Planning Ahead for Your Aging Equine Partner

Part Two: Selecting a Retirement Facility

When the time comes to retire your competition partner, what options are available to ensure that he can live out his last years in comfort? Many facilities exist to board pleasure and competition horses but only a few offer true retirement services for our trusted companions. What things should you look for when trying to find the very best retirement facility for your horse?

Here are some questions to consider when planning for your horse’s retirement and how to select a facility.

How is a retirement farm different than a typical boarding facility?

A retirement facility specializes in boarding retired horses, and offers unique services that cater to the needs of older horses or those who are no longer able to work or compete.  Most retirement farms do not have lesson or training programs so they can prioritize the needs of their retirees.

What should I look for in a retirement facility specifically?

Consider looking at farms located on large properties that offer plenty of turnout as retired horses typically live outside fulltime. Farms should offer large, grassy pastures with amply-sized run-in sheds for weather protection. Ensure that the facility offers quality hay when grass is not available during winter months. Shade trees help keep outdoor horses cool, and fencing should be sturdy and safe.  Facilities should offer stalls for injured horses or for those who cannot live outside 24/7.

Choose a facility with knowledgeable staff that can customize its care for the specific needs of your horse including his feed, shoeing, veterinary care, medication, and other unique requests. Because weight challenges are common among older horses a quality feed program that can cater to individual needs including administering supplements and medications is important. Keep in mind that some services may come with an added cost

Why are retirement farms better for my aged horse?

Quality retirement farms pay attention to the special needs of aged horses and modify their services to accommodate those needs. To prevent stiffness, retirees may live outside rather than in a stall, allowing them to move around freely, stretch, and keep their joints loose.  Additionally, being herd animals, socializing in a large pasture with other horses is essential for their quality of life. 

Older horses who have special dietary needs can receive more individualized meal plans catered to the needs of their joints, teeth, weight, and overall health. 

Finally, many horse horses may have age-related aches, pains, and injuries that may require medication or special care. Retirement facility staff should be familiar with and willing to accommodate individual care requirements.

Are there other things an owner should consider when retiring his/her horse?

When considering a retirement facility for your horse, seek references from the vet, farrier, or other boarders.  Ask the staff what services are available and included in the board price.  Be sure to mention any specific needs of your horse and ensure that management can and will manage those issues properly. Tour the facility to see for yourself where your horse will be spending his time.  If you are sending your horse to a facility that is not nearby, ask if the facility is able to send photos and routine updates while you are away. Finally, talk with staff about what happens when your horse’s health begins to decline.  You will want to trust that they have your horse’s best interest in mind when that time comes.

Sample Questions to Ask an Equine Retirement Facility Owner

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