Planning Ahead for Your Aging Equine Partner

Part One: Options for Your Aging Equine Partner’s Future

Riders who have learned the fundamentals of riding atop a solid equine partner are often ready to advance while their horse is ready to wind-down his career. Though this is a natural progression, it is important to make appropriate plans for the future for your horse. There are many opportunities out there and it is important to research, plan, and weigh all the options.

When should I start planning?
Start thinking now about your aging horse’s future. Start thinking about what options are realistic for your horse as well as what costs may be involved. Retirement may or may not cost more than your current situation, depending on the needs of your horse. Plan ahead so you can be financially prepared to care for your horse throughout his older years.

What are some options for an aging equine partner’s future?

Many lesson program or equestrian colleges benefit from equine donations. College donations can be a tax write-off and you can visit/interview the school where your horse will live and work. Donated horses are typically well cared-for, and young riders can truly benefit from your horse’s expertise. However, be sure to inquire about what happens if/when your horse is no longer suitable for their program.

Rehoming a horse is different from selling in some ways. A prospective horse owner may offer to take the horse off your hands at little to no cost with the promise of a forever home.  While this sounds tempting, even the most well-meaning individual can fall on hard times, sending your horse down the road without notice. While there are successful rehoming situations, it might not provide you the most peace-of-mind.

Leasing your competition partner is an option that allows him to continue the work he loves but at a lower, more appropriate level for his age.  Since the horse is still under your ownership, it’s easy to identify lease parameters, manage his care and workload, and stay in touch on a regular basis.  Furthermore, depending on negotiations, a lease can help reduce your costs by passing some costs off to the leasee.

Locate a farm that can cater to an aged horse’s needs and let him live out his life in great, green pastures.  After years of service teaching and showing, your horse deserves to enjoy time as a retiree. Visit the USHJA's Equine Retirement Facilities listing as a resource for locating reputable retirement facilities for retired sport and competition horses. Learn more about equine retirement in Part Two next month!

While it is a difficult topic, there may come a time in your aging horse’s life when an injury, a medical condition or age may leave you feeling like you are running out of options to allow your horse to live comfortably.  Talk with your trainer and veterinarian to determine when end-of-life decisions should be made.

Looking out for the future of your equine partner is the ultimate gift for teaching you so many lessons in the saddle. Be kind and help him enjoy his last years to the fullest. Stay tuned for Part II of Planning Ahead for Your Aging Equine Partner, which will discuss selecting a retirement facility.

The USHJA Horse and Rider Advocates Committee understands the importance of ensuring that our horses can enjoy their golden years. The Equine Retirement Facilities listing is a resource for locating reputable retirement facilities for retired sport and competition horses. The directory is reviewed annually to ensure that all listed facilities are current and maintain industry standards for basic horse care. The HRA Committee encourages owners to investigate any boarding facility thoroughly, ask questions, and stay in routine contact with staff to ensure that your horse has the very best accommodations.

*Co-authored by Dayle Eldredge, an HRA Committee member and owner of Clark Haven Farm