Give Your Horse a Happy Retirement
“The closest thing to being cared for is to care for someone else.”– Carson McCullers
May we speak for a moment about responsibility? I don’t want to sound like your mother…well, maybe I do.
Here’s the thing—I regularly get phone calls, messages, or emails that go something like this: “I have a twenty-something-year-old senior horse with Cushing’s, laminitis, arthritis or (insert any old-age related health issue) and I can’t afford to keep him and get another, younger horse. Do you know anyone who would want him, maybe for a companion animal? He’s still sound enough for kids to ride. Oh, and how much should I ask for him?” Ack! I try to be kind in my responses, but it’s getting more difficult as the years roll by and I hear this scenario repeatedly.
Trust me, I understand. I get the economics of horse ownership and how difficult it is to make ends meet, especially in these days of high prices. I know the excitement of bringing a young horse along. I’ve retired several old horses over the years, so I’ve been there. But here’s the thing—we signed on for this when we purchased that horse. As with a puppy, kitten, or any other animal, a horse is a responsibility that can last years, and they don’t get less expensive as they age—quite the opposite in fact.
It’s important to think about how you are going to handle your horse’s old age. Have a plan in place before you buy. If you have the place and can retire them at home, that’s often a wonderful option. Old horses are a gift to spend time with. Their age often brings wisdom and being in their presence is easy and comfortable. Like old people, they can get quirky and funny and laughing is good for our health. I believe that what we give comes back to us.
And when the time comes that we must say goodbye, give your old horse a dignified end with as little pain as possible. It’s the hardest thing, losing a dear friend, but it’s our responsibility to see them off well.
Enjoy our winning Senior Horse Contest essays in this issue. It’s obvious how much these quirky old horses are loved by their owners.
Kim Roe grew up riding on the family ranch and competed in Western rail classes, trail horse, reining, working cow, and hunter/jumper. She trained her first horse for money at 12 years old, starting a pony for a neighbor.
Kim has been a professional dressage instructor in Washington state for over 30 years, training hundreds of horses and students through the levels. In recent years Kim has become involved in Working Equitation and is a small ‘r’ Working Equitation judge with WE United.
Kim is the editor of the Northwest Horse Source Magazine, and also a writer, photographer, and poet. She owns and manages Blue Gate Farm in Deming, Washington where she continues to be passionate about helping horses and riders in many disciplines.