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When did your horse start showing their age?

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  • When did your horse start showing their age?

    My horse is 15 this year, he raced til he was 3 then sat around for a few years then I got him at 6. We putted around for a little while and just last year got more serious about competing in the jumpers.

    Never been lame and started getting his hocks done last year. Otherwise immaculately cared for with regular chiro and dental work. Stays pretty fit year round and gets high quality hay and feed, plenty of turnout.

    I guess I am just a worry-wart because he is a such a good soul and a real "try-er", he'll do whatever I ask. I just worry that he won't tell me when it becomes too hard for him. He is my heart horse, my forever horse and he'll always have a home with me but I don't want to retire him too soon or too late.

    How did you know it was time to take a step back? What age was your horses when they started acting their age? (I know that like with people it is an individual thing)
    Last edited by Toaster; Mar. 28, 2014, 03:39 PM.

  • #2
    Well, the horse I lease is 27 and acts like he's 3 and still on the racetrack. His face and neck have been getting grayer and grayer for about the past 8 years, but he hasn't slowed down at all. I jumped him 3'6" (my first time ever, possibly his first time ever) at 21. I really need to get him back in work, he misses it.. when I do get on him, we end up practically passaging and doing all sorts of fancy sideways movements when I just want him to walk.

    Your horse is 15. He's in the prime of his life. Relax and enjoy him.
    Against My Better Judgement: A blog about my new FLF OTTB
    Do not buy a Volkswagen. I did and I regret it.
    VW sucks.


    • #3
      My 20 year old has not started to show her age yet. I retired my son's first pony from jumping at age 28 because he started refusing 18" jumps - not only with his 8 year old rider, but with me, too. I figured something must be hurting him. He continued to be ridden and loved mounted games until I gave him a mandatory retirement at age 32.


      • #4
        My first event horse never really showed his age, but was euthanized by his then-owners at age 25, when he went blind in his one remaining eye. He had been hunted the fall/winter before and the vet commented on what a shame it was to put down a 100% healthy horse except for his sight. I had no say in the matter, and they had taken very good care of him up until then, but they didn't feel prepared to cope with a totally blind horse. Sigh.

        My old event horse (retired to H/J at 18, retired to trail at 20) didn't show his age until he was injured at age 22. A friend who had him at that time rehabbed him and even took him to a show at age 25, but he was showing his age by then - though he tended to get FAT rather than thin. He died at age 27 from a freak injury that we still haven't figured out how it happened (alone in his paddock/run-in shed). Vet said injury required trauma on the level of being hit by a car, but there was no sign of ANYTHING on him or his surroundings.

        My next horse was arthritic enough at 20 that I only trail rode him for the next two years (but he LOOKED good), and then I retired him to pasture, since I was unable to find a lessee interested in a "trail horse only - light riding" horse. He was fine for a year, but at 22.5 began to drastically loose weight. I had him checked out by vets, we poured food into him, but he did not improve. Their "best guess" diagnosis was lymphoma. At that stage, he looked pretty thin and old, but they said he wasn't in pain, so I continued to pour the food into him. At age 24, in the spring, he stopped eating one day, ran a fever, and generally went drastically downhill in a hurry. It was time.

        So, in general, the horses I have had have not "showed their age" until they were into their mid-20s. I was told by the breeder of one of my horses that he still had my horse's dam and she was still bucking and running around like a colt at age 37. She had "retired" from (winning) gymhana competitions at age 31!!

        ETA: All three of the above horses were Appaloosas, the first two foundation bred (but BIG horses), and the third a race bred TB cross Appy.


        • #5
          My TB did not start to look old until he was 25. I retired him around that time too because he started losing his eyesight and his confidence under saddle. He has been very sound his whole life and still is at 30.


          • #6
            Mark Todd and Charisma won TWO Individual Gold Medals in the 3-day at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. Charisma was 12 in '84 and 16 in '88. And in those days they ran the long format, so endurance day looked like this: Roads & Tracks/ Steeplechase/ Roads & Tracks/ XC.
            Fifteen isn't old for a sound, healthy horse!


            • #7
              King did not quit jumping with me until he was 26! Though, I will say the fences were shorter from about 23.

              To answer your question about how do you know when to cut back? King started to stumble at the canter. I took him to have x-rays of his hocks, and we had them injected that one time. But when I saw the x-rays, I knew we were done. I was not going to keep going until he was crippled. We were at a good stopping point. I decided to buy the farm then and bring him home. He continued to be a good riding horse for years, just no jumping. Then, he was relegated to the granddaughter (Lexi), for whom he would have gladly given his last breath. They had worlds of fun together until the old man passed away about 18 months ago.

              I have a 21 year old WB (Elijah) who started looking older this past year, but I can't decide whether it's because he's older or because losing King (at age 31) was so hard on him

              I have an 18-year-old OTTB who acts like he is five. He is a little stiff going to the right, but actually he warms up out of it pretty quick. He is amazing.

              My two "younger" horses are 14 and 16, but I keep them at 14 in my mind. I don't think they really start to age, if they have good care and are not competing hard, until about 20. So, Rocky and Parker will remain teenagers until they become old men.


              • #8
                Good topic, thanks OP. Hits home.

                My two 26-year-olds both started to look a little "old" this winter. I don't know how much to blame the sadistically bad weather, which kept them cooped up more than usual and reduced the frequency of riding.

                The Oldenburg looks great, but her back suddenly seems a bit dippy and she has a few flat surfaces where there used to be big ol' Arnold Schwarzenegger muscles. She is sound as ever, and the big warmblood spook is still there. She is grumpy about getting back into full work, but that is not unusual:-)

                The Morgan worries me. I feel like he has begun to go downhill. He lost SO much of his muscling--looks potbellied and skinny-necked to me, although vet says he's OK. He has also been very very hard to warm up...takes about 40-50 minutes before he moves out well...he stumbles occasionally in warm-up if I don't give him a very steady rein to lean on. Then he is apparently fine, wants to motor and still extends/collects nicely.

                I know there is an inevitable point when both will need to retire, but I am feeling rather broken-up as I see it approaching, especially for the little black knucklehead. The thoughts on "when and how much" to ease off are super useful.


                • #9
                  My last horse moved up to Prelim eventing at 15. I think this is one of those times when really knowing your horse is important. If they are still eager to do their jobs and feel happy and comfortable, I think they are better off in work. (Honestly I think most people are better off working too but that is a different topic.


                  • #10
                    With the care available now, horse age has really shifted. I know many, many horses who are happy being ridden and competed well into their 20s, although they may go down a little in difficulty. I think the horses enjoy having a job with the attention and interaction.
                    Keeping an eye on the little things, like teeth and joints, pays off with the big things. Feed the best senior (I love Triple Crown) and keep on top of worming.So is pampering them especially when its hot and cold, especially encouraging water in the winter/ Their teeth can get sensitive to cold and they'll quit drinking.
                    My vet always said that horses are like older people, they're fine until one thing goes wrong (like in people breaking a hip) and then they go downhill fast.
                    I think most will let you know if they need to take a step back if you are attuned to them.


                    • #11
                      It wasn't all that long ago it was rare to see a horse at the Olympic level younger than 14 or so. Living outside goes a long way to keeping them young.


                      • #12
                        Our 30 year old was fat and sassy when he injured his knee beyond repair bucking and playing running in from the pasture.
                        As the vet told us, he didn't look a day older than 15, half his age.
                        We had retired him from kid's playday 4H competition at 25, because his kid moved up and he seemed not to want to go into the arena as happily as he used to.
                        We still rode him in light work moving cattle around.

                        A friend was giving light rides on her 36 year old and he didn't look old, but he started looking old after that and passed on at 42.

                        Some times, we assume a horse looks old when there are other problems that makes the horse look poorly, not necessarily his age.

                        If I remember well, For The Moment was a very competitive Grand Prix horse to about 20 years old and those were not little fences and easy courses he was jumping against much younger competition.

                        As for how long to use a horse, let the horse tell you.


                        • #13
                          Just got home from watching my daughter take a lesson on our 26 year old TB! He has to be ridden at least three days per week or else he gets really stiff. Some days we have to add a lap or two of canter in near the beginning of his warmup to help him get moving a little. He looked awesome jumping through the grid tonight. He doesn't jump as high or as often as in the past but is getting ready for another season of eventing, most likely at the intro level.
                          McDowell Racing Stables

                          Home Away From Home


                          • #14
                            He was 22. He was sound, healthy, happy....just did not enjoy his job anymore. I never asked much of him, but he was ready to retire. We did a year of walking bareback with a halter a few times per week, and then I moved him to a therapeutic riding facility. It gives him something to keep him busy but isn't physically demanding for him. He's a solid, chunky, steady and balanced horse.

                            He's really aged a bit in the last year. He doesn't look "oh wow....he's looking old..." but he definitely looks older to me.

                            He's a big hairy beast, not bad for 25.


                            • #15
                              My Heart horse was a big foundation bred Appy. He didn't show his age til near the end at 27. He always tended to be fat as he got older. His registered name was Red Rum, and we evented, hunted, did dressage and team penning. I couldn't let him suffer with penile cancer and let him go last spring after 26 wonderful years.
                              The greatest gift you can ever give is taking their pain away and making it your own. Wear that pain like a tribute to the love you shared. Laurierace


                              • #16
                                Around 20 my guy slowed down. Enjoy every moment you have together no matter what their age!


                                • Original Poster

                                  You guys are great, I'm so glad I don't have worry for a little while longer.


                                  • #18
                                    Now at age 22, my Percheron looks and feels her age. She's had a rough 3 years and they've all caught up. Unless she starts to gain some weight back, this will be her last summer.
                                    <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


                                    • #19
                                      Our mare, 22, is not showing her age. She has bee retired from jumping for a while due to ring one, but she is still bright eyed, healthy, shiny and ready to go for hacks. As a typical clyde x, she would rather jig the whole way (or canter) rather than just walk. She needs to lose weight... she looks at hay/grass and the lbs add up. Sigh... and it's not possible to ride/work her enough to keep her slim.

                                      Our gelding is 21 but he looks older than the mare. His former owner did a lot of jumper competitions at the national level, then ignored him for 6 years, took him back for 6 months and then we bought him for $1. I think the combination of lots of jumping and the residues of a trailer accident years ago is showing. He lost all his muscle tone on his back and has a hay belly... Hopefully, this spring, my DD will start riding him again but time and distance is not on her side. I intend to hand walk him up the hills on the farm when winter is finally over. Good for both of us.

                                      both will be wearing grazing muzzles this spring...


                                      • #20
                                        My mare will turn 21 next week. She is a very dark bay and starting to gray just a tiny bit around her eyes (she has NO white on her save a few white hairs in the middle of her forehead, so they gray is noticable). After years of her being the babysitter to a number of green horses I started, she is now my only horse and I hope to finally do something with her, lol. I plan on just moving forward, focusing on dressage and maybe some lower distance endurance rides and just continually evaluating her.

                                        She's a Morgan, they tend to be healthy, sound, and long lived, and she LOVES to work, so I think any change in her attitude towards work will be a key indicator for me. I am hoping, however, to have many, many years left with her, at whatever level she's comfortable with.