I got yet another email today from someone looking for a “forever” home for a 24 year old mare. It seems like I get at least one a week now.
The good news is that people are trying to find homes for their horses. The bad news is that they are not really accepting responsibility for the long-term health and comfort of their horse and this makes me angry.
Yes, there are a few “companion” or light riding homes out there, but for the most part I think it’s irresponsible to ask someone else to take on the care, feeding and increasing maintenance costs of a horse that you loved and rode until it was too old to keep doing its job.
When senior horses are advertised on Craig’s list for short money (or for free) their prospects aren’t good. Most of these horses do not enjoy their retirement years on green pastures. Instead, they are shipped off to auction.
Even owners who put “buy back” clauses into their sales contracts often find that their old friend has been sold on without a call to an unknown fate. There’s a sad story today on the Chronicle of the Horse about a much-loved lesson horse that was shipped to New Holland. Sadly, although this is a horse that some people wanted to retire, he most likely went to slaughter.
So what should owners do with their senior horses? The best situation is when they can live out their years in the owner’s back pasture. However, that’s a scenario that doesn’t exist for many horse owners. Retirement farms are an option for those who have owners that have the means to support them. As with any boarding situation, you need to be careful to ensure that the care is good. Typically, these aren’t terribly expensive facilities as the horses (hopefully) spend most of their time out grazing, generally are barefoot and live out their lives as horses in a herd. For those owners who can’t afford to board out their horses until they pass from old age, perhaps they should consider euthanasia rather than asking another to support their horse in its dotage. While it sounds cold, given the uncertain quality of life for an older horse that is sold to an unknown future, it may be a better option.
Here’s a Website with a list of retirement facilities for horses.
This site covers options for owners.