How do you decide when to retire an older horse?

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How do you decide when to retire an older horse?

This is a discussion on How do you decide when to retire an older horse? within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category

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  • 1 Post By Clava
  • 2 Post By Cat
  • 1 Post By kiwi79

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    03-12-2013, 05:41 AM
How do you decide when to retire an older horse?

My gelding is around 19 years old but is possibly older. I have had him for just over a year now and he has been a great confidence builder for me. He has had some lameness and or stiffness issues, my trimmer said that judging by his legs he has been ridden pretty heavily in the past but is sound right now. He also has breathing issues/allergies and his breathing gets laboured and heavy quite quickly. He also has a cough which has been quite bad especially with the dry dusty weather right now. I only ride him lightly approx twice a week and once he gets moving he seems to enjoy himself but with the heavy breathing I make sure he doesnt over-do it.

He is a bit of a plodder/kick-along so I find it hard to judge whether his reluctance to go out sometimes is just because he doesnt want to leave his mate or he actually finds it too much.
I am interested to hear how other people would make that decision to cut right back on their riding of an older horse or even retire them completely?

I have had him vet checked recently and the vet agreed that his breathing was an issue, she has prescribed him some prescription drugs to add to his feed which should ease his breathing until we get some rain to deal with the dusty conditions right now. Am just waiting on the invoice to arrive so I can go and pick them up.

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    03-12-2013, 05:46 AM
Super Moderator
19 is really not old at all, but the breathing and stiffness could be the deciding issue. My neighbours horse was still hunting at 31 and my two liveries are 26 and 30 and both still active (the 30 yr old occasionally jumps the fence when on the side she doesn't want to be). If his health can be improved by movement and medicines then it is possible that he could have many more active years left and often keeping them in work and active helps keep them happy and alive.
maura likes this.
    03-12-2013, 06:18 AM
I hear yah with the dust issues, I've resorted to actually watering my paddocks most of the time because my mini coughs horrendously in her dry dusty paddock.

I would say see how you go with the prescription meds, but if he still usually enjoys having a job to do, then I see no reason as to why he shouldn't do it, so long as his issues are kept an eye on, my old girl was still showjumping at 25yo right up to a few weeks before she passed away, she just wanted to keep going right till then end
    03-12-2013, 10:50 AM
Green Broke
Typically if you keep an older horse active in light riding as long as possible they will do better because it helps keeps their joints more limber. I hope the meds help his breathing!
maura and Clava like this.
    03-12-2013, 11:10 AM
I am fond of saying more horses rust out than wear out!

Light consistent work is the key to keeping a senior citizen going. I think you are going in two excellent directions - addressing the breathing problems with medication, and addressing the inevitable arthritis and stiffness by talking to your farrier, possibly using maintenence medication and light consistent work.

Increased turnout will help BOTH issues, 24 hour would be ideal if you can manage it.

It would also be terrific if you had someone to fill in for you when you can't ride, even if it's just a walking trail ride.

As far as the bigger issue, you know your horse. You will just have to be alert for signs that he's no longer enjoying his job or is struggling to do it. When it doubt, have a trusted horse friend or a vet evaluate the horse. But most horses will tell you when it's time to retire if you listen to them.
    03-12-2013, 11:24 AM
Super Moderator
I think a lot of horses will tell you when they've had enough and a lot also depends on their general health too. There are things you can do to address some of those things - you just have to assess how successful they are and give some extra tlc
A 14.2 pony that my son's did working hunter and showjumping on then became my hunting pony, a buddy to ride out with green youngsters and then the reliable one I rode to lead my youngest on his pony off. He was in his late 30's when he died after a very short illness. There are many horses and ponies still competing when they are really old - and enjoying it.
I think a lot of people forget that a horse that's been used to being handled and cared for as a riding horse can often really miss all of that when they retire. I've had to semi retire my oldest mare as she has arthritis - only 22 but she has spent her life behaving like an idiot - I still ride her lightly and she gets exactly the same care and attention as all the others - she'd hate it if she was just turned out and ignored
    03-12-2013, 10:30 PM
Thanks for the input guys!
Holly - I wish I could water my paddocks, my mini has started to cough a bit too due to the dust in her little area but we are on tank water and have already had to get water trucked in twice this summer. Fingers crossed that the forecast rain arrives next week.
I have my gelding on daily MSM, glucosamin and devils claw - the devils claw seems to be helping.
Our lifestyle block is quite small but he is on 24/7 turn out on a track system to keep him moving and the mini gets turned out with him in the afternoons for company and encourage him to move more.
I had a chiro out last week for the first time and she did some stretches and massage which he seemed rather bemused by but possibly will benefit him. Got to save up for another visit soon!
Quite often I will just take him for walks on foot which he seems to enjoy.
Clava - he recently cleared a full wire fence too when I took his mini for a walk without him so I guess he still has some get up and go!
maura likes this.

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