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.
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.
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.