Am I insane?? (Aka please tell me why and where you retired your horses)

Hello everyone! My computer ate my first post so I apologize if this one is a bit scatterbrained. I’ve done some searching on the familiar topic of when to retire your horse and retirement board but I figured I’d ask my own question to get some opinions.

Back story - I own a 16 year old gelding who does best on field board, both mentally and physically because he seems to be getting a bit of allergies in his older age if he’s stalled regularly. We live in the northeast and had a brutally cold winter. The past few winters weren’t too fun either but they weren’t nearly as hard on him. He came out of winter very thin this year and is NOT putting weight back on. (Just in case someone is worried - I’m working with the vet, he was not body clipped and he hates clothing but was blanketed appropriately for the cold weather, no indoor so was not in work, only 15hh so not a big guy, eats 8 lbs of TC Senior plus flax, always has grass hay in front of him when I show up at the barn even at random non feeding hours so I consider it free choice, has been dewormed with an Equimax and a Powerpac since the fall, had teeth done again in March just to be 100% sure it’s not that, had blood pulled and results came back fine, currently treating for ulcers just in case even though he doesn’t show any symptoms besides weight/muscle loss and I’m adding in oil and potentially alfalfa cubes.) He had on and off lameness issues for several years but hasn’t in a while. I live in an expensive area and field board is scarce. Like a lot of us, I don’t have even close to unlimited funds so I am careful about my budget and what I can and cannot afford.

As I mentioned, he has some lameness issues in the past and needs Adequan/special shoeing to be in work but is fine barefoot and maintenance free if he’s not in work, is prone to “thin skinned” skin issues (scratches!! ugh!), does best on field board, only a hard keeper in the winter months. He’s not what I’d call old and I would very much miss riding and seeing him regularly. At the same time, the past few winters have been getting progressively hard on him and I’m at a loss. It could just be due to the super cold winters we’ve been having or it could be him getting older. I’m not sure. Other than the weight issues, he’s 100% - seems happy, shiny and comfortable! My budget is stretched currently between board, buying my own grain at $22 a bag/oil/ulcer treatment, and the vet bills. I know that’s part of owning a horse and I do accept eating Ramen regularly so he can get what he needs. There aren’t many options in my area for field board and most of them are very expensive dry lots/mud pits. I can’t help but think it’s time to send him somewhere warm. I’m in no rush to ship him off somewhere since winter is over now and he SHOULD start putting weight back on for sure now that the pastures have grass but… Am I wrong for thinking about pulling his shoes and letting him be a horse in a big herd on lots of acres at a retirement place down south with warmer weather and hopefully less mud? Is this crazy? What was everyone’s “final shove” into retiring their own horses? Did anyone retire theirs in a far away state? Other thoughts?

My sister retired her gelding to Paradigm Farm in Tennessee. She was just getting started in her career and moving to Texas, and was concerned about dragging him all around the country with her. He does have navicular but luckily seems to be doing well without much maintenance. From what I can tell he’s getting excellent care and is having a blast in his golden years.

I retired my mare with me but she was still riding sound til the day she died. Mostly I was afraid to send her anywhere because her melanomas were so volatile. I wanted to be the one making those decisions in the end. But we’re in GA so weather wasn’t really a factor for us.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sending a horse somewhere else for retirement. Obviously you would have to research the place very thoroughly since you won’t be around to check up on things. But I would not hesitate to send my gelding away for retirement if it was the right decision for him. Of course I might have to send him north since he hates the heat so much. lol

In your case, I would ask the barn how much hay they are actually feeding your horse each day – how much is he actually eating. If they put 20lbs of hay in front of him, and he doesn’t finish it, that would be really different than “free choice” hay - eating all day long.

I might give him some real alfalfa too…or cubes.

16 seems too young to retire if he’s otherwise serviceably sound. (Although obviously, there is no “too early” age for retirement.)

Being a boarding situatuon or, not having enough land can really make this type of decision rough beyond words.

I have 23 acres and two of my five horses are already laid to rest.

The other three are in their 20’s. Two with serious health issues that would leave them dead in someone else’s hands because they are expensive and time consuming health issues. It takes me longer to fix their “stuff” at the kitchen counter, than it does to get everyone fed.

All I can suggest is to do the research and when you have do it again from a different angle, maybe even asking someone else to research the final one or two places you pick. Sometimes a new set of eyes can see something you missed:)

Best of luck in finding a caring farm that will give you updates when you ask for them and pictures will be included:)

Do they feed them separate, like in run ins, or something? Or is it a group buffet where once the stronger ones finish, they physically boot the weaker ones away from anything they haven’t finished?

Normally I would recommend upping the senior, adding soaked alfalfa cubes and splitting everything into three feedings. But that won’t work in a group setting if he is not one of the alphas. Particularly if he is one that prefers to dine slowly, not scarf it down. Some of them just don’t have the big appetite even if sound and healthy and those will not thrive in a group.

I wouldn’t put too much into the fact there is grass hay there, it’s generally not that nutritious and weighs nothing.

Soooo…what’s the feeding system and is he alone or in a group? Sometimes herd dynamics can be behind weight loss and various minor soundness issues-they get the snot knocked out of them daily.

Just a chance changing boarding barns or the way he lives where he is might solve the majority of your issues if he is, in fact, in a group. Individual accommodation in his own paddock might work as well for him and better for you then shipping him off…maybe to another group setting where he woukd still be a doormat.

I had one of these. Good horse, easy to get along with…too easy I guess. He did best outside in solo turn out. With the group, he lost weight, always had bumps and bruises and I swear he was depressed. Once I figured that out and made the adjustments, he was fine.

I retired my good Hunter mare when she had a probable DDFT screwing around in the field a few months shy of age 22. Didn’t bother with the $500 diagnostics to confirm. Prognosis would be the same whether we knew the details or not, at least a year off, slow rehab, returning to the bi annual hock injections for OCD and arthritic changes,

She was champion in all 6 unrated shows we did her 20th year (at 2’6", we stepped down from 3’ rateds at 17), association Rsv Ch that year. She didn’t owe me a thing so pulled her shoes and found her a suitable senior place with assisted living services available if needed. Out with a buddy 12 hours, in a nice stall 12hrs. Still there are age 26.

There is no harm in finding him a happy retirement home in an easier climate. I would not send him too far south, as the bugs can really drive them crazy. I know this from experience. Also, the farther south they go, the more expensive hay is and the poorer the quality. Somewhere in the KY, TN, VA area would be ideal. Do LOTS of homework, visit the site, call references, and google the farm name for any stories before making a decisions, especially because you will be too far away to check on him regularly.

When you do choose a location, plan to spend a week there. Make sure he is settling in ok and that they are really caring for him the way they said they would and the way you need him cared for, and make sure you have a very well-defined contract.

With the onset of cushings and moon blindness, and pre-existing arthritis getting worse even with maintenance, we decided to retire my horse.

He now lives at a private boarding barn in Massachusetts where my mom works, and he can have full-day turnout on a dry lot and a large box stall at night. Clean, well kept facility. Board is ~$600 per month and we provide grain and supplements. We pulled his shoes and he’s doing just fine at 30. He’s a tb.

Options are out there! Especially if you are interested in field board, as its generally cheaper. If you chose a place out of state, I would thoroughly research and visit and check the place over to make sure they will continue giving quality care when you’re not around to check up on your horse.

You raise a bunch of points, so my reply is going to be scattered, and I apologize in advance!

You are right, that field board with big fields (that is, not dry lots/mud pits) are rare near northeastern urban areas. However, we are out there – Lady Eboshi is in Connecticut, and I’m about 100 miles north of nyc and we charge (I believe!) about the same for board (around $500/month).

That doesn’t address whether going south would be better for your horse or not – what does your vet say? You can find all sorts of retirement board options; it sounds like you’d want a more hands-on place that could blanket him more (if he needs it), supplement with high calorie feeds, soaked hay cubes etc.

Another point is that you can find a retirement barn where you can also ride, if you want. I’d expect they wouldn’t have fancy indoors etc, but it doesn’t sound like you would need that.

If you decide to retire your horse, get references! And of course, be prepared to offer your own.

Finally, to Findeight’s point – an EXCELLENT barn would never have a situation where the low man isn’t able to get enough food, or get into shelter!! I really cannot emphasize this enough. Field board can be survival of the fittest, but it does NOT have to be. A good BO will ensure the herds are compatible, and that there are ways to make sure every single horse can eat etc. And there are many ways to do this!! My own system is to feed using feedbags, so there is no stress/aggression/food sharing, all eat what they are supposed to eat, calmly and happily. And I have hay racks outside and haychix whole-bale hay nets in the run-ins, so this winter there were literally 11 bales of hay available for 4 horses.

Anyway, this doesn’t address whether or not you should retire your horse, or if he should definitely go south, which are probably more important to you. I just wanted to chime in with some retirement-board-in-the-northeast information.

Best of luck to you and your horse!

Very true. But how many boarding barns are actually excellent? I just brought it up because it might be part of the problem and making the winters harder for him.

There may be a solution closer to home, only OP can know.

OP, please be careful where you send your horse for retirement. There is a Thread on Coth about Mill Creek in FL.:eek:
And while I do not know the name of the farm in VA where a woman from NYC retired her old show horse, I did see the horse after it was taken from the farm and just before the horse’s death. That place in VA starved that horse.:eek:

Agree with the comment about not sending him too far south. Lots of aging horses in my high heat / high humidity area actually have to go north, because our climate is conducive to developing anhidrosis, heaves, bug allergies, etc.

My only other suggestion is to make sure he’s somewhere you, or a knowledgeable 3rd party, can periodically check on him. Too many ‘pasture board’ places really don’t provide much beyond a pasture, no matter what they might tell you.

[QUOTE=findeight;8111794]Very true. But how many boarding barns are actually excellent? I just brought it up because it might be part of the problem and making the winters harder for him.
[/QUOTE]

Agreed. However, as you might imagine, it is a sore point with me when people assume that all field/pasture board situations are the same and mean that some horses don’t get enough to eat, or are bullied etc etc.

Another point to add – some retirement farms post pictures on blogs/facebook pages etc, which, while not as good as being there in person, at least let an owner keep tabs on their horse from a distance.

Oh, I know you manage correctly. LB and others do too. Just throwing it out there for OP to consider before shipping her horse out of her immediate area. IMO it would be better for her and the horse to make it work someplace within a couple hours drive then spending a grand or more on shipping and trusting promises will be kept.

Since we don’t really know all the details of her boarding situation now, it’s just a general suggestion she investigate every possibility.

Please don’t take this the wrong way. If your budget is already stretched , can you even afford retirement board on a horse who could easily live another 10 years? Who is already mildly unsound and could get much worse?

I have lived up North and I can’t see him doing better anywhere unless he goes to a milder climate. Then you are too far to be near him. Have you thought of other options? Painful to even think of, but might be kinder to you both in the long run.

I retire my own, so I am pretty familiar with the issues involved. I have a question: did you test for Cushings Disease? Because unless it is involved, things don’t seem to be adding up here to me.

I fed my draft a mix of Triple Crown Senior, Blue Seal Haystretcher, canola oil, and grass hay. TC senior weighs .8 pounds per quart/coffee can, so if that is the measure someone was using, and they fed 8 scoops a day, your horse was receiving 6 pounds of feed per day. I don’t remember the calorie count, but it is one of the highest calorie senior feeds on the market. That would mean that the remaining balance of the diet had to met in fiber.

For comparison, my 17 hand, 1500 pound draft ate 10.5-11 pounds of the TC/HS 50:50 mix per day during the coldest months. He also consumed one 45 pound bale of grass hay per day. He went into the winter a 5 or a 6, and came out of it a 5.5 or a 6. On field board, or field board/and stalled only in bad weather, unblanketed. He had no trouble getting into the hay.

If your horse really was fed 8 pounds of TC Senior, which would be 10 quarts per day, then there may have been a problem getting into the hay. If he got 6.4 pounds per day (8 quarts), then both problems probably contributed to the result. Or there is another underlying issue. Either way, I would try to try to make some changes before looking into retirement board. It can be expensive, and some places do not consider a 16 year old retirement material. Some of the good places charge a few thousand dollars up front before accepting the horse. Good luck with your horse.

ETA I use the TC/HS mix to lower my feed bills. You could probably do the same with TC/Alfalfa cubes, etc. TC Senior = $22 a bag Blue Seal Haystretcher = $14.95. You could up the weight of what you are feeding without breaking the bank. Oil = 2,000 calories per cup.

Thanks for all the imput! Tons of great points so I’ll try to address them all. My horse gets brought in to eat his grain as well as some hay until he goes out in the big pasture during the day and then again for the PM feeding. I have weighed his grain and it is 8 lbs per day. I did think about upping it again and seeing if they will split it into 3 feedings. I was just concerned because while I know you can feed a LOT of TC Senior, it seems like a lot of grain to me for a smaller sized horse who isn’t in work.

He’s a pretty easy going guy in the field so while he’s not the alpha, he doesn’t usually get shoved around too much and kind of just minds his own business. There are scuffles but he is always able to get hay.

As far as the vet, we had discussed cushings as a possibility (again, no real symptoms but he’s getting older so I figured maybe) so I assumed she had tested for that. I will double check with her on Monday. She doesn’t feel that he needs to be retired yet but was very concerned with how he came out of this winter.

As far as retirement places go, I would be looking in the area (or a couple hours drive) as well as down south. Good point about the bugs! I have a few friends who live in VA/TN so I’ll remember to see if he would be close enough for them to check on him when looking at places. I honestly don’t want to go this route but I’m not sure if it’s fair to put him through 10+ more winters of the super cold we’ve been having.

Just because it has not been said…have you checked his dentition? 100 percent of retirees that come to me have had none or insufficient dental attention.

They all gain huge amounts of weight and a new lease on life after good dental care . saves me hundreds in geed bills monthly too.

The OP said she’s had his teeth done at least twice recently.

Thanks. I did not see it in the OP. My error.

[QUOTE=Chief2;8111996] TC senior weighs .8 pounds per quart/coffee can[/QUOTE] That’s not true according to the Triple Crown website. It is 1.08 pounds per quart.

https://www.triplecrownfeed.com/articles/density-meaurements-tc-horse-feeds-horsefeeds/