When Should I Retire My Horse?

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The decision to retire a horse can be complex. For some horses, a gradual decline after many years of riding and competing signals the time for retirement; for others, a sudden illness or injury may halt their career earlier than expected.

Choosing to retire a horse should take into consideration their physical, mental, and social needs. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to retiring a horse and the transition to retirement should be tailored to the individual.

Working with your veterinarian, farrier, and any other reputable equine practitioners whose advice you rely upon, will help you determine when your horse is ready to retire and what type of retirement will meet their needs.

In this article, we discuss the factors you should consider when retiring a horse.

Retiring a Horse

When we think of retirement, we often imagine our cherished senior horses spending their last years grazing happy in a field. However, retirement doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road for you and your horse.

With proper nutrition, quality veterinary, hoof, and dental care, shelter, socialisation, and appropriate exercise, your senior horse can thrive well into their late 20’s, and even start an entirely new and fulfilling career.

Retirement should be tailored to the individual, taking into consideration your horse’s health and soundness, attitude, athletic ability, and the resources you have available to provide them with optimum ongoing care.

The decisions of when and how to retire a horse should evaluate:

  • Your horse’s physical needs – are they sound, are they able to maintain a healthy body condition score, have they suffered a serious illness or injury, are they still able to meet the athletic demands of your discipline, and so on.
  • Your horse’s mental needs – are they showing any reluctance to work, would they benefit from slowing down or switching careers, have they lost interest in competing, are they showing any problem behaviours, and so on.
  • Your horse’s social needs – do they have any pre-existing conditions that prevent them from being turned out with other horses, are their social needs being met in their current environment, and so on.

In some cases, retirement can rear its head suddenly if your horse suffers an illness or injury that limits them physically. For most horses, afflictions of age such as soundness issues and joint problems will force them to slow down.

Regardless, when the decision is made to retire a horse, you’ll need to adapt their health and nutrition regimen to suit their new lifestyle. This includes:

  • Feeding a daily ration that meets their needs for calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals to maintain a healthy body condition
  • Providing regular veterinary care, including twice yearly check-ups, and routine hoof, dental, vaccinations, and de-worming
  • Ensuring your horse has a quality of life that meets their physical, mental, and social needs, including interaction with other horses
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