I just thought I'd share a good story about an old horse. I was talking to the daughter of the stable owner today, and we were talking about how they retire their horses that are unable to work anymore, due to age, injury or illness. She was walking her jumping pony (she's fourteen and on the national team), who is ill, and so they're retiring him from competing. She was letting him graze on a lead rein while she chatted to me and watched her mum give a lesson.
From her pony, we got on to talking about a friend's old horse, who has recurring issues with lameness. He will never be sold on, and they don't use him for lessons, but give him as much exercise and work as his soundness will comfortably allow because he doesn't like being solely a pasture pet.
We talked about caring for older horses too, and she mentioned that Charlie Brown, the hrose I've been riding up until today - a cobbish type who's in excellent shape but leaning far more towards heavier than skinny - is 'very old'. I had no idea; he looks beautiful.
I also mentioned one of their old ponies - a mare called Black - and found out more about what happened to her. Black was one of the founding horses at that school, and back when I was nine a friend of mine used to ride her. Black died last year, aged 44. When she got old, they tried to retire her, but Black was having none of it. Every time she was led past the indoor arena, she would try and get inside; she got bored of living in the fields and wanted to work. They brought her back onto a very light schedule, and she was much happier and stayed in good weight (aka fat!) and sound. Eventually she got too old even for that, though still in good health, but because she wanted so much to work, they would walk her around the yard so she could stick her nose into everyone's business, and sometimes she would be held in the middle of the arena while one of the people who worked their had a lesson. That way she got to feel involved :) Eventually, Black died of old age, still sound and with good weight on her bones.
It's always good to hear of horses who get to live out their lives in good care and doing the things they love. Black proves that if you take good care of your horses, they can work for longer than you think - because they want to. I'm so glad that I ride at a stables which behaves responsibly, too. And I just thought I'd share a good story with the rest of you guys. We hear a lot about the horses that are abused and neglected, particularly when they get old, and I think it's heartening to hear that they don't all end life in this way.