TB's are especially prone to arthritis.
As long as the vet clears it, then ignore the people at your barn. A lot of people don't understand that older age doesn't necessarily require retirement. There was a GP Olympic jumper that competed until his late 20s. It's possible. My boy is much older but still paying off his board because he can be used.
The only thing I can advise is to be careful. Many horses will perform despite a small amount of pain, which snow balls into a larger problem. He may look longingly at jumps but it may not always be the best for him. And just because he's too willing to refuse doesn't mean he's pain free as well.
Putting a horse out to pasture will of course, make the horse lose muscle mass. This doesn't mean they are at all unhealthy or unhappy. MANY horses that are retired still need light exercise daily to keep from becoming stiff, my boy is one of them. I would take precaution because the stiffness you described signifies very early arthritis to me. Just some thoughts.
First, I would have never know he was 23years old he looks Great! Nice pic alos. Imo I would semi-retire him because of the DJD, you don't wont to over work old horses cause that can affect them big time.
Yes it is the early stages of the disease Kristy! You are right! He has a lower cartilage mass between the bones of the joint rather than any bone damage itself.
The first time a vet saw him when he was really bad (because he was being treated for bruised sole) the vet came out and flexioned him and told me to trot him in hand, and he screamed stop, stop this horse is in agony, I don't think he'l be ridable again. This was before he was put on a joint supplement (he has never had to be on bute since then-thank goodness) and had his first x-rays, which showed minimul cartilage mass decrease, and the joint specialist turned to me and said "he's being a wuss, thinks he likes all the fuss!, because 9 out of 10 horses wouldnt even show any signs of lameness with this little damage?!"
So I took him home, and stuck him on everything to aid joints I could find, and the lameness dissappeared. He has cost me a small fortune since but hasnt been lame since? Stiff on occasion but nothing like he was before-and its been 3years since then.
With the history of competing he has I wasnt surprised, as I found out that he had been broken as a 3yr old and taken to gracelands (a jumping/competition) centre within 3months, and then jumping consecutive classes of 2ft6, 2ft,9,3ft, and 3ft3 as a just 4yrs old all on the same day. Started cross country at 5yrs and hasnt stopped since (i suppose he doesnt know any different now so I will have to look out for signs that he needs to slow even more!