As winter time sets in I always see posts for older horses for sale. Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate when people put old horses free to good home, as soon as their prime years are up and the weathers getting cold. It rips at my heart every time I see an older horse that will probably end up in a bad situation because someone decided they weren’t good enough anymore. Now I know that this isn’t always the case. Some people are really trying to do the best for their horse but this is a topic that I always want to tell people about. Selling or re-homing an older horse is a lot harder than selling a young horse in their prime. This is one of those topics I am very passionate about.
When buying a horse I believe you should always expect to keep them until it’s time for them to cross the rainbow bridge. It’s more realistic budget wise because a horse can be a 25+ year investment. When getting into horses, there is always a chance you will buy and sell a few as your abilities or priorities change. But for most of us working equestrians we can’t afford those nice fully trained horses. So many of us keep our horses for many, many years.
I kept Cash’s mom, Shay, until she passed at 20. It’s actually the reason I kept him because he was her last foal when we decided her breeding years were over. I’ll never forget the day I retired her completely at age 19 and sent her home. I’m lucky in the fact that when I was having to board my horses I never had to worry because I could always take them back home to my parents house. Shay got to live out her final days hanging out with her buddies and eating green grass in the pastures.
For a family the old horse is an amazing animal to bring up little kids with. I will always remember riding my dad’s old horse Miles. He was in his 20’s but he was patient and still loved all the attention of being ridden. He was calm and quiet and very rarely put a hoof wrong. The old horses have seen many more scary things and are more “bomb proof” then a typical five-year old. They are confidence boosters and are great “steady eddies,” to get someone going. Miles even took me on my first cross-country course. We didn’t jump higher than a straw bale but I’ll never forget that ride…and the terrifying hill we had to ride down! (Really it was tiny but oh man did it look huge then)
But what about the average person? The person who has to board a horse? I believe the majority of people I see giving old horses away is because they can’t afford the board due to buying another horse or the medical/extra feed expenses are becoming too much for them to handle financially.
1.) If this is the case one of the best scenarios I have found is to look into some of the equine-therapy places. A lot of these facilities take great care of senior horses (make sure to vet them first to ensure they are a great facility). They appreciate the donation of the horse and truly do whats right for the aging horse and those clients excel with equine therapy so you’re doing a great service to the community this way. And the horse still gets a lot of attention and love by many people every day! (At least the few I’ve worked with before)
2.) Try to find that family that is looking for that kids horse (if the horse can still be ridden). We’ve had horses before we swore we would never sell, and then that kid comes by to start taking lessons and just falls in love with the old horse. The horse loves the attention, the kid loves the horse, the parents are happy with a safe horse and its a happy day. That family will be better suited to him then just sitting in the pasture occasionally getting some scratches.
3.) Consider a reputable person who is looking for a companion horse. Before you let that horse go to them please, please, please ask around about the person, check out their facilities and their other horses if possible. Make sure the horses all look to be in good health, feet trimmed and all fat and sassy. Our family has had great success with older or injured horses that can’t be ridden any longer by finding great homes for the horse to just be a horse.
4.) Please for the love of horses, DO NOT send that horse through an auction. The chances here in the US is that he will be sent to slaughter and die a horrific death in Mexico or Canada. That horse does not deserve that! That horse has probably given you his best years and many moments of happiness. Please do not let his life end like that! If you’re in a pinch and need him gone now reach out the local horse community! You’ll be amazed at how generous we usually are and we can probably find a solution, even temporarily, until that horse can find a better place to live.
5.) I know people will probably get angry at this one, but consider peacefully euthanizing the horse. It sounds harsh but I have seen older horses that have been given away free to good home and been put in some horrible situations. If you have tried and failed to find a good home for the horse do not discount this. I’d rather have the horse’s life end peacefully at home then be sent somewhere unknown where they end up suffering for years before their time comes. Sometimes peacefully euthanizing a horse is the best possible thing for them.
IF you are bound and determined to sell him/her, reach out to the local trainers, or influential horse people and see if anyones looking for an older horse and knows how to care for them. This is one of the best ways to ensure the horse gets a good home.
Always know that in selling horses there is always a chance that horse will end up in a bad situation. I’ve seen some of the most heartbreaking situations of horses we have sold coming back nearly starved to death due to people refusing to swallow their pride and ask for help when times got tough. I’m not saying this to depress you it’s just a sad fact about selling horses.
However I have seen way more happy homes and happy horse owners then I have bad ones but I just want everyone to know the very real possibilities when selling horses , especially an older horse. If you are in this predicament I hope this article has helped.
Now I’m off to drink a glass of wine and relive some wonderful memories of the older horse I’ve been blessed with through out my life.
Until Next time!