Duty Honor And Responsibility…Caring For Your Senior Horse Til The End
It is likely not a surprise that approximately half of our owner surrender requests that we receive are not due to financial hardship, physical limitations of the owner, or unintentional neglect–but rather simply that a horse has aged beyond the years of being a riding companion or has become injured and no longer rideable.
Horses, compared to other livestock and companion animals, have relatively long life spans, often living into their late 20s and early 30s. Many horses have productive careers into their 20s. In fact, in many disciplines, horses do not peak until their teenage years. Good nutrition, maintenance, and veterinary care have allowed horses to lead longer and more productive lives. However, as the horse ages, its needs change, and additional care may be required to keep the horse as healthy as possible.
What do we call this additional care? Responsible Ownership. When an individual decides to add a horse to their family, they need to realize that horses often live to 35 years or beyond. Senior care typically begins in the 20’s. In other words—the senior care time span for a horse exceeds the average lifespan of a dog from birth to death. Owners must understand, discuss and accept this to be RESPONSIBLE owners.
There is simply nothing sadder than an old horse for sale. Owners may feel they are doing justice to their horse by reaching out to a rescue or to a therapeutic riding facility. In reality, though it is a selfish act–requesting donors and volunteers to provide space and financial resources to a horse that they can aptly care for (and who they truly should love). That space belongs to the horses who are in dire straits. It belongs to horses who would die without the aid of rescue. It belongs to horses who have nowhere else to go and no other options.
Many of us as children read Black Beauty. The novel has a lesson that must be remembered as adult horse owners.
- The world is not a kind place for animals, and every time a horse changes hands, its circumstances are likely to worsen.
- We owe our horses a good retirement — however we can make it happen.
Before you consider rehoming your senior horse, selling your senior horse, or reaching out to an organization to take your senior horse, be sure to ask yourself these important questions:
“Who is going to buy my horse?”
“Who’s going to love and care for my horse more than me?”
“My horse was my faithful companion, and I spent countless hours forming a bond with him/her in training. Will he truly be better off with the strangers?”
“Will my horse have the potential to find love again, or will my horse just be an old horse to whoever he or she goes to next?”
After you’ve run through these questions, your resolve should be that you are the best option for your senior. But, then there is one final question that you really need to ask yourself…
“What example am I setting for my children?” The answer to that we’ll give to you. If you decide to dump your senior horse the example is that seniors are expendable (and that will include you when you can’t take care of yourself in old age). The example you are setting is that love is not a value. Selfishness is a value you are teaching, and that the only use anything has is what it can do for me today. You are teaching that living, feeling, breathing, caring creatures should be discarded as an obsolete inanimate object.
Hopefully you will make the right choice. The right choice is truly rewarding. There is nothing more sacred and special than being there for your senior, and allowing them to grow old wrapped in the arms that love them. Their relationship with you may change–in fact, it may deepen to a level that you never even expected. The quiet times and peaceful moments will increase. The therapeutic companionship you will enjoy with your horse will grow. You may find yourself adjusting feed routines and supplement routines and having more frequent veterinary visits, but in all of that the bond that is created continues to grow. It is a different bond than when your horse was trying to learn what you wanted it to do. You’ll become a kind and compassionate leader in a whole new way. Your horse will learn that the unconditional love they have for you is also returned by you to him. When this realization happens, there is nothing sweeter.