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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    I also have other horses to ride so my old man doesn't need to do the "heavy lifting" anymore. I still enjoy riding him, but I don't have to so that puts me in a position to ride him to keep him fit and otherwise let him be.
    Funny story...
    A friend of mine has an ancient mare. I would say mid 30s and she's been a lesson horse forever. So the day she retired was the day she was saddled up and bucked a rider off. A behavior she had never done, ever. Chiro came, she was fine. Vet came out for shots, clean bill of health. She waited a few days put an experienced rider on her and KABOOM to the moon. So, she's retired.
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  2. sherian

    sherian Senior Member

    Mar 12, 2011
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    I try to keep the oldies in work, better for their minds and bodies. That said I don;t fight with making them do a a job they don't like and I do reduce the difficulty level. The pinto hates ring work but loves trail riding so he escorts baby endurance horses around their first rides, the chestnut hates trail riding but loooves to jump so he does the 2'3 and 2 '6 derbies. They do get vet maintenance as needed and if the weather is extreme or footing is iffy they don't go.
    35432883_2018359578205365_5116515057060020224_n.jpg IMG_3645 1.jpg
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  3. StarPattern

    StarPattern Senior Member

    Jul 29, 2011
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    I have two senior mares - one that's 23 and the other is 25. They are both very set in their ways and there are some battles I just let them win. For example, my 25 year old mare absolutely does not like being tied up. I can loop her lead around anything and she'll stay, but she likes to be able to pull back a bit without feeling "caught". She's not dangerous, she stays where I put her and so I've never felt the need to tie her. My other mare doesn't stand well to be mounted. I think it's from her days as a harness racer when the sulky was hooked up while they were in motion. Since I'm the only one who rides her, I just work around that quirk - I start her a few steps back from where I actually want her, then mount up as she walks by. I COULD train that out of her, but at 23 years old... it's pretty ingrained and not worth the hassle to undo a lifetime of training. If I really need her to stay in one place when I'm mounting, I ask someone to hold her. It's probably not ideal.. but she's 23 and her mind is made up that she has to be moving when work starts. My 25 year old mare absolutely HATES white saddle pads. She'll wear them, but she's twitchy about them for whatever reason. So I don't use white pads on her. I COULD spend time desensitizing her to them, but she's been twitchy about them for 25 years... chances are, she's not going to change. No sense in upsetting her for something that likely won't stick anyway.

    That said, they don't get a free card because they're old. They still have to respect my space, they have to behave for the vet and farrier and they have to put up with me. I just don't focus on their little hard-wired quirks if they're not dangerous. I like to pick my battles and when you're battling with senior mares, you've gotta be really smart about it. LOL.
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  4. StraightandTrue

    StraightandTrue Senior Member

    Mar 19, 2010
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    I feel like it has less to do with age and more to do with how established the horse's training is. I don't think it's fair to tell a horse who has been trained to do X a certain way it's whole life that suddenly no, we're not going to do it that way anymore, we're going to do it this way now. That horse has developed neural pathways and muscle to enable him to do X comfortably with ease. By suddenly demanding the horse uses himself in a totally different manner you run the risk of injury as the horse strains muscles / tendons / ligaments that aren't accustomed to working in that way. Also, horses are most relaxed when they know what is expected of them. They can become anxious if you suddenly move the goal posts and they don't know what the correct response is anymore.

    If you're going to switch an established horse to a new discipline, it needs to be done carefully and considerately to avoid causing injury or stress. I've worked with a few horses in their teens who had little in the way of education and they were perfectly happy to learn the job. But it's much, much harder to successfully retrain an educated horse that's well established in it's training and has a firm idea of what it's supposed to be doing.
  5. MzCarol

    MzCarol Senior Member

    Oct 14, 2010
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    We 'rescued' Dante (TB) when he was 26. He was dropped off at the place we were boarding. The girl paid first month's board and was never heard from again. I hate people like that, btw.

    We left when we bought our place and the boarding barn changed hands. Months later we went back to say hi to the new people and.....we walked right past Dante and didn't even recognize him :( My husband and I told the current occupants that we were going home to get our trailer and he was coming home with us. It's not really what we 'wanted' to do, but....geezus.....he's old and he deserves more dignity than that.

    He will be 29 Jan 1 and he's hanging in there. The vet thought he had Cushings because he gets a pretty furry winter coat, but he sheds it all out in the summer and has no other clinical signs. His back teeth are about gone and his fronts are pretty horizontal so his meals consist of watered down senior feed and alfalfa cubes. He still picks at hay.

    1.5yrs ago he scalped himself but $1,000 later you can barely see the scar and the bone chips that were removed haven't caused any issues. His eyes are as bright as a foal's and he's got a great sense of humor. I wish we could read his tattoo because I'd love to know his story but alas it is an ink blot at this point.

    Yes, he's stiff, but he's out of a stall more than he's in one and we sheet/blanket him a little sooner than the young ones. He gets upset sometimes that the others are being ridden and he isn't so I'll pull him out and we'll toddle around the arena bareback. He doesn't want to do more than that very often but he wants to be a part of everything. It warms my heart to see him break into a canter and run in for dinner with the others. He behaves like a 5yr old out on the occasional trail ride after he's had about 15 minutes to loosen up. Mostly I ride him bareback now; he has earned the right to be naked. He no longer has teeth to hold a bit but goes very well in a sidepull.

    I don't know what his life was like before, but it will end happily in our backyard. We watch him closely and when it is his time he will tell us, and we will know that we gave him the best last years of his life.




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  6. billz

    billz Full Member

    Sep 25, 2018
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    We've retired several horses over the years and each one has passed over the rainbow with dignity and grace. Their last years are usually quiet yard ornaments of the greatest kind that receive all the love they can handle. Our pets are family and we believe that every single one deserves to be treated as such; love the hide off'n them and hold them until they're gone. Pet ownership is a lifelong commitment and anyone that isn't ready to see it through shouldn't start.

    I lost my mare this year and I was there when she was down. I held her head in my lap as she passed and was grateful for the life she shared with me/us. My wife has a picture frame into which she places a snapshot of her most current dog. Around the frame read the words, "Dogs leave paw prints on our heart." I believe that to be true of all our animal family and look forward to seeing them each again when it's my time to cross over. It's gonna' be quite a party!

    Let's ride!
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  7. Circle C

    Circle C Senior Member

    Mar 9, 2005
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    Now!! I just got my first horse back at age 25. She was still being shown (barrels) last year. Now, she is at my moms and going to enjoy her retirement. She is a little pushy on the ground now, so I am going to deal with that, but I am just going to let her eat and lightly trail ride her. I don't want to stop using her b/c I feel like that's when they go downhill.
  8. GotaDunQH

    GotaDunQH Senior Member

    Dec 19, 2008
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    Sidney is 23 and he still has not forgotten his top quality training, and he actually enjoys the leisurely rides. I don't ride him much anymore, but when I get on....he hasn't forgotten ANYTHING. So, like someone else said...I think it also comes down to how well the horse was trained and how well the horse did it's job.

    ETA: And to address the topic of this thread....why is someone trying to train a 26 YO something. My God, the horse has paid his dues....just hop on and go for a laid back ride without training on it.
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  9. zomer

    zomer Senior Member

    Jan 10, 2006
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    Great thread. I have two oldies- 25/26 and they get to do whatever the heck they want! Luckily they are both sweet souls and what they want to do is to be ridden on a loose rein and be in front, or be in back, and go at the **** pace they choose!, depends on the gelding. they get to graze loose in the BO's yard (not allowed for anyone else on the farm) they get to dawdle or race to pasture, we don't care because they are still the safest, sanest horses ever. They have absolutely earned the right. If someone wants to ride the 26 yo (25yo still too spicy for most people) I tell them if they know anything about horses, forget it. He knows everything and isn't interested in your opinion. Do it his way - you will have a perfect ride. Try to tell him you know more? You might end up on the ground.
  10. bellalou

    bellalou Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2014
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    I love the stories of senior horses. A friend of mine was at a show once in Massachusetts and the people in the next stall just packed up and left their horse. I can’t even imagine what kind of sick person could leave a 23-year-old horse at a showgrounds!

    My friend realized it and called his owner in Oklahoma. He had been leased from her and my friend figured out who she was from his registered name.

    He had been a champion Morgan hunter, had won his Bronze medallion and was halfway to silver but he was getting old. Lovely, dignified gentleman. Sixteen hands, liver chestnut. Sweet boy.

    The owner wasn’t sure what to do. She’d have to arrange care until she could arrange transportation to OK. She asked my friend if she wanted him and told her she could have him for whatever she had in her pocket. Which was ten dollars.

    I began riding him when he was 26 and we rode to hounds for 3 years and did small hunter shows together. My friend signed him over to me on my birthday a couple of years after I started riding him.

    He foundered at 33 and we let him go. He was a joy and fully enjoyed his twilight years.
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