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What does the ideal retirement situation for a show horse look like to you?

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  • What does the ideal retirement situation for a show horse look like to you?

    Sadly, our wonderful OTTB has to retire due to a bone cyst on his sesamoid. I have been looking around and researching horse retirement. I know of a few places with awesome grass and run in sheds but I feel like that is a harder life than having a stall to rest in each day. Then I remind myself that horses have less issues when they have hours to graze rather than standing in a stall. In two years, we will buy a farm and I can create a great situation for him. Until then, I would love to hear how your hunter/jumper is retired. Thanks!!

  • #2
    I'm biased, but I think the retirement my mare had was perfect - for her. Every horse is going to be different, but she was not really one for going outside (to the point that she'd jump out and go back to her stall whenever I tried turning her out in my 14 years with her), so for her, being able to go in and out of her stall at will was ideal; her stall opened into a big turnout, although it wasn't the grassiest part of the farm. She eventually got to the point where she'd tolerate being turned out in a grass field that wasn't attached to her stall.
    https://www.youtube.com/user/supershorty628

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    • Original Poster

      #3
      That is what I would love-stall access and a field of grass!

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      • #4
        Living out 24/7 with a herd ( assuming adequate windbreaks and shelter) is really the healthiest lifestyle for any horse. I have an OTTB (not retired) that used to be the first at the gate, begging and pleading to come in after a few hours of turnout. But he was a high strung hard keeper. Fast forward to a change of barn and a change of lifestyle-- he is out 24/7 in his herd save for three months of winter, and he is a much changed ( for the better horse). I was afraid he would starve or be frantic and nervous being just out... but the opposite happened. He has blossomed, he is not a hard keeper any longer, and he is calm and steady. Each horse is different, of course, but horses adapt, and are herd animals that thrive with constant movement and constant eating. Stalling a horse can hard on them mentally and physically in many ways-- penning up and confining a prey animal is a potential stress-- look at cribbers and weavers...but each horse is different. You can always try something and if it does not agree with your horse, try something else.
        A canter is a cure for every evil. ~Benjamin Disraeli

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        • #5
          I think being out somewhere between 16 and 23/7-ish is ideal for most horses, given the right setup (nice field with decent footing/ grass if the horse can eat it/ lots of available, good hay/ big nice run in/ small group that gets along well/ good knowledgeable care etc.) I definitely prefer that horses get brought in at least once a day to be fed, not only because they get regularly haltered/ led/ separated for a few minutes but because that means everyone gets the right amount of feed and supplements and they get more closely checked over for issues-- leading means you are more aware of soundness changes, loose shoes etc. and feeding in a stall means you are more aware of a horse not cleaning up feed/ changes to appetite and so on.

          As someone who has been involved in racehorse breeding, I can tell you firsthand that most of the pampered, delicate princess types survive the transition from the track to living out in a group of constantly rotating mares, with none of the extras the average retired show horse gets, and do just fine. There's a big farm up the road that gets clipped mares with racing plates still on sent to be bred in January, and they seem to survive.

          That said, I personally would not try to transition a horse to living out 24 or 23/7 now if you have the option of a stall for the summer. I would wait until early fall-- somewhere between mid-September and early November depending on where you are. For most horses the bugs and heat/ humidity are much more of an issue than winter.

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          • #6
            KNOWLEDGEABLE STAFF.

            No matter how we think we know our horses, there is no way to put a value on an observant and knowledgeable horse person in charge of the retirees. Someone who watches behavior, sees herd dynamics, can spot a sick horse from a half an acre away and knows that older horses will probably have a hard time with first cut round bales. Someone who will monitor manure consistency, test for parasites, watch for age related disease and act upon it.

            One can have the perfect amenities for *their* horse and the horse's preferences will change, diet requirments change etc.

            What you want in a retirement facility is someone who can keep an eye on your horse. Preferably horse owner at regular intervals. You also want to be sure there's nothing nefarious going on between the "retirement farm" owner and the local ACO (animal control officer). Ask how many have died under the retirement barn's care and at what frequency. Then get phone numbers of previous boarders. Older horses take special care and oftentimes they meet an unfortunate end simply because the belief is "Old horses lose weight. that's what they do".

            Especially when you're starving them.

            Rant over.

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            • #7
              To me, being close enough to visit my horse as often as I please would be key. I know people will find fantastic situations for the horse to retire.... 200 miles away. Horses know when they are being left behind, and that is hard on them.

              Closeness also allows you to make sure that the barn manager is doing right by your horse. Sansena is absolutely right. There are people out there that will take advantage of absentee clients.

              I would not restrict my search to retirement barns alone. I would look into backyard barns too where someone is looking to take on an boarder or two to offset the cost of hay or something. I know a pony club family that will take on a retiree or two, so there are always horse-crazy girls around to show the oldies some love when their owners aren't around. It's really sweet, that is, if your horse likes kids.

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              • #8
                Talk to Dawn at First Light’s Run in Cave City, KY. She has a fabulous retirement facility and knows every hair on every horse that’s there. I was worried about my horse being out 24/7. After 2 months there, that is all he wanted, and when I brought him in to play with him and groom him, etc., he could not wait to run back out to his herd. They are horses, at heart, and I feel my guy is living the life he deserves. Finally.

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Can'tFindMyWhip View Post
                  To me, being close enough to visit my horse as often as I please would be key. I know people will find fantastic situations for the horse to retire.... 200 miles away. Horses know when they are being left behind, and that is hard on them.

                  Closeness also allows you to make sure that the barn manager is doing right by your horse. Sansena is absolutely right. There are people out there that will take advantage of absentee clients.

                  I would not restrict my search to retirement barns alone. I would look into backyard barns too where someone is looking to take on an boarder or two to offset the cost of hay or something. I know a pony club family that will take on a retiree or two, so there are always horse-crazy girls around to show the oldies some love when their owners aren't around. It's really sweet, that is, if your horse likes kids.
                  I need to see him a few times a week. He did everything my daughters asked him to so I owe him.

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                  • #10
                    I regretted sending our 20yr old OTTB to a retirement farm. He was in a herd in a large pasture (only spring grass) and was OK with that. But, he didn't get the grooming, the attention, the one-on-one. We visited whenever we could (a 7+ hr drive) but I felt bad that he only had the farm owner on site and she ended up adding a lot more horses later. I think she had 60-70 total, with only her supervising them. In retrospect it would've cost the same amount to board him in a more rural barn setting near me and we could've seen him more and taken him for hand walks. In the end, we brought him back to pamper him for a couple months before we said our final goodbye.

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                    • #11
                      A lot is going to depend on the health of the horse and the local climate. I think horses do very well in a pasture that is large enough to support a small stable herd, and that for most horses shelter from trees and a run in shelter are adequate. They get so much deep contented peace from simply being with other horses loose and being able to graze when they want. A horse in a good little herd will be curious to see his people visit, but the herd will be his world.

                      If the horse needs grain, supplements, or medication of course you would need a situation where they can be brought into stalls.

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                      • #12
                        Sure, there's occasionally an odd-ball princess who just canNOT do 24/7 turnout, but I've found that to be quite rare. Even the most pampered of pampered get used to being out 24/7 in a few weeks at most, and are very happy with it.

                        So my ideal is out 24/7 with a stall available for when needed. I prefer a separate pasture and stall like any other boarding barn, as stall+runs tend to be small runs and I'd like my retiree to have lots of space to move around. I don't particularly care if there's "lush grass" or not as I typically have horses that need grain regardless; if not a ton of grass I prefer a round bale or other version of free-choice hay.
                        Large herd, small group (2-4 horses), or solo would depend on the horse, but as others indicated, usually the facilities that do large herds out 24/7 don't do much hands-on with them. Which is totally fine in some areas. Here in Florida I don't see that as super great, as lots of them get bad rain rot and other skin yuck if not groomed/bathed regularly.

                        Right now (I have my own farm) my retiree goes out with just my dressage mare; they have a 2-acre field, a round bale at all times (Florida, overgrazed field because you definitely need like 2-3 acres per horse down here with this bahia grass for them to not be overgrazed, my farm is sand), and I have stalls for them for really bad weather or injuries, etc. He is just fine out by himself when I take her to shows.

                        I offer Retirement board as well. Same scenario - out 24/7 in a small group (individual by request), stall available when needed (if horse gets grain, they're brought in for meals), and my retirement board includes a weekly grooming. If the owner plans on coming out several times a week, I assume they'd just pay for regular board. Retirement board, to me, indicates the owner will be largely absent.
                        Last edited by mmeqcenter; May. 19, 2019, 01:00 PM.
                        Custom tack racks!
                        www.mmeqcenter.com/tacklove.html

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                        • #13
                          Depends on the horse! And depends on what they are used to and if they can manage to adjust. Most importantly: not too far a way. I want to see the horse, I want to control, if everything is as I was told. And no muddy shi**y mini paddock for the winter (I see this too often). The older the horse, the more attention/care it may need.

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                          • #14
                            24/7 out with access to a stall with reasonable proximity. And don’t rule out smaller private barns. I lucked in to a great situation for one of my guys at a place with a caring and super knowledgeable owner who just needed a companion for her guy. She lives on site and takes as good (or better care) of him then me. Thankfully I had the the luxury of some time to put out feelers and wait for the right place to pop up.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My A/O hunter will retire in the same spot he’s in right now. He lives out 24/7 with a huge run in and 7 other geldings. The field he’s in has a moderate slope at one side which helps with strength and balance, there’s a heated auto waterer so no worries in the winter, and the staff checks each herd everyday.
                              And I only live 15 minutes away.
                              He’s happy, my wallet is happy, hopefully we have another 5-10 years of showing, and a few more years of easy riding before he’s officially retired.

                              We spend so much time and money doing all of these different activities with our horses. But as they get older I think the kindest thing to do is to just let them be horses. Don’t project human “creature comforts” on them. Let them have friends, a run in to get out of the elements, and the ability to graze 24/7 (or hay 24/7). Walking around keeps the aches and pains away. Pamper them and give them treats when you come to visit.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                It didn’t take long (a week?) for my hottest of hothouse flowers to realize that out 24/7 was an option and to take it happily.

                                My setup is in 2x daily in stalls to eat. Out in a small herd of 3-4 horses on 7+ acres otherwise. Run in sheds for shelter. Auto waterer (Bar Bar A so it’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter). Ample grass/hay. When the weather is bad (active heavy snowing, unrelenting rain, or single digit cold) they stay in their stalls. They’re always RARING to get back out. They stay out through normal “weather” including rain. No one has melted yet. I do blanket.

                                My horses are sounder and happier this way. They still have a stall if they need it but I don’t regularly keep them in without a reason.
                                ~Veronica
                                "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
                                http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/

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                                • #17
                                  Ideal retirement setup? I think the Madden's did a great job! Their Madden Mountain retirement facility is pretty amazing. No individual stalls but still free choice indoor access and each horse gets checked at grain time twice daily.

                                  https://youtu.be/Tw9A6oxVjR8

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Rescuer View Post
                                    Ideal retirement setup? I think the Madden's did a great job! Their Madden Mountain retirement facility is pretty amazing. No individual stalls but still free choice indoor access and each horse gets checked at grain time twice daily.

                                    https://youtu.be/Tw9A6oxVjR8
                                    Yeah that place is heaven on earth. I couldn’t love their setup more!!! I wish I had that much space/land!!!
                                    ~Veronica
                                    "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
                                    http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/

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                                    • #19
                                      I would certainly consider taking a horse out of town for better climate and facilities. I live on the rainy coast. Two hours drive inland puts you in proper ranch country, drier climate, snow versus rain, open range. With the right experienced horse people, retirement up in ranch country would be way better than some smaller wetter expensive suburban paddock.

                                      Show horses are horses. They have the same instinctual needs as lifetime range horses or recreational horses. They may be used to stalls and incessant grooming and schooling, but unless they are pretty messed up, they have the same instinctual needs: grazing all day, standing in the sun, moving around at will, and the company of a herd.

                                      In a stall they get unnaturally dependent on humans, and may genuinely come to love their people and their routine. But this life runs counter to their instincts, and those are fulfilled in herd life, dull as it looks to humans.

                                      There are of course horses with health problems and the very rare horse that is a herd sociopath and cannot integrate for whatever reason. But most of them do just fine.

                                      Add foals to the mix and watch even the old geldings melt into coos of omg so cute!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by mmeqcenter View Post
                                        Sure, there's occasionally an odd-ball princess who just canNOT do 24/7 turnout, but I've found that to be quite rare. Even the most pampered of pampered get used to being out 24/7 in a few weeks at most, and are very happy with it.
                                        Or the horse with insulin resistance or a similar issue that cannot handle 24/7 access to grass. I have a beautiful field on my farm, but my retirees live in paddocks with limited turn out for health reasons. We've got really rich grass in this area and 2 out of 3 of my most recent retirees have been warmbloods and draft crosses that cannot handle it for more than an hour or so a day.

                                        My appendix quarter horse could be out longer, but he forgets he's broken and runs around like a fool until he's 3-legged lame when he's turned out in the field.

                                        It's also more difficult to give them their vitamins or medications if they are out 24/7. If I had less lush grass or my horses weren't such easy keepers I'd still bring them into the smaller paddocks for at least a few hours a day.

                                        They have a big, sheltered run in for each paddock, it's basically 3-sided stalls off the side of my barn. I don't stall them at all unless someone needs stall rest for an injury or we have an exceptional wind storm, as they are much healthier if able to walk about and not kept in a confined space.

                                        It's sometimes difficult to keep everyone comfortable and happy, but my ideal retirement situation is at home so I know how they are doing every day and can make adjustments to their routine as needed.





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