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Discussion Starter #1
So I don’t think we’re at the point of retiring yet. But... how do you know when it’s time to stop riding an older horse? I know its a loaded question, and is very individual dependent. But what are some markers to look for?

Montana, our paint QH gelding will be 27yrs old. Up until last year, you couldn’t tell he was older. A year ago now, we lost his long term buddy (they’ve been together for 12 yrs). Since then he started losing body condition and weight (went from ~950lbs to 850lbs) and became depressed. With extra feed and time, for the last few months he's been mostly back to his perky self. He is sound, although still lean. Seems to enjoy going out on rides. He doesn't like to be left behind when I go riding solo on Duke (he'll run the pasture until we come back). We take it easy on him, and don't do anything strenuous. Mostly walking and some trot/canter which he often initiates on his own. Doesn't appear sore once we're done.
 

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I couldn't say, but as long as the horse seems happier going out than being left behind, you should take him out, I think. What my friend does, with her 29 year old warmblood, is take him out frequently as ever, but do shorter rides. More warm up/ cool down, too. He is very happy to go out, and still gives wonderful canters . Just not the 2 hour trail rides of his youth.
 

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A horse can be ridden until it's the end of its life. As long as the horse has been active all its life, has no lameness issues, keep riding it. Just like a human, the more active you are, the healthier you will be. Use it or lose it.
 

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horses can go downhill fast. He looks quite skinny to me, so no reserves.

Animals appear to have the same age related problems as people; they can get winded just walking, stumble, loose their balance easier, not be able to chew foods, not be able to handle extremes of heat and cold, etc.


Which one each horse suffers first, is a mystery.

The first sign seemed to be with the feet, slower growth and more cracks, less resistance to bacteria and fungus.

With my horses, I noticed that they were breathing hard with just a good forward walk. Some I could ride only 15 minutes, some 30 before they started looking winded.

The next sign was eating hay slowly, leading to not eating hay at all, or very little.

The point that they can't eat hay anymore is close to the end. I will try feeding alternatives, like soaked hay cubes and lots of senior feed, but it is just a mater of time before they just seem so weak, and it costs so much to feed them, I know it is time when they seem rather listless. The other horses will often pick at them too. It is sad, but I don't let them suffer long.
 

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Horses that go into a depression from losing a buddy or team mate can recover both the lost condition and overcome the depression then resume riding. It may be they need that work and introduction to new herdmates to help over come. As the above posters have mentioned when they start to have physical issues or exhibit pain that is not passing then time to cut back or retire.
 

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I think he's fine to still be ridden, as long as he's sound & enjoys it. If he is struggling (even on short rides) or just not able to maintain good condition, then I'd consider retiring. He does look a bit on the thinner side, but it sounds like he lost weight from the depression of losing his buddy, which is not uncommon. He's cute!
 

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Retiring a horse for no other reason than that it's reached a certain age has a tendency to shorten the horse's overall lifespan. Just like with humans, keeping fit has been proven to improve life expectancy.

If he's still happy to go out and be worked lightly, then by all means keep taking him out. I retired a 17 year old from jumping because it was no longer safe for either horse or rider (he had one knee that was buckling on landing) and by the time he turned 18 he no longer wanted to be ridden, even lightly on trails. Couldn't even get him to the end of the driveway before he started making grumpy faces. That being said, I do think he could have been made comfortable again with the use of joint injections - I just didn't have the money for them, and had an up and coming young horse I could move on to, so I didn't mind letting him sit in the paddock and see out his days. He passed away at 18, and I do think that his relatively early retirement contributed.

On the other side of the coin, I have a friend who had a horse that went out and won a (low level) one-day event at 37. He was retired not long after that simply due to his age and the fact that he had earned it, and he died at 38.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
He is much happier being out riding than left behind. He seems content to walk quietly. Whenever at home, he’ll run the whole time that duke and I are gone and will be an anxious / sweaty mess by the time we come back. He can do 7-9km without really breathing hard. But like I mentioned we mostly just walk.

He is on the lean side. Up until last year he has been a butterball, completely easy keeper. He’s has had teeth done in the summer and will get them done again this spring. He’s on a senior feed with flax, another weight gainer (shine), corn oil, and recently I started adding a bit of molasses and sms. Not sure I’ll see much improvement until the warmer weather comes back, weight wise.

I might try ponying him when I go out with duke just to see if that would increase some easy work. Not sure how to go about that though. Guess we’ll try in an enclosed area first.

May be difficult to see on pics but these are the summer of 2018 and feb 2019. The on by the fence is where he’s alone for the first time in over a decade.
 

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I have a 23 year old that I retired last year. He has arthritis pretty bad in his back end and he won't lay down to sleep anymore. He still keeps weight on pretty good and I rode him a few times last year and he did his best but he has become very slow and even on easy rides you can tell he is not comfortable and he prefers to be left at home in pasture and just petted and loved on. I also have a 21 year old mare that is retired because she has painful arthritis in her front knee joints and she is in significant pain if you ride her. Both are on diets and supplement plans for arthritic horses and keep weight on well but it would be mean to keep riding them. They have earned their rest and will remain here with me until they die of old age or have to be put down. We had another horse that we rode until he was 29. It really just depends on the horse and how they age.
 

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Semi retired my old guy at 18 because he couldn't keep weight on. Permanently retired him at 25 because he was no longer eager to move out. Euthanized at 29 (should have been done about a year sooner but I was selfish).

A mare permanently retired at 17 due to ringbone. Euthanized at 21.

Currently you could say my entire herd is semi retired because I don't ride much anymore but I have a 25 year old mare that is perfectly healthy and fine to ride but I still wouldn't ask her to go out for a hard ride because I know what it feels like to be old. In other words I can still do what needs to be done but I sure as heck pay for it afterwards. A 24 year old gelding that is showing beginning signs of arthritis so is ok with short, easy rides but wouldn't be able to handle any vigorous riding. A 16 year old gelding that has the same riding limitations as the previously mentioned gelding. The rest of the herd range from 20 years old to 10 and they could handle anything they were conditioned for except for the 2 minis who have never and will never be ridden because of their size.

Like others have said, it depends on the horse and what they are telling you.
 

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I took some lessons on a 35YO quarter horse. He was great and taught me the posting trot. It depends on the horse and it's health. If the horse is healthy it would probably benefit from working.
 

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He needs a little weight. I would eliminate the corn oil, according to articles I have read it can be an inflammatory, and use vegetable or better yet canola oil. Maybe slowly increase the senior feed, add some alfalfa. That's basically what I have done with our seniors if weight is needed.

He's a handsome fella. I hope you still have many miles together.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
He doesn’t seem in pain and rolls around with ease. He never really lies down to sleep. I’ve had him since 2007 and only seen him laying down to rest a handful of times. But just due to the age I would assume some arthritis is a given.

With our horse that we had to put down last year, he’s been unsound for the last 4-5 yrs, and I guess Montana getting older kind of blindsided me.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
rhe Corn oil was recommended as a heat source since its digested in the hindgut. But I heard about it being inflammatory as well.

Thanks. He’s a good looking boy. We’d like to keep him happy and healthy for many more years. He needs to bond with Duke and gain some condition.
 

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He doesn’t seem in pain and rolls around with ease. He never really lies down to sleep. I’ve had him since 2007 and only seen him laying down to rest a handful of times. But just due to the age I would assume some arthritis is a given.

With our horse that we had to put down last year, he’s been unsound for the last 4-5 yrs, and I guess Montana getting older kind of blindsided me.
:hug: it is really hard to see when they seem to be fine one day, and not fine the next.

The hardest one I had to euthanize was my Dreamer. He was 28 yrs old, No arthritis at all, healthy and happy. Until fall came, and he started dropping weight. Vet said no teeth left...even giving him senior feed he kept declining. Finally had to accept his digestion was failing...

After what poor Herbie went through, when his gut just stopped completely, I am really glad now I didn't wait too long so Dreamer didn't suffer. To see him just standing over his pile of hay was so sad. In the winter of his 27th year, I had to keep him in the stall to eat his hay, otherwise he would just play with it. So I knew his time was coming.


Fall is the season for the highest deaths, even with humans. Maybe we are just programed that way. Our bodies know that another winter would be too much.
 

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I have given mine flax oil and to see a difference you have to get them to eat quite a bit. The ground flax seed works just as well or better than the oil and the eat it better than they do the pure oil. I agree with the earlier posters, I would not give corn oil as it is said to cause inflammation and especially with arthritic or stiff horses inflammation is what you want to avoid at all costs.

Because horses can turn fibrous material into energy very easily I have heard that soaked beet pulp works really well as a weight gainer too so long as you can get them to eat it. I bet if you could get them to eat oil soaked beet pulp instead of using water you could really put some pounds on a horse.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
@AnitaAnne that’s the hardest decision ever. Had to go through it too many timeS unfortunately. Although we’re not anywhere there now thankfully.
@AndyTheCornbread the weight gainer called shine has among other ingredients ground flax. I also add whole flax. I have tried beet pulp before and he turns his nose up at it. So that’s kind of out. He’s pretty picky when it comes to food. But he eats the mix he gets now.

I used the weight tape again on him and he’s up to around 860lbs. So up a tad.
 

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If it's cold you need to be blanketing this horse. Doesn't matter if he's got a good winter coat. He's still burning calories to keep warm.

I've had an old horse who had a hard time keeping weight. I blanketed him I had different weight blankets,for the changes in temps. He was a hairy yak even with his yak coat without blankets he didn't keep weight in the winter.

Current horse ice who isn't old without being blanketed he'd be a bone rack.

Alfalfa hay is great for getting weight on and easy for horse to eat. Alfalfa cubes soaked and senior feed like TC senior is low sugar/starch, compared to other senior feeds.

I currently don't do bagged feeds I feed Timothy pellets and alfalfa cubes an a vit/min horse tech made up.
 

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We have a 26 year old we're still riding from time to time, but we also get vet check ups every 6 months. SO FAR the vet encourages us to keep riding the Old Man because it will help him maintain mental acuity and his physical condition. I have taken steps to lighten his load though - I use a barrel saddle on him now instead of his heavy roping saddle, I don't let anyone ride him that pushes the 20-30% body weight for a rider rule because he will stumble and get tired too quickly. I have him on a senior joint supplement and it really helps him feel great.


So long as he's telling me he's fine and the vet is confirming he's physically fine, we'll keep using him. This summer I will be 'retiring' him for adult riders though. It's time my 2 year old Gbabygirl learns to ride and the Old Man takes care of her. He'll be her lead line pony... but he'll still have a job and still get to 'work', just won't be packing around heavier adults.
 
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