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  • rkrywko

Having Senior Horses; An Unpopular Opinion?

The more time I spend on the internet, the more I'm seeing a common theme. (Especially this year, when hay is hard to find and expensive) Older horses are getting the boot; to the auction marts, being sold, traded, given away, surrendered to rescues, you name it.

They might have sunken eyes and backs or knobby, arthritic knees, but I believe these gentle souls are (mostly) worth their weight in gold. There is the odd horse that still has all his spunk and attitude, even if his body doesn't want to keep up with it. Which is fine, if you're handy enough to keep up.

But my train of thought here is that there is definitely a place for these horses, and I'm sad that once they get past "usefulness" people are so quick to dump them. Which will also tie into the argument of having a horse you can't ride.

I have owned two aged horses, an off track Thoroughbred gelding named Hank and my current old gal, Bobbi. I bought Hank under the impression he was a good riding horse. Turns out he wasn't properly broke after coming off the track, and he was 2 years older than what I was told he was. (He was sold as 14, he was actually 16)

So other than feeling sorry for myself by getting "screwed around", I had some time to sit and think about what to do next. I listed him for sale, hoping for a better turn out this time. A few months, turned into years. The old man grew on me, and I just couldn't let him go. Sure, he had to be on a special diet because he had no teeth by 18 and needed blankets in the winter. But he taught me so much more as a horse person. I rode him in a halter and bareback pad on those nice days, just a leisurely walk around the pasture. My friends and family that were new to horses, or scared of them, had Hank as a great mentor. I trusted him around little kids. He would stand tied to be loved on forever. Those moments are irreplaceable, and usually only an older horse can offer those moments. The ones that fuel the next generation of horse lovers and riders. I can bet that your first ride was on an aged pony or horse. Mine was!

I think people forget that there is so much more to horsemanship than just riding. And what better job for the older horses that can't be ridden as much, or at all. Of course there are exceptions, but most senior horses I know have the very, very important job of building confidence and experience.

I guess what I'm trying to get at, is just because your aging horse can't burn barrels in 20 seconds or go for day long packing trips doesn't mean he's immediately useless. At the end of the day, if you really can't keep an aging horse then I hope someone who can really appreciate him can love him for the rest of his years. After all, they've carried so many hopes and dreams, and sometimes the entire world on their backs. A little extra food, medicine and love is the least we can do.

In loving memory of Hank 1997-2018

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