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Can we talk retired horses?

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  • Can we talk retired horses?

    How do you know when it is time to REALLY and TRULY retire them?

    I've gone back and forth with my gelding for the entire 2 years I've had him... he's an aged TB, in his early 20s, and was in pretty poor shape when he came to me in 2008. We've been all over the board-- sometimes riding 3-4 days a week during his good runs and not riding at all when he's having health issues.

    Today the retirement answer seemed clear. He's happy and relatively healthy, but his arthritis is playing up big time and for the first time ever he seemed like an "old horse." I think we've been leading up to this for awhile but I was surprised how it just sort of hit me like a ton of bricks this afternoon.

    All of a sudden I knew it was time to call it a day.

    While I've cared for plenty of seniors, I've always had young horses. I've never had an older horse or a retired one so this is new territory for me. I'm feeling a wee bit sad about the whole thing. I'm not so sad for myself-- maybe a little bit. But more sad for him for some reason. I think it is always a little bittersweet to see a horse coming to the end of its career. And I know that at some point, hopefully not any day soon, we will have to say goodbye entirely.

    When I came home and talked to my husband about it, he said "Duh" as he's been telling me to officially retire the horse for the better part of a year. I'm not sure why it took me this long to accept the idea. I guess I just wasn't sure, but now I am.

    Anyone who has been down this road care to share any wisdom or offer a shoulder?
    We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.

  • #2
    Flash, it sounds like you do realize that Winn's time for grass, grass, and more grass is coming.

    Retirement is really the start of a NEW career for them. Threre is no reason to feel sad for Winn. He's given you a lot of wonderful adventures and rides. It sounds like he's already had a kind of partial retirement anyway between you having the baby and not being able to ride for quite a time.

    I've retired several for various different reasons. Arthritis, back and breathing problems, heart problems, navicular, sidebone and ringbone issues, and several more reasons. My current guy is only 18 and he was last ridden in 2007. He's perfectly sound, but has allergy problems that make it no fun for me or for him. If it's a lovely sunny breezy day in the summer, I have to ride him in the indoor arena and that's no fun for either of us. I have about 3 months out of the yr that I can ride him and most of that time has to be indoors anyway.

    Now, it sounds like you've accepted the fact of retirement but that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy an occasional ride, probably pretty short but something to relax you and get him moving a bit.

    If the occasional ride is out, then just enjoy grooming and maybe just taking him for a short walk - both of you with your feet on the ground - no riding, just a short walk. Remember there's always Parelli you could do!

    Now, how about an update on the baby?

    I'm not saying let's go kill all the stupid people...I'm just saying let's remove all the warning labels and let the problem sort itself out.


    • Original Poster

      Aww Sue thanks for asking. Baby is wonderful. Nearly 5 months now and he is a giggly, smiley little dude. Our daughter is absolutely smitten with him. Hubby and I are enjoying them both! I'm finally starting to feel like myself again though I've still got 20lbs to lose!!

      Horses have definitely had to take a back seat the last year, and now that I'm at the barn less frequently I'm finding that changes in him are more apparent than when I used to see him every day, kwim? I think I've been holding on to this idea of us getting back riding together, and I've been trying to keep him going, but I think it was more for my benefit than his. I think he's been telling me "I'm RETIRED dammit!" for a looong time but for whatever reason now I am finally able to see it myself. His arthritis is really flaring up with this cooler weather and yeah there are things I could do to keep him going under saddle.... but why?

      He's earned his time off and I am finally read to close the book on riding him. I've got plenty of friends that are always willing to share their mounts so I know I will not be short on saddle time when I finally feel fit enough to get back into it.

      Not quite ready to sell his saddle but I think I will bring his tack home and clean/hang it.

      Anyway thanks for the kind words, my friend!! Maybe I will go find myself a carrot stick on ebay and teach him some tricks... ha ha!
      We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


      • #4
        Maybe a little off-topic but. . .
        I read somewhere that one of the best things for older horses is handwalking. I still ride mine (who is getting up there), but I have a plan. When I retire him, I am going to get him a leather lead and matching halter for handwalking. I will use any excuse to buy horse accessories, obviously.


        • #5
          It has been my experience that the older geldings that I have retired, especially due to soundness issues, fell apart faster than I believe that they would have, with judicious work. Like going out for a walk on a trail type work-- not pounding in a ring work.

          The horses I am thinking of were TBs, mostly. Just my.02.
          When someone shows you who they are, BELIEVE them- Maya Angelou


          • #6
            I second the handwalking idea. It's a great exercise to keep him limber and help his arthritis, and great exercise for you. Maybe you'll have a new exercise video "The Win Workout" and it'll be a best seller.

            Win doesn't care if he has a job, but just when the next meal is coming, and being loved on. You've always done the best for him in the past, and you'll do the best thing for him in the future. I wish things were different but they aren't, and maybe this is the best time for all of you.
            You can't fix stupid-Ron White


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by ASB Stars View Post
              It has been my experience that the older geldings that I have retired, especially due to soundness issues, fell apart faster than I believe that they would have, with judicious work. Like going out for a walk on a trail type work-- not pounding in a ring work.

              The horses I am thinking of were TBs, mostly. Just my.02.
              Good to know, thank you! I've always been in the "horses should have a job" camp and have tried to keep him going with that in mind. Given the apparent wear and tear in his joints (he's got some lovely lumpy knees and big ankles, and a bad hip) I'm surprised he's gone on this long with little complaint.

              Maybe this winter we can take up ground driving, or even hand walking as the previous poster said. Though I suppose the occasional jaunt around the indoor at a walk won't hurt.

              And Jan, thanks! Yeah actually hand walking would be good for us both... maybe I'd finally get rid of what's left of the baby weight!!
              We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


              • #8
                I retired my tb at 17. By retired I mean no showing, limited jumping, no lessons with me riding. I did allow him to be used in a summer camp for 2 summers. He was ridden only a couple times, mostly w/t but a little w/t/c and a couple crossrails with one girl. The rest of the time he was bathed and lived on by lots of little kids.

                I still rode randomly but I bought an OTTB so he took up most of my ride time. After those 2 years I moved to a farm with 24/7 turnout. I wasn't sure that work but it has been the best thing! He's 25 now and only this year did ge really go downhill...and by that I mean needing senior feed, some different maintenance meds but nothing tremendous-just had to work out a good "program". Now that we situated those things he's gone back to his "normal" self.

                Unfortunately he also has cushings which really only surfaced this year and either related to that or something else I no longer think he's sound enough for our random trail rides but I still handwalk him through the woods sometimes just to have "our" time like we've had for the last 15 years

                For me, the choice to retire had 2 reasons behind it: 1. I wanted to keep showing/moving up but he was clearly slowing down due to his arthritis and 2. I could not justify hock injections to keep him comfortable for my ambitions.
                Lord Stanely, Lord Stanley - come back to Pittsburgh!!!
                *** I LOVE PUIKA FAN CLUB***


                • #9
                  I have two retirees here 25 & 19. One, (Lucky, 25) I just decided one day "we shouldn't be riding this horse any more," and I was right--and some 8 years later he's still happily tooling around the property, very much in charge. But the other has kinda slid into it. I did try to bring him back into work last year and he just didn't stay 100% sound. Joint injections would probably have helped, but as he's spent the last 11 years actively trying to kill me when under saddle, or himself when fit and turned out, it seemed a little pointless. He's still a member of the family,`so it's all good, and a lot less stressful than the alternative.


                  • #10
                    I have two crunchy boys here and while their work days are over they LOVE their new jobs being fussed over, hand walked, learning to ground drive and just all around being spoiled.

                    The key is to realize that retired doesn't mean life stops for them. Social horses still need socializing and active horses still need activity.

                    Nothing makes me prouder than to see my awesome Paco being led around by a future horseperson!
                    I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

                    Just somebody with a positive outlook on life...go ahead...hate me for that.


                    • #11
                      Mr. Studly has been retired for two years now. He's happy. He was already working his way down from serious show horse when a few health issues popped up. He might have been able to work a bit longer, but his kid went to school and it was pretty much a no-brainer.

                      I think being out 24/7 has been really good for his creaky joints, so if Winn doesn't have that, some other form of exercise would be good. Mr. Studly goes for a trail walk with me or DD from time to time. It's nothing strenuous, and sometimes we ride bareback. I think he kind of enjoys it.

                      One thing that is very important is that he does still like to be fussed over. To look at him, you wouldn't know he's as old as he is and that he's retired. He still wears front shoes. I keep his mane pulled, and he really likes to come in to be groomed in the wash rack under the fans - often! The funny thing about it is that for a while he wanted nothing to do with the barn. It was like he was saying "I'm retired, leave me alone". I think when he realized he wasn't going to be doctored or put to work every time he came in, he remembered the stuff he liked
                      Y'all ain't right!


                      • #12
                        FlashGordon, One of my heart horses, a Finger Lakes Finest, gave me 8 wonderful fun yrs of riding and some jumping and I was thrilled to be able to give him 8 yrs of retirement till he came down with congestive heart failure. He's the reason I bought my farm so I'd have a place to bury him and I will never regret that decision.

                        I currently have my boy that I mentioned earlier and a companion retiree with him. The companion just loves all the attention you give him. I've told his owner he really belongs at a petting zoo or even a lesson barn with tons of kids to love him to death.

                        Both horses are on 24/7 turnout with access to their stalls. Because both are easy keepers (uh yes, I actually have 2 thoroughbreds that are fat) they are limited to 6 hrs on my larger grass pastures and the remainder is in their sacrifice paddocks. I've got 2 side by side sacrifice paddocks and at dinner time to morning, the boys are separated but can see each other. The companion is a very food-aggressive horse so it's probably better for both.

                        If it's possible for Winn to have 24/7 turnout with adequate shelter, it would help those old joints. Having old joints myself, I know I'm better off keeping moving than sitting here at the bloody computer!

                        I'm not saying let's go kill all the stupid people...I'm just saying let's remove all the warning labels and let the problem sort itself out.


                        • #13
                          We have some retirees here, some ours, some boarded and a few of ours that are "mostly" retired. My daughter's old Maclay gelding is not even pasture sound anymore but he's as happy as a clam turned out, fussed over etc. He's 23 and his old owners friends are amazed that he's even still alive! This is a horse who up until the age of 18, with previous owners, had never been on a trail ride! When he was sound we trail rode him all over and showed him.

                          We have a few others who are mostly retired, not ridden often or they where riding mares then broodies and now just babysitters. My old GP level jumper is still ridden. He's 22 and still loves to jump, albeit we keep him under 3 feet and he's such a schoolmaster for my younger daughter to learn on. His eye sight is going so we don't show him anymore and he is finally a nice horse to take for a trail ride, he used to "have to be first" jig if he wasn't etc.

                          We are looking for other horses for her to move up to and he will, or so we think, it may not be on his agenda, retire Baron. Although he does to much better mentally and physically with a job so many we'll use him in our TR program.

                          I am sure you'll make the right decision for your horse.


                          • #14
                            Is his mind AND his body officially retired? IME when the body goes before the mind, they enjoy being messed with. When the mind goes, they want to be retired and resent being the object of someones attentions. At that point they want a quiet friend, plenty of grass and to be left alone.
                            "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by EqTrainer View Post
                              Is his mind AND his body officially retired? IME when the body goes before the mind, they enjoy being messed with. When the mind goes, they want to be retired and resent being the object of someones attentions. At that point they want a quiet friend, plenty of grass and to be left alone.
                              A great point about mind and body.

                              I think retiring happens in stages, and they are harder for the owner than the horse.

                              Mine "retired" this time last year and I have spent 12 months getting used to that and learning what it would mean for me and for him.

                              I did draw lines in the sand-- when the DVMs found some arthritic changes that could be duct-taped together for alotta money, I said no.

                              I then decided this horse never needed to do circles in a ring again. After all, the whole point of that (and showing) was to create a horse that would pack me around outside. So we trail rode.

                              Now I do what my horse wants. He likes attention, being groomed, and going out to see the world. He likes surprises like riding bareback and being ground-driven around the farm. He likes to go to the public park across the street and watch the action of soccer games and softball practices.

                              It's all about keeping this horse who kept me so happy for so long happy in his terms. But my decision to retire him in the sense of turning him out to revert to the stage of his wild ancestors will depend on my life. When I can't find the barn with good care, good turn out and trails, I'll pick him a pasture and group of buddies. It makes me sad to think about being less involved in his life, but I *know* (and keep reminding myself) that he will be quite happy with grass and a herd of cronies. If people become "wait staff" that will be fine.
                              The armchair saddler
                              Politically Pro-Cat


                              • Original Poster

                                I think he has been "done" with the whole riding/work business for a long time. I think I knew it, but ignored it.

                                It has only been recently, that I've seen signs of age in his joints particularly, that I've realized maybe it is time to call it quits for good. For whatever reason the physical manifestations of his age finally made me realize where his brain was at all this time.... in a grass field, with a girlfriend!

                                He's at a great full care facility with barn owners and a manager who I trust. But I'd prefer him to be in a situation where he had more turnout and leisure time, particularly if I'm not riding him anymore. Finding that will be tricky though, because he is low man on the totem pole to the point where he won't approach a water trough or hay pile if he feels at all threatened. So it will take a specific turnout group for him to be ok outside 24/7.

                                Thanks all for weighing in with advice and your own stories. In some ways I feel guilty for trying to keep him going, especially this last year, when I had various people hacking him for me.

                                Anyway, cheers to the old man's retirement. He's earned his pension and his gold watch.
                                We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                                • #17
                                  Retirement doesn't have to be all or nothing. If his arthritis is acting up then a very slow, relaxed walk under saddle might be the answer. If its a good day he might want to canter for a few strides. Let him dictate. Many horses, especially ones that have always had careers, need an adjustment time before accepting full time retirement and being happy. Retirement doesn't mean no human interaction. That seems to be the biggest factor in adjusting. Others take to retirement and go taking off when they see a halter approach. There is no need to feel guilty. I run a retirement facility but some of the horses are our own. I don't think any of them are chomping at the bit to go back to work. They are happy, busy, interact with humans and equines. If you asked them if they were satisfied, fulfilled beasts. All of them would tell you they are too busy to chat. They have things to do. LOL!
                                  Susan B.


                                  • #18
                                    I lost my two retirees this summer; one was 20, the other 27. They both did really well right up until the end, but they lived in my barn with 24/7 access outside, so they could choose where they hung out, and I think that made them much happier. I'd tried to retire my 20 year old to pasture boarding when he was 15, and he was miserable (lost weight, picked on by the other horses, gimpy in places he'd never been gimpy in before) so I moved to my own place where he could have the best of both worlds, and he regained his weight, his coat got shiny again, and he returned to his cheerful old self.

                                    Some just don't want to be left alone, and others do, I guess.

                                    Their biggest job was to give horsey rides to my grandsons, and that suited them just fine. Fortunately I have an 8 year old gelding who can do that job, too.

                                    It's tough to decide when to retire them, sometimes. But my two told me loud and clear when they were ready for an easier lifestyle.


                                    • #19
                                      I think I am very lucky that I have two horses and they have been together 20 years so retirement means they don't see ME that often but they have each other - all the time. Its a human emotion but I think it makes life to have a friend to live it with :-)


                                      • #20
                                        The horse told me when it was too much for her.

                                        I retired Missy, my heart horse, 3 years ago because of arthritis that just couldn't be managed anymore. We tried different joint supplements and bute. I considered joint injections but the vet thought from her xrays that there wasn't enough joint space left to get a needle in.

                                        It wasn't just that the days when she was off or ouchy started to outnumber the good days. It was that her Energizer Bunny attitude towards work changed. Being the good girl that she is, there was never a problem tacking up or mounting. The issue was she started spooking unpredictably, very quick&dramatic spin/drop/bolts that nearly unseated me a couple of times. This is a horse that at the time, I had owned for 13 years and could count on 1 hand the number of spooks or bucks in those years. The spooks always happened as soon as we started to do anything more strenuous than just walk around. She didn't LOOK lame and didn't feel THAT bad to me, but clearly Missy was telling me that she was done.

                                        The vet agreed with me that this was a pain related behavior and thought the chance of getting her back to riding sound was slim. So I decided to focus on quality of life and retired her to my parents' pasture. She's fat and happy in 2 acres of grass, has a run-in, and gets lots of attention. On her good days, she runs around a bit and kicks up her heels. It's deceptive. My father has even remarked that maybe I could ride her again, but if you know what to look for, she's still moving NQR and probably always will.

                                        I think that if a horse is a little stiff or a little off but not in obvious pain, and is still bright and enjoying his work, then total retirement is not the answer. If Missy had been in this category, I would have been happy to just hack around a few times a week, because she liked having a job.
                                        Proudly owned by 2 chestnut mares
                                        Crayola Posse: sea green
                                        Mighty Rehabbers Clique