When to retire?
I always thought that I knew black and white what I was going to do when my mare hit her 20's and when/how to retire her. Now I'm not so sure. I've been with this girl for my entire life and know her like the back of my hand so I suppose I've been second guessing myself and my ideas because she's special to me.
To start off, I thought she was 18 or 19. But by whatever reason I found an old vet record and it turns out that she's about 22-24. I don't know how I missed that but I'm blaming the fact that I was like 9 years old when the record was taken. I'm hoping that the vet was wrong or that we told him wrong but I'm holding out little hope for that (I am going to have the vet age her when she gets back out because I feel awful for forgetting her age).
So here's my big dilemma. My mare really only "looks her age" (but she looks pretty darn good for in her 20's!) in the winter, in the summer/spring she's fine. I've never considered my riding especially strenuous because at most it's an hour of w/t/c either with a lightweight saddle (though I'm now in the process of loosing more weight to make things easier on her) or bareback and once in a while we go for a couple hours trail ride and if she's up to it go for a nice gallop in a field. She gets stiff once in a while but if it doesn't work out of her when we're riding then I take it very easy and don't push it (but that's a rare occurrence). We're going to start her on some senior feed/msm supplements again just to give her a boost this winter and reevaluate her in the spring. She's really healthy though all things considered both physically and mentally!
I've always said that the minuet she tells me that she's done I'll quit riding her, but until then we'll just continue on like we have only I'll keep an even closer eye on her. My trainer has done the same with her older horses and one's 28 and still gives lessons once a week, the other is in his thirties and only recently retired do to a severe bout of colic so I do think that this method will work, I'm just second guessing myself at every turn :evil:. So does this still sound like a good game plan? I know that ultimately it will have to be my decision but I'm still needing advice on if I'm doing the right thing on this one. She hasn't given me any indication to stop though (aside from her typical grumpiness, but she's always been grumpy even the day I met her.) Thanks for reading I'm just feeling kinda lost right about now. :-|
I understand what you are feeling and in a minute I will tell you why, but the short answer is that age is just a number. People have young horses that have health issues and can't be ridden while many of us have older horses that are still going strong,
When I bought my mare, the pre purchase vet I used aged her as 13-15. About 6 months after I bought her, I had another vet come out to float her teeth and he told me she was atleast 23-24.
I was devastated, i felt like I had lost almost 10 years of her life.
The event that snapped me out of it was when my friend's 6 year old horse colicked and died.
Age doesn't mean anything.
As long as your horse is sound and healthy, you can continue to ride her. I ride my mare 2-3 times a week out on the trail and in the arena. We run barrels. She does judged trail rides. She is happiest when she has a job to do and being in regular work keeps her stiffness to a minimum.
Now, I would never make her jump or do endurance because I know that would be asking too much of her joints...but the type of riding we do is encouraged by my vet to keep her joints moving.
I have her on a joint supplement and also B-L pellets (all natural painkiller) to keep her comfortable, especially in the winter months.
But she is happy, never refuses a meal, and still has more go than whoa. Anyone that rides her can't believe she is in her mid twenties. My girl loves to go!
There is a 34 year old QH at the barn that still gives the occasional lesson and trail ride and has yet to take an unsound step.
So, don't spend too much time worrying about when you should retire her. He age has nothing to do with it. Retire her when your vet suggests she shouldn't be ridden anymore. Forget her age. It is just a number. :)
I believe that as long as they are capable to keep them fit and in work.
I have had many horses working well into their twenties and several ponies that were in their thirties. My last pony was out on the lead rein following Foxhounds when he was 38. He loved it and was still capable of throwing the odd buck!
Thanks, that really sways my fears! I'm just working myself up over something that's small I suppose.
I'm with Foxhunter 100%. As a teenager I got a wonderful QH gelding without papers so we weren't ever sure of his exact age. I used this gelding for everything from gymkhana to ranch work to using in the feedlot pens working cattle. He was also an accomplished team roping horse. When I was in my 20's I found out that he was also in his 20's. In his late 20's I tried to retire him and he actually went downhill. So I kept working him and kept him in shape. By the time he was in his 30's he had taught countless kids how to work cattle and I still used him frequently. I competed with him in a ranch rodeo when he was about 33, my niece barrel raced him when he was 32. Goldie was going strong until the day he was killed in an accident...he was approximately 37 years old.
It sounds like you're on the right track. Keep going until she tells you otherwise.
you know your horse better than anyone. stop second guessing yourself, and relax :) your horse will tell you when she's done. I have a mare, 9yo, been retired since 7, that keeps changing her mind on me...one week, she's sound to walk on, the next she wants to trot...every now and again, she takes off cantering...but overall, I know she's done competitively, and pretty much done for pleasure, too. on the other hand, my favorite lesson pony back in the day gave lessons up until the day she died at 43 years old (struck by lightning...healthy til the day she dropped).
when your mare is truly ready to retire, she will let you know. and even then, the occasional light hack (walking or walking light trot, even 5-10 min) will probably do her good
I've seen horse become "old" by 23 and dead by 25 and then I've seen a 30 year old looking well and doing a great job pulling a plow. If the horse is healthy and has been kept in shape it can work well into and through it's 20's. You might not be doing many endurance races at 24, but the average rider really doesn't "work" a horse beyond what would be considered normal maintenance.
As long as you're not getting indications that something is too much I'd continue doing what's been the norm.
Thanks guys I really do appreciate it! :)
I work at a ranch where we give lessons, do trails, all kinds of things. We have 2 horses that are both about 32 years old and we still use them quite often for lessons. Just as a precaution, they both have a weight limit of no more than 150 lbs and we typically dont even touch that because they're used for the kids that know nothing. We don't breed the mare anymore, so they're both basically retired but they are more than capable of doing light work. The owner of the ranch had a riding stallion that she used until he was 38.
I lost my old gelding this year when he was 23, but had he not gotten sick, we would still be riding. We had stopped all of the intense riding,like you have. And most of the time he didn't feel like galloping anymore anyway but by no means was he ready to stop before he got sick. So I say keep riding your mare; she will let you know when she doesn't feel well anymore.
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