Why a Retirement Farm?

Why Choose a Retirement Farm?

      Frequently, retired horses are moved to less expensive boarding operations, where the retiree can live in comfort at a reduced price, but these farms are geared to the local riders and boarders that are competing, and the retiree is not the focus.  The difference in life style and environment for the retired horse is ultimately extremely important for their health and happiness.  

What are the Components of Good Retirement Environment?
 
      Turn-out: The most basic, and most important, difference between operations at a barn oriented towards the riding horse and the retired horse is the turn out.  A riding horse is being kept in a manner to optimize their riding soundness, their exercise needs are met under saddle, and turnout is limited to the goal of keeping them mentally sound and physically protected. This means limited turnout without a companion that could hurt them in play.  A retired horse, on the other hand, is most in need of gentle exercise in his turnout arrangements, the opportunity for working up and down hills, the ability to canter freely across longer expanses and lots of hours in which to stretch and exercise.  The retired horse is still a horse, however, prone to sudden spooks and gallops and fencing safety must not be compromised.  The retired horse only “feels his age” towards the very end of his life and is every bit as likely to challenge unsafe fencing as his younger self would have been.
 
Dunewood and Cincinnati share a hay pile.

                     Dunewood and Cincinnati share a hay pile.

 

 

      Herd Mates: The most elemental joy of the retired horse is being free to re-establish the natural herd instinct to his life. This ability to just “be a horse” is what we most frequently deprive our riding horses.  Unwilling to expose them to the risks of rough play, we keep them in solitary turnout, and the schedule of a show barn with its coming and goings inhibits the ability of a horse to form his social bonds with his stablemates. One of the great joys of a retirement barn is seeing  horses growing in their natural attachment to their herd mates and one of the great time consuming elements of a good retirement farm is working to match up personalities and temperaments to allow kindred spirits to find each other. I am frequently surprised by the matches that do and do not work, but years of experience has enabled me to make educated guesses, and when the first match doesn’t click, we move on to another. I have yet to find the horse for whom we cannot find a turnout companion and one of my greatest joys is sitting on the porch watching herdmates rubbing each others’ withers, playing the gelding head game, or galloping across the pastures together in joyful, playful abandon.

 

Luxy and Luminous meet a newcomer.

                       Luxy and Luminous meet a newcomer.

 

      Comfort: Just like people, as horses age they frequently become more sensitive to extremes of hot and cold.  This is not the time to turn old Bess out in the pasture in any weather conditions to fend for herself.  If possible night turnout during the summer and, during the heat of the day,  being in their stalls with fans to give them shade, a breeze, and protection from flies is ideal.  During the cold of winter, the older horse needs a choice of heated or cold water, blanketing against the wind even though unclipped, and his stall for protection from ice and storms.

 

      Health:  While the riding horse’s health concerns concentrate primarily on soundness, older horses suffer more from low-level concerns that are not immediately obvious.  Teeth need greater attention, weight needs to be closely monitored, and as the horse ages, medication for old horse illnesses of Cushings, colitis, or thyroid levels may need to be dispensed.  The horse in a retirement barn is in an environment where old horse health issues take precedence.