all over - how are his teeth - does he need a senior supplement - how is his weight.... a lot of the health issues are helped with light work.


                            • Original Poster

                              Originally posted by LaraNSpeedy View Post
                              My 23 year old TB moves, looks and eats better when in light work. He is a bit arthritic so I keep it light and he was always a pretty hot explosive horse so I am the one who rides him because he is likely to get himself all excited and hurt himself sometimes - I think. But I put him in the rotation for light lunging just walk trot and he is in turnout all day. He raced a lot and then I rode him and showed him for years so though he looks 12 years old - I know his joints are a little older than 23. Let your horse tell you - and I would of course, have your vet check him out all over - how are his teeth - does he need a senior supplement - how is his weight.... a lot of the health issues are helped with light work.
                              Yes. When he gets down here (probably next week, if not this week), he'll have a good going over with my vet, including getting his teeth checked (he was seen regularly by the dentist...but I'm skeptical of the job she did!). I want to do a fecal on him, as I'm skeptical of that program, as well. His weight is great, as far as I can tell under his mucho winter woolies! I have a couple of geriatric horse things I want to discuss with my vet (I'm mildly concerned that he might be cushingoid), but, otherwise, I think he is in great health and feels terrific.