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Hullo People!

My quarter horse gelding Jake is turning 20 this year. For the past 5 years I’ve been calling him a 15 year old.

When I got Jake he had been sitting in a paddock for 8 years and only rarely used as a lead line horse. He felt like he was old for a long time but after working a lot with him and building up muscle and endurance he felt young. He was able to jump 80cm, gallop for ages and trot all day. In the past 6 months I’ve noticed he’s started to slow down. He won’t jump, he’s out of breath after a short gallop and he’s not as playful.

I know some horses never retire, they just work less and that some retire very young but I’m not sure what I should do. He’s the oldest horse I’ve owned and my parents haven’t had old horses either.

My coach thinks Jakes at his prime but knowing Jake I’m 100% sure he’s not. He’s been lame 3-4 times in the 5 years I’ve had him but it’s never the same thing coming back, it's usually just a bruise or paddock injury. He is quite clumsy and I’ve also noticed he’s getting a bit stiff in his neck, back and back legs. He isn’t as good as he used to be at carrot stretches and doesn’t raise his back as much. One of his back hocks are clicking too. He’s not at all lame and my farrier says it won’t affect him much. His back is starting to curve a

Also should Jake be getting more supplements. He’s got chaff, pellets, calcium, magnesium and a little bit of oil when his coat is bad.

(also I got in contact withthe lady who bought Jake before me and she said Jakes always had bad skin and his coat is always bad in summer, she recommended me some stuff to put on his coat and it’s a bit better)

I’m not sure about what I should be doing so any advice is greatly appreciated.

thanks in advance.
AJ
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Your horse will tell you what he likes and what he doesn't.
I have a 22 year old who used to be a trot racer for many years. I always thought to take it easy with him especially because of his wear and tear and age but honestly, he clearly showed me he didn't want to retire. He has times he didn't want to be ridden due to stiffness in winter until I found a supplement that really helped him and all of a sudden he wanted to jump again and advanced to higher dressage and jumping levels I really didn't think he was capable off.
This year I can tell he is taking things a lot more easier so I stopped jumping but he enjoys being ridden on hacks and doing some flatwork once in a while.

Listen to your horse, and you will know what to do :)
 

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Thanks. How do I tell though? Jake never wants to work. He gets a bit exited on trails but they rarely happen.
 

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There's a difference between retiring a horse and using them more lightly. I don't read anything in your post that makes me think retirement.

Horse joints can click and be meaningless. Young horses can have joints that click.

You say he is sound. I suspect his lack of willingness to work is because of things other than age. Your posts seem to indicate there is no slow progression into work. Meaning if a horse is sitting around for a while, it is not fair to then take him out and do a hard workout. If your horse is breathing hard, he is not in condition for the work.

A nice long ride or gallop is something you earn through many regular shorter, slow rides. Stiffness sounds like arthritis, which is benefited by regular exercise. But not by an intermittent gallop when out of shape.

Another reason a horse might not want to work is if you are only taking him out to be ridden or worked, and there is nothing positive in it for him. If you stop for a rest and let him graze, or take him for a hand walk to sight see he will enjoy going out more.
 

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The horse will let you know when it’s time. I’ve never really had a ‘retired’ horse until my mare, and even then, she’s only retired from riding.

My first horse, my big red heart horse I got when he was 18 and I was a young Pony Clubber. I had him for 12 years and just about aged out of juniors with him. He stopped jumping when he was in his mid 20s but it wasn’t because he was done, school was getting in the way for me and I was just riding for fun at that point. He did slow down a lot towards the last few where of his life, but that horse had go. He was riding sound right till the end, and if he hadn’t colicked, I might had had him a few more years after that. He was pretty easy in the supplement department, mainly got a lot of senior feed and that was about it.

My current gelding, the Mightiest of Mitches, will be 22 next week. I’ve had him since he was 8 and there really hasn’t been much change in him in all that time. Lil stinker can still buck a good one (although he tends to just pop up and down and not thrown himself around so it’s always been easy to ride it out). He has mellowed over the years, but he’s still got chutzpah. I did start him in a joint supplement that’s in cookie form this year, he never indicated he needed it before (has never put a foot wrong as long as I’ve had him knocks wood) but I figured the joint supplement can’t hurt since he’s still going out and getting about. Probably helps that he’s a stout not-quite-a-chunk. Good solid legs and stuff. He’s easy to supplement. Gets a handful of pellets as a carrier for his multi-vitamin, flax and his chondroitin and glucosamine. He’s mostly trail ridden as neither of us are terribly fond of arena work. I usually do one or two loops of the barn trails three times a week. We stay on the flat/lower trails on days we pony the mare.

My mare “retired” 5 years ago. Part of the reason was I broke my femur at the knee in May 2015 and was out the rest of the year, and they both had that time off. She’d been a bit resistant to work prior to that and I think it was because of the development of her current condition. She will buck and buck hard as a way of shutting down if there’s something she doesn’t like, whether it’s saddle fit or not wanting to go forward or whatever (and she bucks nasty, totally sunfishes when she does). I wasn’t too eager to climb back on after having gotten hurt and focused on getting Mitch back into work and let her sit (while still walking her and putting her in the round pen) until I was ready. Which never came. She’s been diagnosed with DSLD since then and I won’t ever ride her because I’m not going to put that weight on her. I thought it was time to let her go 2.5 years ago, but she rallied and since last year, I had to start ponying her because she was getting so strong in her handwalks, I needed my other horse to keep up. She gets ponied twice a week, walked the other days and usually visits the round pen (not for lunging or anything, but she loves the soft sand in there to roll—yesterday she rolled both sides and got in a good body shake after getting up) a few times a week. She’s got the attitude of a horse who’s got plenty left to live for in this world, especially around some geldings. She gets quite a bit of senior and a joint supplement. I’m currently giving her some of Horse Guard’s hoof and hair supplement because I won a bag in a drawing for watching a livestream questionnaire and didn’t want to give it to my gelding because of the soy. She’s in her late 20s, early 30s as far as anyone has been able to guess as she’s unpapered. Even going by the age I was originally told years ago, she’d still be in her mid 20s.

I think for me, the day my horses stop letting me halter them, stop meeting me at the gate and start turning away from me because they know they’re going to go out and work (well, Mitch anyway) is the day I know they’re done. When they start showing a sour disposition about being saddled, and act cranky about going out on an adventure, I’ll know they’re ready to call it quits. If Jet stops trying to get ahead of Mitch while being ponied and just follows along blindly, I’ll know she doesn’t want to do that anymore.

But every horse is different and I can only say for my two, having known them for so many years; 13 in Mitch’s case, 14 for Jet (but I’ve only had her 10 years) that I know they’ve still got years ahead. Jet shows no signs of quitting and I’m perfectly happy to let her just be a horse; her job is simple — keep Mitch company in life and go out for a walk with us twice a week. She’s physically not capable of carrying my weight which is the only reason why I don’t ride her, and I think she’d be great for my nephews (but alas, of them all, only the one and a half year old likes horses and he’s not ready to ride yet).
 

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I think you hold off on fully retiring as long as you can to keep them in shape. I would stop asking for proper collection and headset if it becomes too stressful for him. If he's getting too stiff and sore doing that then just ride him naturally and do the level that he's comfortable with.

20 was old for a horse a long time ago but anymore - they can be ridden years past that....
 

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The best thing you can do for an aging horse is to keep them moving for as long as possible - even if it's just walking rides. It helps to keep the joints going, especially when arthritis becomes a concern. I had a 10 year old mare with hock arthritis and the vet told us to either walk, pony, or ride her as much as possible, just at a walk, to help keep her hocks moving.

I think 20 is nothing for most horses (without any medical issues or with managed medical issues). I have a 23 year old gelding who waits at the gate when he knows I'm there, and just isn't happy if he isn't being worked. Lately he's mainly been SO's horse to ride (w/t), but I've been getting on him regularly now and doing 'real' work with him (w/t/c, leg yields, pole work, jumping, etc) because it keeps him happy and keeps his body healthy. I truly do think if I keep him going, he will stay healthy and fit longer, and be more comfortable as he ages.

I knew a 32 year old mare that still went on regular walking trail rides with her owner, pretty much up to the day she was put to rest. This mare had an extreme sway back and struggled with her weight sometimes, but she perked up every single time she went on a trail ride.
 

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You could try him on Previcoxx/Equioxx for a while and see if he seems more willing. He may have some general age-related stiffness happening. My horse, while not lame off of it, is much more comfortable and willing to work when she's on it. She's turning 24 this year and is still ridden 4-6 times a week, doing WTC, lateral work, flying changes, etc. She moves really well on it and has no side effects from it!

The main side effect is that it can be too much for some horses with sensitive stomachs, but a lot of them do just fine on a low daily maintenance dose. It's inexpensive, and if trying it for six or eight weeks or so makes no noticeable difference, you could always stop. You would need to discuss it with your vet and get it through them, obviously, but it can be a real game changer!
 

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20 is not old today for a horse who is cared for and fed correctly.
We are not sure of the age of one of mine but the vet suspects we are fast approaching 30...
The horse has more energy and go than many half his age.
Spring in his step, runs around playing with the younger set who range from 5 - 15. They quit playing long before he wants to.

You mention "clumsy"...
I look at his feet and see a problem with their angle and toe length that would make my horse "clumsy"...
My horse would trip and be clumsy if his feet were that long & at that angle...sorry.
Look closely at the daily things if your horse is exhibiting signs of him not doing so well..

Lame from a injury or bruise is not the same thing as lameness from a body failing or falling apart.

If the horse is not "perky" I would be looking at his diet to see if he might be missing some needed elements of food.
He might not feel the greatest if his body is depleted of certain needed vitamin or minerals.
His being winded is often because out of condition has happened...no different than us humans...
I get winded if I couch-potato then put myself to to long and hard a task done.

I agree with your trainer... your horse has a appearance in that picture shown of a horse in his prime not one struggling.
But, you have to be realistic and meet the animal half way in approach.
If you're not riding consistently, then the animals physical condition is going to change and it happens fast.
Yes, as we age it takes us longer to get back in shape but the animal can and can maintain it too yet I bet.
To retire now....have a vet come do a evaluation of the animal and let that professional tell you if the horse needs retired because of age related issues or is it what you describe because you changed how often you ride and exercise and what is your exercise program shared with the animal...
No athlete just stays in tip-top condition without daily working at that level of fitness kept...that description fits any horse, yours included.
🐴
 

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Horse joints can click and be meaningless. Young horses can have joints that click.
Yup. Mav’s do this and he is only almost 7 and he feels great, loves to go out on adventures.

Dixie is 20. She doesn’t look it, but she does let me know when I do too much work with her and it makes her a little stiff. I will notice it because she will be more hesitant to pick up and hold up her feet and to stretch her legs out.
He does not sound ready to retire to me. ;)
 

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There's a difference between retiring a horse and using them more lightly. I don't read anything in your post that makes me think retirement.

Horse joints can click and be meaningless. Young horses can have joints that click.

You say he is sound. I suspect his lack of willingness to work is because of things other than age. Your posts seem to indicate there is no slow progression into work. Meaning if a horse is sitting around for a while, it is not fair to then take him out and do a hard workout. If your horse is breathing hard, he is not in condition for the work.

A nice long ride or gallop is something you earn through many regular shorter, slow rides. Stiffness sounds like arthritis, which is benefited by regular exercise. But not by an intermittent gallop when out of shape.

Another reason a horse might not want to work is if you are only taking him out to be ridden or worked, and there is nothing positive in it for him. If you stop for a rest and let him graze, or take him for a hand walk to sight see he will enjoy going out more.
Over last year I brought him into work gradually because before that he was only ridden in holidays. I didn’t even canter him for a long time. Through last year I rode him almost every day but now because of school I won’t be riding him until holidays or maybe some weekends. In those times I don’t do much, short easy rides and in the holidays I slowly bring it up again.

I have tried hand walking him, ponying him, letting him graze but it doesn’t seem to make him more willing.

Since I’m not able to keep him got what should I be doing? It’s been 5 weeks since I last rode him and maybe next week I’ll ride them it will prove another 4 weeks. He also doesn’t get his calcium when I’m not around.
 

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The horse will let you know when it’s time. I’ve never really had a ‘retired’ horse until my mare, and even then, she’s only retired from riding.

My first horse, my big red heart horse I got when he was 18 and I was a young Pony Clubber. I had him for 12 years and just about aged out of juniors with him. He stopped jumping when he was in his mid 20s but it wasn’t because he was done, school was getting in the way for me and I was just riding for fun at that point. He did slow down a lot towards the last few where of his life, but that horse had go. He was riding sound right till the end, and if he hadn’t colicked, I might had had him a few more years after that. He was pretty easy in the supplement department, mainly got a lot of senior feed and that was about it.

My current gelding, the Mightiest of Mitches, will be 22 next week. I’ve had him since he was 8 and there really hasn’t been much change in him in all that time. Lil stinker can still buck a good one (although he tends to just pop up and down and not thrown himself around so it’s always been easy to ride it out). He has mellowed over the years, but he’s still got chutzpah. I did start him in a joint supplement that’s in cookie form this year, he never indicated he needed it before (has never put a foot wrong as long as I’ve had him knocks wood) but I figured the joint supplement can’t hurt since he’s still going out and getting about. Probably helps that he’s a stout not-quite-a-chunk. Good solid legs and stuff. He’s easy to supplement. Gets a handful of pellets as a carrier for his multi-vitamin, flax and his chondroitin and glucosamine. He’s mostly trail ridden as neither of us are terribly fond of arena work. I usually do one or two loops of the barn trails three times a week. We stay on the flat/lower trails on days we pony the mare.

My mare “retired” 5 years ago. Part of the reason was I broke my femur at the knee in May 2015 and was out the rest of the year, and they both had that time off. She’d been a bit resistant to work prior to that and I think it was because of the development of her current condition. She will buck and buck hard as a way of shutting down if there’s something she doesn’t like, whether it’s saddle fit or not wanting to go forward or whatever (and she bucks nasty, totally sunfishes when she does). I wasn’t too eager to climb back on after having gotten hurt and focused on getting Mitch back into work and let her sit (while still walking her and putting her in the round pen) until I was ready. Which never came. She’s been diagnosed with DSLD since then and I won’t ever ride her because I’m not going to put that weight on her. I thought it was time to let her go 2.5 years ago, but she rallied and since last year, I had to start ponying her because she was getting so strong in her handwalks, I needed my other horse to keep up. She gets ponied twice a week, walked the other days and usually visits the round pen (not for lunging or anything, but she loves the soft sand in there to roll—yesterday she rolled both sides and got in a good body shake after getting up) a few times a week. She’s got the attitude of a horse who’s got plenty left to live for in this world, especially around some geldings. She gets quite a bit of senior and a joint supplement. I’m currently giving her some of Horse Guard’s hoof and hair supplement because I won a bag in a drawing for watching a livestream questionnaire and didn’t want to give it to my gelding because of the soy. She’s in her late 20s, early 30s as far as anyone has been able to guess as she’s unpapered. Even going by the age I was originally told years ago, she’d still be in her mid 20s.

I think for me, the day my horses stop letting me halter them, stop meeting me at the gate and start turning away from me because they know they’re going to go out and work (well, Mitch anyway) is the day I know they’re done. When they start showing a sour disposition about being saddled, and act cranky about going out on an adventure, I’ll know they’re ready to call it quits. If Jet stops trying to get ahead of Mitch while being ponied and just follows along blindly, I’ll know she doesn’t want to do that anymore.

But every horse is different and I can only say for my two, having known them for so many years; 13 in Mitch’s case, 14 for Jet (but I’ve only had her 10 years) that I know they’ve still got years ahead. Jet shows no signs of quitting and I’m perfectly happy to let her just be a horse; her job is simple — keep Mitch company in life and go out for a walk with us twice a week. She’s physically not capable of carrying my weight which is the only reason why I don’t ride her, and I think she’d be great for my nephews (but alas, of them all, only the one and a half year old likes horses and he’s not ready to ride yet).
Jake has never been cranky before riding, he never comes when I’ve got a bridle in my hands but he doesn’t walk away either. Thanks for the information
 

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I think you hold off on fully retiring as long as you can to keep them in shape. I would stop asking for proper collection and headset if it becomes too stressful for him. If he's getting too stiff and sore doing that then just ride him naturally and do the level that he's comfortable with.

20 was old for a horse a long time ago but anymore - they can be ridden years past that....
Now due to school he’s only being ridden once a month or even less. When the holidays come back I’ll be riding most days. I’m thinking of boarding him in the city so he can be lunged at the least and maybe ridden
 

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You could try him on Previcoxx/Equioxx for a while and see if he seems more willing. He may have some general age-related stiffness happening. My horse, while not lame off of it, is much more comfortable and willing to work when she's on it. She's turning 24 this year and is still ridden 4-6 times a week, doing WTC, lateral work, flying changes, etc. She moves really well on it and has no side effects from it!

The main side effect is that it can be too much for some horses with sensitive stomachs, but a lot of them do just fine on a low daily maintenance dose. It's inexpensive, and if trying it for six or eight weeks or so makes no noticeable difference, you could always stop. You would need to discuss it with your vet and get it through them, obviously, but it can be a real game changer!
Thanks! I’ll see the farrier before I see the vet so I guess it’s worth bringing it up with him since he’s been around horses for 60+ years
 

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Thanks
20 is not old today for a horse who is cared for and fed correctly.
We are not sure of the age of one of mine but the vet suspects we are fast approaching 30...
The horse has more energy and go than many half his age.
Spring in his step, runs around playing with the younger set who range from 5 - 15. They quit playing long before he wants to.

You mention "clumsy"...
I look at his feet and see a problem with their angle and toe length that would make my horse "clumsy"...
My horse would trip and be clumsy if his feet were that long & at that angle...sorry.
Look closely at the daily things if your horse is exhibiting signs of him not doing so well..

Lame from a injury or bruise is not the same thing as lameness from a body failing or falling apart.

If the horse is not "perky" I would be looking at his diet to see if he might be missing some needed elements of food.
He might not feel the greatest if his body is depleted of certain needed vitamin or minerals.
His being winded is often because out of condition has happened...no different than us humans...
I get winded if I couch-potato then put myself to to long and hard a task done.

I agree with your trainer... your horse has a appearance in that picture shown of a horse in his prime not one struggling.
But, you have to be realistic and meet the animal half way in approach.
If you're not riding consistently, then the animals physical condition is going to change and it happens fast.
Yes, as we age it takes us longer to get back in shape but the animal can and can maintain it too yet I bet.
To retire now....have a vet come do a evaluation of the animal and let that professional tell you if the horse needs retired because of age related issues or is it what you describe because you changed how often you ride and exercise and what is your exercise program shared with the animal...
No athlete just stays in tip-top condition without daily working at that level of fitness kept...that description fits any horse, yours included.
🐴
thanks heaps for the information.
The farrier comes every 6 weeks and hasn’t seen anything weird. He is a bit pussy footed but after we put shoes on he improved a bit. The only other thing with his hooves are that they’re dry and sometimes have little cracks so, when I can, I oil them.

When I am with Jake he is well cared for and fed but I’m now back at school after being away all of last year so I’m not with Jake and none of my family is. Our horses can get bossy at feed time so I don’t want to ask my inexperienced neighbour to feed them for me and I dknt want her in Jake either.

My coach changed jakes feed while he stayed with him for a while and that made a change but my coach is very cocky and wants to keep his recipe secret. I feel jakes best years were they year before last and the one before that.

I’d like to bring Jake down to the city so I can work with him but the prices here are too high.
 

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Over last year I brought him into work gradually because before that he was only ridden in holidays. I didn’t even canter him for a long time. Through last year I rode him almost every day but now because of school I won’t be riding him until holidays or maybe some weekends. In those times I don’t do much, short easy rides and in the holidays I slowly bring it up again.

I have tried hand walking him, ponying him, letting him graze but it doesn’t seem to make him more willing.

Since I’m not able to keep him got what should I be doing? It’s been 5 weeks since I last rode him and maybe next week I’ll ride them it will prove another 4 weeks. He also doesn’t get his calcium when I’m not around.
If you're only riding every 4-6 weeks, when you do ride now I'd say only do easy, short rides until you have time to get him gradually into shape again.
A short, easy ride would be something like going in a straight line or a very big circle for a half hour, mostly walking and maybe just several minutes of trotting and a short canter.

A month ago you said this:

"He’s 19, I normally do 15 min of walk and flexion. 15 min trot both directions then either stay in the trot or canter, turns on the forehand and hindquarters, then 15 min walk. What happens in the middle part changes depending on what I feel like. Some days I’ll just work on roll backs and slides, some day’s I’ll just work on his jog. I usually ride for 1 hour to 1 1/2, trail rides on Friday or Saturday are 3 hours with walk for the first hour."

That does not sound like a horse slowing down at all. Being ridden for an hour and a half daily plus three hour rides two days a week? That's a serious work schedule. At 19, doing fifteen minutes straight of roll backs and slides, plus turns on forehand and hindquarters could be making him very sore, especially if you're doing this day after day without days in between to recover. That would be I suspect why he might seem stiff at times and also not entirely willing to head out to do it again. He's thinking each time you take him out he might be doing a half marathon.

Imagine if this was you, on an exercise program. The equivalent might be that on Sunday through Thursday you walk two miles, then run two miles, then sprint several times around the track. Then on Friday and Saturday you walk three miles, and then run a half marathon. Are you ready on Sunday to get back out there again? You'd probably be very sore even if you do it every week. Now imagine you're 60 years old and still doing this. People would think you were a crazy super athlete. So is your horse. He's not ready to retire, but he might need backing off to a more realistic training schedule.
 

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Thanks for explaining it like that gottatrot. Even though Jake is doing all that he’s not doing it any where near as well as he used to. He’s stiff in the slide and back up.

I don’t plan on doing much with him when I ride next though I’d like to do lots. I try making his rides fun for him, he absolutely loves the trails but since I’m away from him I can’t do that and when I’m with him in weekends it’s too stressful taking him out. My riding friend is recovering from a broken back so she can’t ride Jake.

I’m really glad to hear you guys don’t think he’s needing to retire soon because I love him to bits and wang to ride him as long as I can but being in experiences with old horses I wanted to here from you guys.
Thanks
 

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AJ, think you are missing the point of what some of us are saying...
Jake is now out of condition with you being back at school and him sitting around as much as he is.
When you do ride him remember his stamina and muscles are not what they were even 2 months ago because of the immense inactivity.
For this reason, back off some and cut that ride time and amount you demand by 1/3 less......yes, less.
You can not go run that marathon well when you have not trained for it daily and that is what you are doing to Jake, making him run a marathon with minimal endurance training now.
Jake is also older and it takes older a bit more effort to accomplish the same things we did when younger.
Older does not mean he needs retired either...tweaking of his workout by you is indeed needed and your job.
Ask your grandparents if they can still do the same tasks today they did when 25, at the same pace and as often and see what the answer is...that also goes for Jake.
He's not old, but your idea of what is a "easy workout" needs updating with cold-hard facts of what you expect this athlete of a animal to do when it is you who has removed his ability to keep as fit as he needs to be then blames it on him...
You left to go to school, and now see and ride infrequently but hard on him those rides are...back-off the time, the intensity and your horses attitude and chipper pep in his step might return when he is not so body sore from trying to do your requests of athletic endeavors.

As for his feet, it is wonderful the farrier is out as often as they are but the work is a issue when completed.
My opinion, but...those feet need some better attention done to them, for the horse.
His feet are compounding some of the problems you have described.
Long toes, angles off from what the horse is built to need is not helping Jake to not be clumsy, it makes it worse and in reality jeopardizes his tendons and ligaments from injury sustained aside from if his clumsy also includes tripping it could be a crash for you or both of you.
Good feet don't come from painting a oil on them, they come from good nutrition and farrier work.
Don't let the "shiny" fool your eyes...
🐴...
 

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He doesn’t sound in need of retiring at all. The opposite in fact. He just needs to be worked regularly in order to stay in condition, as the others have already stated.

We have two geldings, a 20 year old and a 23 year old. And let me tell ya, they have more energy than any horse I’ve ever met! So forward and full of pep it’s crazy. For their age, that is. The 23 year hates not being ridden multiple times a week and will sulk. He will sulk if we just work on walking and trotting. He sulks if we just bring him in to groom. He LOVES to canter, and boy can he ever! He does have a bad knee so I have to be careful about how much I do to prevent swelling and stiffness but we work around it just fine. The 20 year old is not a “let sit and hop on a month later” type of horse. He MUST be worked regularly if I want to semi relax while riding him. He’s a nervous horse and pretty difficult to get going smoothly again once you take a break. When he’s being worked regularly he’s a fun horse that’s full of energy and maybe even a little trustworthy.

They aren’t old in my opinion. They love to be worked, and I will continue to work them until I have to stop when they start having health issues with it or go completely lame or something. If I retired both of them right now, I would have done very angry horses!
 
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