finance friday · horse finances · retirement · Uncategorized

Equine Retirement Survey

September’s Finance Friday will be about equine retirement, and I’d like to gather a great deal more information than I have so far.

I’ve created a survey in Google Forms.

If you have ever retired a horse, or ever thought about or planned to retire a horse, could you go fill it out for me?

Could you also share it as widely as possible so I can get tons of responses?



Link to Equine Retirement Survey

retirement · Uncategorized

What questions to ask of a retirement situation?

One of my goals for 2018 is to investigate retirement situations for Tristan. To be clear, he’s in fine health, sound, and working happily – but he’s also 23 years old, and I’m going to need a lot of time to emotionally transition to his retirement. I know this about myself, and I’m trying to reassure my brain by doing as much thinking and research as possible.

I’ve reached out to a few farms and have heard back from one. My ideal situation would be to keep him here in Vermont, somewhere that I can visit a few times a month. Or daily. You know, whenever I have the kind of emotional breakdown only he can fix.

While Tristan used to be the world’s easiest horse to manage – he lived out 24/7 in Vermont without a stitch of clothing and was happy and fat – with age he has become considerably less so. In the last few years he’s needed careful blanketing in the winter, maintenance medication, and has come to quite enjoy his stall. (He has a regular nap time. Woe to me if I decided to ride during that nap time.)

Could he transition back to a more rough & tumble field board lifestyle? I don’t know. I need to work on figuring that out. Does he really need blanket changes? If he does, can I commit myself to doing them, or do I need to find a situation that will do them? Can I find somewhere within my vet’s radius?

My ideal situation would be somewhere within an hour’s drive, a small private farm, where I can work with the owner, help pay their mortgage, and Tris can be a good companion for their own horse(s). I’m hoping that by starting early I can seek out that right fit.

I’m putting together a list of questions I need to ask both myself and potential barns, and would appreciate any additional ideas you have!

  • How much is board? What does it include? Farrier, holding for vet, hay, grain, blanketing, grooming?
  • Are there stalls available? Do you have any horses that are regularly stalled?
  • How often are you hands-on with the horses?
  • Do you have visiting hours?
  • Do you provide updates? If so, how?
  • Could you share references from other retirement boarders?
  • If there are riding facilities, am I allowed to use them if I want to hop on?

That’s what I’ve got so far. Any other suggestions?

retirement · senior horse

When Should I Retire My Horse?

I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time. Probably close to a year. I’ve gotten closer and closer to saying it out loud, writing it down, putting it out there for consumption by the universe.

How do I know when it’s time to retire Tristan?

2015 will come with some big changes, and 2014 had a lot of challenges. Put those two things together and it’s been on my mind more and more.

I know a few things for sure.
I don’t want to wait until he is permanently unsound, unhealthy, or unhappy. I don’t want the decision taken out of my hands. I want him to be comfortable and happy when he retires, and I want the option of getting on bareback for a walk around the field with my best friend. I don’t want to watch him suffer.
I want to retire him with me, on my own property. I want him to be there every morning and every night, and when the time comes, I want to bury him somewhere I can visit. I want to do everything I can for him with my own two hands.
I want to keep riding after I retire him. That will mean a second horse, and it will mean I have to bring him home. 
I know he will be happy in retirement. He will not be one of those horses who paces the fenceline, who gets jealous when the trailer pulls away without him, who nickers for me to come visit. He has always been very much his own creature. He spent over half his life completely on his own. I know he loves me, but I also know that he does not live for his work. He would be happy to be retired to a field tomorrow.
I’m not ready yet. He needs at least light work to keep him sound and happy right now, until he can have a large field to walk around all day. He needs the physical fitness that quality dressage work provides. It keeps him loose and limber and comfortable. And I’m not ready to stop riding him. He turns 20 this year, and there’s no reason he won’t be sound and comfortable for many years yet, and I need my best friend still.
So what’s next?
I started thinking about this almost a year ago, at the end of last winter. I can remember the precise moment when I relinquished ambition for us as a team – it was at the VERDA ride where I crewed for Hannah last summer. Every other time I’d chatted to endurance/CTR people, and they learned I have a mustang, they’d say “Oh, you should do CTRs!” and I agreed, at least in principle – I really did want to do that with him. Last summer, it was like someone else took over my mouth, and I said, “No, it’s not for him anymore. Maybe my next horse.”
Then at the Vermont Moonlight, someone asked again, and again, it was like someone took over my mouth, and I said “He’s semi-retired now, actually.”
I was surprised to hear myself say that, as it wasn’t something I’d actively been thinking, but I’ve been thinking about it more and more. There’s light work that means you’re rehabbing, or busy in your own life, or planning some downtime. And then there’s light work that doesn’t lead to anything – it’s enjoyable for its own end, but it’s simply keeping you both happy and fit and together.
Sometime over the summer, I realized we were in the second category. I started saying it more often out loud: he’s semi-retired now. He’s older. He’s in light to moderate work. He’s never going to fox hunt, or do a CTR, or event. We’ll do some dressage, we’ll trail ride, we’ll work on being a team together, but I don’t have any goals for us, and I’m okay with that.
So what’s the next step? I don’t know. I’m in a weird in-between place. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing, working on fitness and suppleness and fine-tuning what we’ve always worked on. I’ll keep managing his Cushings, and his foot, and his allergies, and his mental state. I don’t feel an itch to do more. When I start to feel that, maybe it will be time. When I start to feel like he’s nearing another milestone, maybe it will be time. 
Until then, stay tuned, I guess.