How to choose a retirement farm?

For those of you who have retired horses, what do you look for in a retirement farm? I wish I had my own property, but alas, I’m a city dweller.

I actually own a small retirement farm :slight_smile: Here are a couple of things to keep in mind…

What has your horse done his entire life? Was he a show horse in a program? A lot of people will chuck their retired show horse out to pasture 24/7 not realizing what a culture shock that can be to a horse who has never lived that way.

Most of the horses I get are retired show horses, and turnout is something that is introduced gradually. The majority of them learn to love being out with a friend or friends, but there are still some who prefer being a stall part of the day. Make sure the farm doesn’t have a “one size fits all” approach, and instead caters to the individual.

Same goes for feeding - make sure it can be personalized, and make sure it changes as your horse ages. Eventually horses may need an additional meal, or their feed soaked, or supplements added or whatever - make sure the barn accommodates that.

Do you plan on visiting your horse regularly or only once in a while? If the latter, look for a barn that includes regular grooming, vet and farrier scheduling, etc. Make sure they communicate and send updates often.

At least in my area, retirement farms are hard to come by and like mine, are small and privately owned. Ask around and see if your vet or farrier can recommend a place, a lot don’t advertise. Good luck!

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When my horse retired he first moved to a friends’ back yard, and lived there until this fall when that was no longer an option (her horse, his companion) is having health issues and may not make the winter which woudl have left him alone). So, I began to look for a retirement farm. Now, he had been retired for six years at this point, so not living an active life any more, but was also in my friends’ backyard so groomed, fed meals daily etc. I ended up moving him to a farm that has basically turned him out 24/7 - he is on a high level of board where he gets grain daily so he can have his meds. I am fine with all of it. He adapted instantly to this life. they lay eyes on him daily, they send photos when I ask. He’s doing really well. And most of his pasture mates were veryhigh level show horses who also have adapted beautifully to their new life style.

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Think about any “special needs” your horse may have. One place I looked at required all be barefoot due to group pastures. My mare has suspensory branch issues and dropped fetlocks, so wears supportive hind shoes, so that was a deal breaker. I wanted her only out 12 hrs vs 24 so I can be more sure that she is checked for cuts/scraps, soundness, etc. I dont stop by often but she is very close, so if need be its not a problem. That was also a criteria for me. I know her vet, her farrier, and other people who have horses there. Dont look just for “retirement” options but consider smaller facilities that dont have a ton of amenities;vets and farriers may know of a place. Maybe facebook pages for boarding in/around your general area.

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I live a close-in suburb of a major city, so retirement barns are necessarily not close. That means I need someone experienced, whose judgment I can trust. I need them to handle all vet/farrier care, and any day to day types of medical issues (like cuts). I also needed a place that would feed grain to the 24/7 turnout horses, and had a plan/method for doing so that made sense. That cut out 75% of the options.

From there, I chose a place with the option for stall board (in case it became needed, horse prefers 24/7 out now), and multiple turnout groups so he could find his fit.

I didn’t think about it at the time, but was later very lucky that the barn I chose also has a dry lot retirement situation. Horse had a laminitis scare, and is unlikely to go back on pasture.

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Thanks for this thread; I’ll be following it as I will need to move my about-to-be-retired mare at some point.

The sticking point for her is that she cannot go out on grass unless I want her to founder. (She could probably get by with a grazing muzzle, maybe, but sharing a pasture with other horses while wearing a grazing muzzle, while herd dynamics are being established, seems like a bad idea.) A lot of retirement places don’t take horses like this, as anything that has to be fed hay year-round is more expensive.

(And yes, I know that I will pay more because she won’t be on pasture!)

She spent the first 9 1/2 years of her life, except when she was at the trainer’s, outside 24/7 in a herd of mares, fillies, and foals. She wasn’t dominant; she’s a bit too tightly wound for that, but was “in charge” of the youngsters. (She loves foals!) Since I’ve owned her, she’s had individual turnout. She’s food-aggressive, and not having to defend her food actually calmed her down quite a bit. She’s barefoot behind now, and will probably be fine barefoot in front, so I don’t need to worry about that, but if she’s going to be in a herd, or even just have a dry-lot buddy, she will have to be integrated slowly.

I don’t think there’s a perfect situation for her… and then throw in that I do not want to send her far away, and that if I’m visiting, I need access to a bathroom (no details, but “just pee in the stall” isn’t an option.) I’m giving myself at least 6 months to find a good situation.

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I board retired horses on my private farm. The bottom line: happy horses and happy people. Ask for, and provide, references which will help you figure out if people/horses are happy. For example, I offer vet references, as well as current and former boarders.

The other main thing is to make sure your opinion of how horses are best cared for, and the farm’s, align. If you want your horses in at night, find a place that does that. Or, if you want them out 24/7, find that. Otherwise you will be unhappy.

Realize you get what you pay for, generally. Some horses need little care in retirement, others need a lot. Many start out in the former category, and move to the latter after some years. There’s an art to keeping really old horses in good weight (and happy and healthy), so experience with the oldies is good.

I always suggest people ask their vet for recommendations as the vet knows your horse and his needs, as well as knowing all the area farm’s and the type/quality of care they provide.

A good retirement farm will screen you as carefully as you are screening them.

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Good luck to you. Hope you find the perfect spot. I’ve looked at several places, but haven’t found any to be perfect. I’m having to prioritize, and that’s what I’m finding difficult.

Keep networking. I had to retire my guy when I was “between farms”. Friend of a friend of my trainer happened to mention a private small farm with just one other horse who had lost his companion. Ended up being the perfect situation. Good luck!