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Feeling sad...thinking I may need to retire my pony.

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  • Feeling sad...thinking I may need to retire my pony.

    My pony started having this funky, tight canter a couple weeks ago. He was totally sound otherwise, so I attributed it to a training issue. After several rides of not being able to figure it out, I stuck him on the lunge to see if I could see anything different from the ground and he trotted out dead lame. Yeah, sound under saddle and dead lame on the lunge. In my experience, weird usually = suspensory issue.

    Took the pony down to the vet hospital to see our fantastic lameness specialist who treated his LH proximal suspensory desmitis two years ago and we confirmed he has re-tweaked the old injury It's not super severe, and if he hadn't blocked sound on that suspensory, the ultrasound could have just been read as a very slight enlargement due to old scar tissue. But still...

    He is 17 years old and I simply cannot justify the time and cost of treatment from our last go around with this. Last time he had additional issues with coming back from the time out of work with DJD and other arthritic changes. He just had a round of shockwave at the clinic and I have a plan to follow until our check-up in two weeks, but I'm not feeling hopeful. As sad as it makes me, I would rather turn him out and give him a good long time to heal and bring him back into light work in a year or two (not competitively, just for mental health since he enjoys working).

    This is my "heart horse" and I'm just feeling pretty sad about the whole thing. We had such exciting plans for this summer and we've been having so so much fun together. Realizing that I'm very likely going to have to make the hard decision to retire him makes me feel like I've given up and failed him.

    Just needed to let that out with folks who can understand...
    "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

  • #2
    I think we are the same person...

    My horse has LH PSD - 18ish year old QH. I love him dearly. He's had time off, rehabbed, etc, and just doesn't feel right sometimes :/ We ride around and walk and trot now, but that's all I feel like doing. When we were rehabbing him, he felt funny when we got up to 15-20 min trots.

    I'm so very sorry. I remember finding out the day I left town for vacation...and it was a seriously miserable week.

    I've had this guy since I was 11, and now I'm 22. We did hunters, jumpers, fox hunting, and the eventing. He was a beast o/f. I know that he would love to jump if he could still.

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    • #3
      I'm so sorry. It's the day that everyone with an older horse is dreading. We always know it's coming but are never ready for that day to get here. My appy that taught me so much was in and out of work for a few years before I realized that he just could not keep on coming back....

      These days I'm riding a semi-retired former 3* horse and he's so nice to me. I'm trying to enjoy the time I've got with him though because with these old guys with "history" you never know when their legs are going tell you they've jumped enough.
      The rebel in the grey shirt

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      • #4
        While you may not be up to doing a massive rehab, it may be the case that you can make him super comfortable and then re-assess in a year or so. If he's super sensible and quiet, you might consider (with your vet's agreement) to kick him out in a field and see what happens. These older guys sometimes surprise us with how well they come back after some time off.

        I always feel bittersweet about these threads - my old guy is 18 or 19 this year, and though he looks amazing, I know he doesn't likely have a ton of time left at the top of his game. That being said, I hope I'll have him for the next ten years, be it for light flat work, teaching younger kids the ropes at the lower levels, or just hanging out in a field. You don't lose your friends just because you're not doing the same things with them you always did, after all.

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        • #5
          I had to make that decision a few months ago and it sucked, especially since she was only 7. I had dreams and because of her health they weren't going to happen. It was really hard. I was going to just trail ride her but she got super spooky and dumped me so I decided to retire her all together. I haven't been on her since October, she's been completely off work and getting fat. And you know what? My cranky ass pony actually lets me hug her now. She's so happy just eating hay and hanging out with her 28 year old buddy. I hadn't quite realized how unhappy she was until she started being happy again. Yeah, I'm sad the dreams aren't going to have a chance to happen, but seeing my pony happy again? Worth it. We have to remember that generally they really just want to be out with their friends eating. We don't need to feel guilt about not using them because chances are they aren't sad that we aren't riding them.

          That said, I'm now thinking I might see where pony is in the spring after a couple of months off...
          Pam's Pony Place

          Pam's Pony Ponderings

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          • #6
            My horse, also my "heart horse," who I've competed from elementary to advanced in our 16 years together, suffered a career-ending injury in a jump school (he dislocated his fetlock) while prepping for a three-day. That was 3.5 years ago, and I can truly say I love what we do today -- hacking, some dressage and little jumps for fun -- as much as what we did then. I miss what we did -- I realize there's an excellent chance I'll never compete at that level again -- but I also love what we do, it's all for enjoyment and its so relaxing to have a horse I know so very well. There is a season for everything -- if you do need to retire him, it won't just be the end of one chapter, it'll be the beginning of a new one you may really, really love. I know I do.
            I evented just for the Halibut.

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            • #7
              I know exactly how you feel. My heart horse suffered a severe, highly comminuded fracture of his elbow in the pasture 2 days after we got home from AEC's this year. He's been in a stall for 5 months now, one more month before his next recheck. He's been tolerating it well enough but he will likely never be sound to ride again. He'll be 19 this year and hadn't ever really taken a lame step before his injury. I don't even have the desire to sit on another horse that isn't him. I am thankful that he is still on this planet with me but I will always wonder what might have been...

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              • #8
                You don't lose your friends just because you're not doing the same things with them you always did, after all.
                This x 1000.

                I'm sorry your pone is on the outs. I do agree with the theory of giving him a big dose of Dr. Green (meaning- turn out and time) and see what you have in a year or so.

                But, heart horses can still be heart horses even if they are just pasture ornaments. My greatest joy every day, now, is the few minutes I spend with my old man and my first true love. He was living out his retirement in another state for several years, but I recently moved him here with me. And nothing, NOTHING makes me smile more than seeing his fuzzy face every day. He's cantankerous, a bit feral, and set in his old man ways, but he is the light of my life. Running my hands through his woolly coat and getting a few kisses is the best thing, ever, for me.

                I remember the good old days with him (and I've had him since I was a silly teen, so he was not just a fun competition horse, but the bareback and halter, racing friends horse, too), but just the chance to spend time with him is enough for me now. I count my blessings he is still hanging around, full of life and energy, and I treasure every second of it. He's my heart horse, even though he's old and fuzzy and the most we'll probably ever do is mosey around the farm together. Heart horses don't stop being heart horses because they retire.
                Amanda

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                • #9
                  Another one here who is enjoying my semi-retired guy. He has navicular changes and is no longer sound to jump at 21. He has good days where we trail ride and have fun. He is also a riot to have living here at my house. My daughter and I both thought of him when we watched the new Budweiser Super Bowl commercial. He is that type of horse who loves his people and remembers who they are. When I go out of town, he is always happy to see me when I get home. It is fun to ride him when he is feeling good. It is also fun to scratch his withers and have him groom me back.

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                  • #10
                    Sometimes we get wrapped up in our plans and don't realize it's about them, not us.

                    My 20 year old show Hunter was definately not what it used to be and was finally diagnosed with a DDFT (apparently had been "cooking" for awhile). I turned it out at a lay up facility, pulled the shoes and waited about 8 months then went to evaluate and see if we could start on the rehab trail. I had hopes of returning to competition

                    I get out of the car, horse nickers and ambles over amid the barn managerie of goats, chickens and dogs. Nuzzles me a bit, then slowly walks back out in the field in the warm sun with the goats and lays down for a nap.

                    Despite the fact I had always thought it would want to keep working and never retire? That horse was done. Period. No more interested in work then the man in the moon. It was ME who thought that, I never asked the horse. But I sure listened that day when it was clear what the horse was telling me-it was happy in retirement. Very happy and content.

                    In your case, OP, I vote for the Dr Green approach. Pull the shoes and tun out. Go look around the end of July-horse will tell you if they are ready to go back to work...or not. If you listen, you will find it's really not hard to make that decision based on his needs, not your goals.

                    My old horse is still my heart horse and makes me smile at how happy they are when I visit. They just moved on to the next stage in their life, something they earned with long years of service.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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                    • #11
                      ITA w/findeight. My old event horse was immediately retired the night before we were leaving for a competition...it was sudden and just left me out of breath for a long time. He was an amazing horse that though my daughter never ever knew, she will refer to him via stories she's heard. Every horse measures by him (and probably comes up short regardless! lol).

                      Best wishes to you and your pony!

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                      • #12
                        We lost our heart horse last year in a tragic accident but I have my retiree out in the field. So just having him there is so nice. The loss of the other is impossible to measure. He is gone and that is that. My retiree on the other hand was hurt and had to be retired at an early age. But after 18 months of Dr. Green he looks happy, fat and wonderful. I too had hopes of using him as my trail horse but he is so happy now. He does look sounder now then he did before also. Sometime mother nature can fix things we just cannot..
                        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!"

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                        • #13
                          It is so hard to retire those special horses. I have had a couple who I was/am deeply attached to. Both who I taught everything and rode for over 10 years. The one was my heart pony who I outgrew. It was hard giving up riding her as we did have a special bond. I could ride her tackless and do just about anything with her. Well before I outgrew her I tought her to drive so I drove her when I got too big to ride. I would still hop on occasionally bareback just for fun esp since I was working with a very green young horse and it was nice to have a break from training a youngin.
                          Said youngin was my next love. I trained her from a barely broke 3 year old with issues to where I could do anything with her except work cattle. (she was afraid of cows and that is the only thing I could not get her to accept!) As a 6 year old she bowed a tendon and vet told us 6 months stall rest. (Vet thought it was pretty mild. Only I could really tell she was off because I was so familiar with her I knew something wasnt right.) This did not work (this was back before we knew about any current technology such as sonograms and such) I decided on my own to just go ahead and kick her out in the field and see what happened. During this time I did lots of ground work with her. Much like all this Natural Horsemanship stuff I see on TV only to me it was just common sense and "Playing with my horse". This really brought us more together and taught us to read each other really well. Over the next year and a half I brought her back very slowly, more or less just perfecting our aids and doing fun stuff like riding bridle less starting at the walk and as she got in shape even doing basic dressage and jumping bridleless. I was never totally sure that we would get back to competing at Novice level eventing and 3' jumpers like we had but I really enjoyed all the time that I had to "take it easy" with her. Turns out we did get back to where we were. After winning the 3' and some 3'3 classes and doing as well as we would ever do in eventing I decided to kind of partially retire her for myself at least and let some students ride her and enjoy her. I had taken her as far as she could go, why not let someone else experience my wonderful little girl. I still rode her for fun and still do occasionally. This past year I thought she wwould have to be retired totally. She re bowed. we did not go into extensive probing about it with the vet. I knew what was wrong and was ok with retiring her even though it made me terribly sad. Being the stubborn girl she is she would not settle happily into retirement. She became very nasty with anyone going in her stall or even past her stall and just a PITA to handle and work with in general. After 6-8 months of rest and turnout we decided to see how she did in a walk lesson. Then progressed to trotting. She seems sound if not a little creaky and arthritic! Back to work she goes and a much happier horse she is!! We medicate for the arthritis, take it easy if she isnt feeling like working, and even do little jumps with the kiddies when she feels up to it.
                          Sooo, what I am saying with my loong stories is "retirement" isnt always so terrible. There are other ways to bond and spend time with your horse. And sometimes retirement isnt permanent. I would try turnout and rest for a while and who knows maybe he will come back to be a nice trail horse. Let him tell you what makes him happy and if he is comfortable in doing something go for it.

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