When to retire your horse?
I have a 16 year old Tennessee Walker gelding that I have had for 11 years. In that 11 years I have put A LOT of miles trail riding on him. He still has the heart to go and go fast. He loves to be out on the trails and is like the energizer bunny. Last time I took him riding we went out for about 2 hours and on the way back he was all go and was trying his hardest to run back to the trailer. I did notice however that we he would go up hill he seemed to be having a really hard time, almost straining and was slipping a lot. Do you think this could be to age or something else? When do you think a good time to "retire" a horse from trail riding is? We do a lot of riding and for hours at a time, I just don't want to push him to hard and have him hurting himself. Just looking for honest opinions. Thanks!
when an older horses's legs and health are problematic, it's a good idea to semi-retire them. My pony, "Toma" (1970-2004, RIP) would cry when we trailered and left him behind. Your horse sounds like he still wants to perform. There are so many jobs for such a horse, including becoming a very safe child's mount, You know, many children get to be very good riders, but it's wrong to give them green horses.
I bought my current trail horse, Bonnie, last May and she turns 15 this year. We go out for 3 - 5 hour trail rides every weekend and a little riding during the week. She is in plenty good condition and I can see her going until she is well into her 20s as long as I keep her healthy.
He is getting to the age where more attention needs to be paid to his fitness level, that could be part of the issue.
I don't know how often you ride but if it's just going out for long trail rides once a week or so, he needs more exercise to build up his fitness.
Another thing to consider is if he needs a joint supplement. I know my mare seems a lot "older" when she's off her supplement and she doesn't even have very much arthritis. He's getting to the age where arthritis is reasonable so it might be worth considering investing in a supplement.
My favorite supplement out of the ones "I've" tried is: Corta-FLX Flex-Force Pellets with HA - Horse.com
I keep my mare (who's 27 years old, btw :) ) in shape by riding her w/t/c/g twice a week on the trails and giving beginner lessons on her 4 days a week.
Another thing that I've found to be super important is a good warm up. I take a good thirty minutes to warm up my mare before I ask her to do anything really hard. Your guy probably won't need that much but warm up time is valuable.
Another thing to consider is how his feet are doing. A bad trim/shoe job can make it hard for any horse to perform.
If none of these things fit the bill, I'd suggest having a vet out. 16 really isn't old at all and he really shouldn't need to be retired at such a young age. The vet can also give you a better idea of what you can do for your guy and he/she can give you advice about retiring him or not. :)
All great advice; I will add one more thing:
PLEASE have blood drawn to check his insulin and ACTH levels.
The TWH in my avatar was 16 when we went on our last organized ride. He was always a huge-motored horse.
Would start out in the top ten of 250 - 300 horses and finish the day in the top ten. Not because I pushed him, that's where he wanted to be.
On our last ride he paced himself different and we ended the day in the bottom 50 of around 290 horses. I was heartbroke and also attributed it to him getting older.
We had done some pretty intent butt-sliding in our younger days, so I "retired" him from organized rides but still kept trail riding either alone or in tiny groups to where he could rest when he needed it.
THAT was the first warning sign of insulin issues but it wouldn't be until he was 19 that I really got slapped in the face with a dirty diaper because I had no idea what metabolic issues were all about.
He is now 24+ and I am managing him with a strict diet, herbs, and NSAIDS because the metabolic issues exploded his hock/ankle arthritis.
Tennessee Walkers have been added to the Predisposed List for metabolic issues, so please get your guy tested.
I have three TWH's and two of them have insulin problems. They are essentially Type II diabetics if they were human.
Duke is pretty much retired only because our road is nothing but massive hills, the only flat spot is where we live at the top, so it's no fun to take him out and watch him go flying out the drive (like old times) and the minute he has to climb the second hill, he's wearing out.
If I could load him and ride him on the flat somewhere, he could go for a couple hourse but now that his hock/ankle arthritis has gotten so bad, it's really tough for him to get in the trailer, then back out of his front spot and turn around to walk out.
If your guy is healthy he should go at least another 8 years at the same pace.
Years ago, my Arab/Saddlebred that I raised from birth went "Heck Bent For Election", did his last organized ride when he was 27 and never wore down. Folks couldn't believe he was 27 - he was tough as nails and looked like he was 12. Not long after he got sick and the cancer took him at 29.
For my third time, please have your horse's insulin and cortisol levels checked. Good luck getting this figured out:-)
Havent read all the replies but my grandmother's best friend rode her mare every day from the time she was 2 until she died at age 28. And she was still going strong, she colicked very badly. Star never had a lame day in her life(injuries aside) and had more pep in her step than most youngsters I know.
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Well, horses can be ridden into a late age, usually, however if they have arthritis or some other health issue, it may be a good idea to retire them from strenuous work, such as steep hill work. I would have the vet out and like someone mentioned, get some blood drawn for any health issues.. And possibly look into a joint supplement. Make sure your horse gets as much slow movement throughout the day, such as 24/7 turnout.
My farrier has a 36 year old horse she still rides in 10 mile endurance rides!
My horse is older than yours, and he retired from his career as a grand-prix show jumper...into a career as a dressage mount. Huey just turned 18, and is still very much in his prime. When I ask the vets (all of them) what the best way to keep him going and strong for as long as possible is, they all have the exact same answer: RIDE HIM.
So, no, your horse is not too old to go on trail rides. He ought to be good for many, many more years - but it's good that you are paying attention to what could be a red flag about his feet or his health! Let us know how he goes on.
I'm no expert by any means, but I would think at 16 he's become an excellent mount with tons of experience. I'd be shocked if he didn't go another 8 to ten years as a trail horse.
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