Doing right by your senior horse

Discussion in 'Horse Training' started by palogal, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. palogal

    palogal Senior Member

    Jan 3, 2008
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    saw a post the other day about somebody trying to train a horse to do something (I forget what) and the horse was very defiant and anxious. The horse was 26.

    My 23 year old does exactly nothing he does not want to do. We ride around the field, play around over very small fences once in a while. He’s a bit arthritic but otherwise very sound and healthy.

    At what point has your senior “done his time” and becomes the old man that only does what he wants to do?
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
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  2. Alyssa Hughes

    Alyssa Hughes Senior Member+

    May 17, 2018
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    I think some horses just get SET in their ways. I had a 14 year old MARE (not fond of mares at my place :ROFLMAO:) that would not do anything that didn't fit her agenda... You could try anything with that horse and no matter what she'd do what she wanted. I sold that horse within a year... :crazy:
  3. bobo and horses

    bobo and horses Senior Member

    Feb 4, 2007
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    Our eldest hasn’t been ridden in 12 years. He is in good health, but very stiff and has a bad front foot. We walk him everyday in the indoor, to keep him moving as much as possible. Has regular vet care, is in good weight and has certainly earned his retirement. Groomed everyday.

    When it comes time, it will be hard, but it isn’t time yet. Has regular turn out, too, a few moments of bucking and trying to rear, then settles down to eating. Has warm blankets and a heated barn. He was my steady eddy when the girls moved on to younger mounts. Will miss him terribly when the time comes. He is allowed to pretty much do what he wishes.
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  4. Kristal H

    Kristal H Senior Member

    Jan 19, 2016
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    My over 20 enjoys hanging out in his private turnout watching the other horses and eating to his hearts content and napping in the sun. When he starts to look uncomfortable than I will help him cross the Rainbow bridge with dignity.
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  5. bellalou

    bellalou Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2014
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    My step-horse Dooley is 22. He's in very good shape for his age and well cared for. He's ridden regularly and kept in shape. He's got very little arthritis for his age and only recently developed a bit of bone spurs in one foot but he's sound.

    He's not asked to do stuff he's never done before but he's done about everything under the sun - endurance when he was young, light jumping, low level dressage. So his owner does mostly flat work with him, focusing on moving correctly and staying in shape, with light trail riding for a change now and then.

    I like to keep them in shape as much as possible because it helps keep their overall condition good. And reasonable work is good for the arthritis. So I'd say it depends on the horse and its condition.
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  6. Mcdreamer

    Mcdreamer Senior Member

    Nov 3, 2011
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    Oliver just turned 20 and he mostly gets to hang out with his friends and go for the occasional trail ride. There are two other horses in his herd (other than Henry) and they are well over 30. They verrry occasionally go for a short trail ride but really they just are free to be old and retired. As someone who has rehabbed a lot of post-amish horses, I think senior horses are the very best when given a happy retirement. The standardbred mare I rehabbed recently is living the life and aint nobody can tell her what to do.
  7. DocsLglyBlonde

    DocsLglyBlonde Senior Member

    Mar 11, 2012
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    I think it really depends on the horse and needs to be an individualized decision. I don't think any senior horse (20+ or so) should be forced to work at all if they are having health complications or weight struggles where they should be conserving calories. I love my friend dearly, but she has a 30 year old mare who has been having a really tough time keeping weight on the last probably 6 months. I get that the horse still enjoys getting out and ambling around (and that is the only work she does, so nothing strenuous), but she is trailered out and is expending calories that I would not be comfortable having her expend right now.

    My gelding, when his teeth became and issue and before I sorted his diet out, got quite thin at one point in his mid 20's, and I made sure he got lots of turnout but refused to work him at all because he needed to conserve calories to get healthy again. I've tried retiring him several times over the years, and have learned he is so much happier doing one or two rides a week, short and sweet ones either on trails which he likes, or at my neighbor's ring which he also likes because he gawks at their pretty mare :p If I felt he was happier being a pasture puff, or if he was physically struggling to be active, he would not be worked. He gets lots of breaks and his well being is of the utmost importance. I honestly do not ride him for my benefit at all at this point (though he is a blast to ride still!). He got to the point of doing whatever he wanted probably in his mid 20's, because he would get fed up doing boring stuff and made it clear he'd rather not! My mare turns 19 in May, and is still in regular work, learning new things, and enjoying it. I have had to throttle back on lessons and such to get her health under control, but she is still happy to work and has not lived a very hard life... She should be happy learning because she still has lots to learn!

    I'm all for working with the horse you have, which means compromising when necessary to ensure they are happy in their work, so age does not automatically equate to them being unhappy with the same job they're used to doing. They certainly seem to reach an age though where expectations become lower, and you can tell what they're most happy doing at their advanced age, and that's what you do to keep them happy. Retirement is tricky, as I've learned with Samson, but if there's no reason to retire them completely, motion is lotion and I'm all for keeping them mentally engaged for light work that they enjoy.
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  8. slc

    slc Senior Member

    Feb 19, 2004
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    It's an individual thing but there are guidelines one can follow. And it's not always easy. But it's important to do right by the older horse.

    They need farrier care and veterinary care even if they're not getting ridden. Horses over 15 should probably be tested for Cushing Syndrome, since it's so common. Older horses might not respond as well to sedatives or anesthetics. They may suffer from anxiety, from being picked on by younger horses, from 'crabbiness.' It's important to be tuned into how they feel and how they are changing.

    A horse that is stumbling markedly is going to throw a rider some day. If a horse can't move safely without winding up on his knees and face often, he shouldn't be ridden. He might be safe to lead but not ride.

    Horses that are having neurological problems are usually not safe to be ridden. A horse that is swaying or stumbling behind due to a neurological disorder is not safe to ride. Eventually he is going to fall on someone.

    It's just now being recognized that horses can get dementia. Very old horses and horses with Cushing Syndrome may not be aware of discomfort or may act erratically. Be aware that horses can get dementia. When they do, they eventually may become unsafe to ride or even to handle.

    Some horses are too overweight to be worked - that sounds contradictory but getting the weight off might be more about restricting feed if the horse is too unsound to be worked. Very light slow work might help reduce weight gradually, over time. It's amazing what 15 minutes of walking on a lead every single day can do, but it's also amazing what not eating grass 24/7 can do for overweight. The older a horse gets the worse being overweight is for him. Especially since he could develop Cushing Syndrome or Metabolic Syndrome.

    Some horses are too thin to hold a saddle or have a person on them. Some very old horses are so thin they get saddle sores and girth sores way too easily. Some horses are too lame, stiff or uncomfortable to be ridden or longed, as a rough rule, if they are more lame or stiff or uncomfortable after work, it's time to stop working the horse.

    When an older horse is acting really 'sour and nasty' it's often because of a health issue. You may not be able to determine what health issue it is, but the horse may still need to be retired.

    Unfortunately, the motion isn't always the lotion. A 15 minute walk around the pasture with a little kid on his back might be fine; 6 classes at the saddle club show might not be, even if they are easy classes.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
  9. PyroTekNik333

    PyroTekNik333 Senior Member

    Jul 22, 2008
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    If the defiance/anxiety is stems from being asked to do something painful or beyond the horses physical ability that would be a no go for me.
    If the horse is just being a pud because he's a "sr" and been allowed to do whatever he wants for the last (insert # of years here) I don't see the issue with putting more training on it. Never too old to learn something new.

    If my horses are physically able to be worked/ridden they get worked/ridden. Never had one come out the worse for it.

    My gelding was well into his 30s before he was fully retired to pasture puff status because of health issues.
    My oldest now is going on 23 and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.
    Arem and DocsLglyBlonde like this.
  10. Pony123

    Pony123 Full Member

    Feb 18, 2014
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    My boy is 28, he's sound and healthy but a little arthritic. He's out in a herd of other old guys right now, enjoying his life. Whenever I go get him out all the oldies run around and buck and look like they are enjoying their life. I get him out and play around on him bareback sometimes, but right now he just enjoys being out and being with his buds, and I think he deserves it, he's been a loyal lesson horse for his entire life. On another note, he went through a herd bound stage last year when he was only with one other horse and we tried to move him back to his old paddock with the lesson horses and we looked away for a second and when we looked up, he was in the adjacent paddock.:faint::faint: So we run to see what had happened and he had jumped the highest part of the fence at the gate and cleared it! My 13.1hh 28yo pony cleared 5ft. Vet checked him out and he was completely fine, but we moved him and his true love into a group turnout and he is doing much better with his attachment issues and has not jumped any 5ft gates since thank goodness. pony.jpg

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