Hi all. This is going to be a long post so I apologize. I am looking for some advice and maybe some support.
Short question: What would you do if you owned a horse for several years, whom has had many lameness issues and many other health issues, was making you have no desire to go to the barn or ride, but you couldn't seem to sell or get leased out?
Long story: I've owned this particular horse for several years who is probably not a great fit for me. I realized this about 6 months after buying him, was discussing selling him with my trainer at the time, and that is about when the first of his lameness's happened. Since then, we've been through several lameness issues and other health issues. I've never been able to compete at the level I had hoped. I've spent thousand of dollars trying to make the horse comfortable with vet appointments, imaging, special shoes, several different vets and farriers, Adequan/Legend/Pentosan, injections, chrio/massage, IRAP, ulcer treatments, colic issues, eye treatments, giving him an entire year off in a field without shoes to let time try to heal him, etc. I have finally, for probably the first time since I've owned him, been able to keep him sound for about a year ( knock on wood!!!) while in work 3-4 days a week. I haven't tried riding him more than that because honestly, it's very hard to even get motivated to ride him the 3-4 days a week consistently. I have put feelers out several times since owning him, both when he was sound to ride and just pasture sound, but given his history of lameness and that he's a smart, athletic guy who's on the smaller side, he's not the easiest to market and I have had no luck in finding a partial lease/full free lease/sale. I always want to do right by him, as it's not his fault he has these lameness's or health issues, so I won't let him go to a bad situation just to save a few bucks.
I work about 50 hours a week at a job that is not without stress and has drawbacks but is ok. It pays better than my previous jobs and allows me to afford my horse and keep him sound with Adequan (would love to use Pentosan since it's cheaper but it didn't work for him), oral supplements (I would also love to not spend $$ on this since there is no/minimal research but it really seems to help my horse) and corrective shoeing. The drawback of that is I don't have time to drive the 40 minutes to the barn daily to ride or take care of him, let alone work off board or lessons. I am also taking some additional education to further my career so I spend several hours a week in classes. I am going to have some big life changes in the next year or two (including more intense class work) that will hopefully push my career in a slightly different direction and allow for working less but making more money. During that time, it will make my budget even tighter than normal, as well as less time than I have now. I've thought about moving him to a barn that is closer as I often dread driving the 40 minutes to the barn to ride or take care of him (ie, deal with scratches/rain rot that he has every year in the snow/mudpocolypse, handle blanket changes, etc) but the barn I'm at is decent. They're great about lots of hay, lots of turnout, and good footing in the ring, which are huge perks for me, but not the best at letting me know if there is an issue, like a torn blanket, any cuts/injuries or a pulled shoe, and not great about barn maintenance like fencing or offering blanket changes so I often worry when I can't go every day or every other day. Some of the boarders will let me know about these issues if they see it which I appreciate but I know that that's not their job. I could move him closer but barns that are closer to my house are more expensive, and usually not as good about turnout and giving lots of hay, which leaves less money in the budget for keeping him sound.
All of this means I spend a lot of my money, stress, and time keeping this horse comfortable and rideable. Don't get me wrong, he's a GREAT horse. I do love him. I try very hard to make sure everything fits him, he's UTD on everything, he gets what he needs to be comfortable. People always compliment me on his personality and how he goes under saddle. This usually just makes me feel guilty that I should enjoy him more. He is a bit quirky so is not for everyone and would be hard to sell/lease out. He's 17 this year so he's no spring chicken. We don't have BAD rides but I don't remember the last time I got off and thought "that was the best ride ever!" and couldn't wait to get back on the next day. I really miss lessoning and going to clinics and having solid goals but I honestly am worried in the back of my mind all the time that he's going to come up lame if I push him too hard so I never really try very hard. Lessoning/clinics haven't been in the budget for several years now, nor does my work/school situation really allow me to work off anything. I definitely can't afford to have him and own or lease another horse. I honestly don't think I'd even have time to do that even if someone gave me a free horse and said "here, ride this for me." I do need time to sleep after all. Has anyone been in this situation? I feel like I need to admit that I'm stuck with this horse and should make the best of it but honestly, I just feel guilty a lot. Some days I feel like he'd be better off with someone else who could afford to ride him and keep him comfortable but other days, I know he's lucky as all get out to have me because I feel like a LOT of people would of gotten rid of him at the local auction years ago. Any advice? Should I try to sell him? Keep him and let him hang out for the next year or two and hope he's still sound at 19 years old and capable of coming back into work? Lease him out, if I can find a good situation which could be challenging, while I'm extra busy? Do I retire him and send him somewhere several hours away so someone else can make sure he's taken care of and doing all the "little things" like fly spray, blanket changes, treating any skin issues that he always gets so I'm not stressed about it? Argh. Any comments or advice is appreciated.
Your best bet is to find an inexpensive place to retire him. No one is going to buy him based on his history of unsoundness and other factors that make him difficult to market. Even a free lease would be difficult based on the financial burden required to keep him sound.
Selling this horse would be giving him a one way ticket to an auction and then on to slaughter. I'm not trying to be harsh, just realistic.
You have already stated you don't even really have time for a horse, so why not find a pasture for him to hang out in while you go to school?
ETA: never mind, saw that horse is a bit quirky! I think your two options are to retire the horse to cheaper board (perfectly fine as long as it is a good place and you check on him regularly), or to try something new with your horse. See if you can rediscover the joy in him. Trim your budget somewhere and take a lesson a month, find a cheap schooling show at the end of the summer with something feasible and not hard on the horse (dressage test? competitive trail ride? hunter pace?) to give yourself some goals and direction, maybe. Go with a friend and do your own work so you don't have trainer fees and costs, just entries. Have fun.
Last edited by fordtraktor; Mar. 31, 2015 at 08:28 AM.
I agree with LotteryGirl. Reading your post, OP, I kept thinking since this isn't the time for you to be spending time at the barn, can't do it the way you like, etc why not just find a pasture for him inexpensively, hopefully a whole lot closer to home, or else full retirement board somewhere. Finish the school, save money, get a horse again in a fewyears.
...I am now at the stage of wine-surfing COTH
I had one similar to that, that I retired about the same age. She was a sounder though. I probably could have sold her, but I didn't want her to hurt anyone; she could be a real witch. I gave her to my mother as a retirement present. I paid board, she got incidentals.
I would find a cheap field to put him out in or just put him down. It sounds to me like you've more than fulfilled any "obligations" that someone may think you have to this horse. I don't really buy into that whole "you owe them" mindset any how.
If I had to pay $600/month for my old mare, she would have been sold or put down. I will not pay $7K/year for a pasture ornament.
Can you look at retirement board somewhere that those skin issues and mud fever, etc. won't be a problem? It sounds like he's a little like my 18 year old TB...I'd love to retire him, but he HATED not working, and he needs a ton of attention to live in Canada. Heated stall, blanketing, special feed, etc. He's a Kentucky-born TB. It seems to show in his thin, thin skin and ZERO cold-resistance.
My guy is a pretty solid citizen, and I am very lucky to know someone who has a steady stream of riders who have the ability to ride him, but don't feel the need to push him too hard (he is getting up there, and his hard-living early years show.) Her barn has all the amenities he needs. He stays sound if he's ridden 3 or so times a week. When he's out of work...the issues pile up quickly.
If I wanted to retire Wolfie, I'd seriously have to look at shipping him off somewhere much warmer.
Honestly, if my current arrangement suddenly falls through (seriously, I am soooooo lucky to have him where he is), or if my guy starts to not be able to tolerate riding anymore, I'm going to euthanize him. He's worked hard for humans all his life and is a GREAT horse. Life plunked out in a pasture is just not for him (works GREAT for my other retiree) and if we can't keep him worked and limber anymore...I owe him a peaceful and compassionate end. I dread the day I have to make that decision, but I also feel like I've been able to do right by him.
Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior
You could always try the free lease option to see if anyone does click with him... My gelding was off and on lame a few years ago and at first the vet tried a few different things for him, but finally we had an "intervention" where he said I had to get a new, very specialized farrier. The new farrier in conjunction with my vet were finally able to get him sound and he eventually did not need corrective shoeing anymore.
However, since his feet are so fickle, I will never have another farrier but this guy touch him. I don't think I would ever be comfortable selling him because with the wrong farrier he could easily go lame again. I have leased him out under the terms that he must be boarded in an area my farrier will drive to... So yes, my farrier was included in the negotiations
Retire on pasture board somewhere you trust, hopefully not several hours away so you can at least go see him when you want to. Take lessons once a week as you have time and can afford, wait until your life settles a bit-horses will always be there
I think you should find a boarding situation that is closer to you (if possible), and then ride him as much or as little as you want. You'll be able to check on him more frequently, and perhaps you can, as one of the above posters suggests, try out trail-riding or dressage or clicker-train him, or whatever you want.
Good luck with your decision.
"The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky
Thanks guys. You've given me a lot to consider. Just for clarification, I wouldn't ever sell him unless I personally knew the new owner or had a friend who knew them. I know it's too risky and I wouldn't want to put him in a potentially bad situation. Unfortunately, there aren't many retirement barns in my area and I live in an expensive area. Board with an indoor is usually $600+, board without an indoor is closer to $500, field board is very rare and usually means a small field that is a mud pit all spring and fall that is still usually $400 a month. Even "retirement" farms in my area is around $400. I am going to look into finding a retirement home within a few hours that is a bit cheaper. I would worry about sending him away to a warmer, less muddy state because it would be very hard to check on him. I've also been asking around with friends and trainers for more private barns that are closer to my house, ones who don't have websites/listings and only have personal horses who maybe interested in getting a bit extra cash by letting me board my horse. Luckily, he's good about turnout and I don't think he's met another horse he didn't get along with.