Now I will turn my lens on our ancient horse, Romeo, who will be 31 this spring. Here is Romeo breakfasting in the orchard, as seen through the dining room window:
All these photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Romeo is the age record holder of any of the Standardbreds in our family (my parents used to breed them, buried a dozen over the decades, and still have ten). Standardbreds generally make it to 25-30 if disease or accidents don't claim them first (assuming they are allowed a retirement, which all of ours are). Arabians are somewhat longer-lived, more like 30-35, at least the working strains we are familiar with. Donkeys beat that, regularly living past 40 if well managed.
Romeo's full sister, Classic Juliet, died at age 28, after really going downhill fast with worn teeth combined with a glandular problem that turned her from normal into skeletal in weeks. When she colicked on top of this, a decision was made to put her down.
Romeo has the same problem with his teeth, which are falling out at a rapid rate now. (Our other old horses mostly haven't had tooth troubles, and certainly not to the extent of these two.) Last time his teeth were filed, the veterinarian discouraged me from getting his teeth done again - they are so loose and worn down they are likely to fall out from being rasped, and the procedure is no longer comfortable for the horse.
Amazingly, he is still managing to eat enough to keep him happy, and the quality of his life is currently good. If he gets a tooth abscess or anything like that, or becomes in any other way uncomfortable, he will be euthanased.
This is him this morning, gallivanting around our garden, where he is an honorary lawnmower:
The dog is hanging with him in her typical sheepdog style, and Don Quixote is lurking in the driveway. My lavenders are coming along well - I grew them all from cuttings. The horse doesn't interfere with them - but the donkeys would!
In the foreground is Melaleuca diosmifolia
, one of Brett's favourite native shrubs, and very bird-attracting! In the background, the three-year-old Tagasaste (tree lucerne, a fodder plant) is starting to flower, which will keep our beehives happy.
Romeo really is looking very old these days, with all his grey hair and loss of muscle mass, but he still puts in a good gallop daily and races the younger horses with aplomb at feed time.
What's in his bucket these days, morning and night, is astronomical:
8-10L fine-cut oaten chaff
2L soaked horse cubes
0.5L pelleted rice bran, soaked
0.5L canola meal
1-2L unprocessed wheat bran
Alternating ground limestone and vitamin/mineral mix
Magnesium ad lib and not with the other supplements
It's a mix he is doing well on. It's a fine line when you are feeding so many concentrates to a horse that isn't working hard, but in his case, it's necessary to get the calories into him. He can no longer process hay and, apart from what's in his feed bucket, basically subsists on whatever short, tender shoots he can nip off in short lengths with his incisors. Thankfully we have green grass at least 10 months of the year, and the irrigated garden and tree lucerne during drought.
Standardbreds are considered at low risk for things like Cushings and laminitis. However, I am supplementing him with magnesium as a safeguard.
He is so bear-like in his winter fur... in summer he is sleek.
I could keep five horses on what I feed him, but we just like having him around, and he likes being around as well. We've had him in the family 27 years, and I will tell his story here some time soon, when I start a series of case studies in the rehabilitation of "problem" horses, which is how he got to our family in the first place!