Retirement options for horses
If your horse is getting older and can’t participate at the level of riding they used to, it may be time to look for a retirement home. Many horses live into their 20’s, some even into their 30’s and they deserve a good home to spend the rest of their days. Consider the following questions to identify the setup in which your horse is most likely to thrive:
Does the level of care match your horse’s preferred lifestyle?
After all these years, you have a pretty clear notion of your horse’s needs. He may prefer to be outside all the time and get restless or sluggish if stuck in a stall. He may love being part of a herd in a large pasture. Your mare, on the other hand, could prefer sharing a small paddock and a stall at night. She may hate ponies. Identify the circumstances where your horse seems most relaxed and content, and search for a similar place.
Would you be content if your horse were in the same condition as the other horses at the place?
Older horses need the basics: good nutrition, adequate shelter, enough acreage, congenial social arrangements and preventive and attentive health care. When checking out a facility, look at the horses first. The horses don’t need to look sleek and shiny but if they’re bony and irritable and live in muck and mess, look for another farm. Keep in mind though, if most of the horses are over 20, they’ll have age-related physical changes that can be confused with signs of ill health or underfeeding.
How will you be involved in decisions regarding your horse’s care?
If you don’t have your own farm and don’t want to rent a pasture and/or stall and take care of your horse, then you’ll need to find a place that’ll meet your expectations. Make sure the boarding contract clearly delineates who is responsible for routine and emergency care. Some farms charge extra for anything beyond routine care; other farms include everything in the monthly board agreement.
If you live close by, you can check on your horse once a month or so. However, if your horse is located in another state or the distance is too great to visit often, ask for a regular monthly report, including photographs or video.
Is expertise available to ensure your horse a good quality of life?
Ask about vet care, dental care and regular hoof care, especially if your horse has chronic problems with founder, navicular disease or other conditions. Find out if there’s staff available for regular grooming, putting on blankets, wraps, clipping, for medicating and handling the horse when the vet and farrier are at the farm.
The special bond that forms between horse and rider over years of partnership usually compels owners to make sure their horse spend their last years at a comfortable farm. Your older horse might not need a fancy farm, but before you place him anywhere, make sure his needs will be met. Then, hopefully you’ll be relaxed and able to let your horse move on to a different home.