The older event horse (20+)

Does anyone here compete an older horse? I retired my old guy (rising 22) a couple of years ago and bought a young horse to replace him as my competition horse. My young horse had an accident and had to be PTS :cry: there was no real reason to retire my old guy apart from the fact I wanted to progress up the levels and he’s basically a BN packer. Before my young horse’s accident he was out with a very stubborn abscess for quite a while (2+ months) so I brought my old guy back into work and took him cross country schooling a few times which he seemed to really enjoy.

I don’t see myself getting another horse anytime soon and recently bought a brand new towing vehicle, have a brand new float on order all so I could compete my young horse. I feel like I need to use them for what I bought them for but it’s also not a reason to bring my other horse out of retirement. But he seemed to really enjoy the few times I took him out (and he hasn’t seemed stiff or sore afterwards) so I don’t think he’s done yet!

Does anyone here compete the older horse? Do you do anything special? How many days per week do you ride? How often do you jump them? I was going to show jump my young horse over the winter (Australia) before the spring season. I wouldn’t be jumping more than BN height (more probably starter/intro). We have the opportunity for riding club twice a month and also show jump club twice per month but that may be too much. Should I have a vet look him over or for anything in particular?


My mom was competing our 27 year old Appaloosa mare at starter this spring and she was jumping BN height at home no problem. Four days of light riding a week kept her in great shape and she was totally sound and on her game. Her eyes flare really badly in the summer with allergies so she is done competing for now, but the horse looked fabulous, was having a really great time and no one could believe her age when she was out and about.


Not me, but my trainer has an older OTTB mare (22ish) who still competes occasionally and is ridden quite a lot. I actually showed her myself a month or two ago and someone commented to me that “she looks like she hasn’t realized she’s not on the track anymore” LOL. She’s very very fit, loves to jump and is still sound being ridden about 5 days a week, jumping 2’ lessons maybe 2 of those days, very occasionally up to 3’ with advanced riders, and some light flatwork or trail riding the other days.

I also know another friend who rode and competed her barrel racer regularly and at a pretty competitive level until he was 20+ before handing him off to her niece once her youngster was far enough along to be competitive at the bigger events. I’m not sure how much work he was in at the time, but I’d bet it was at least 4 days a week.

Personally, I’m of the notion that if the horse is sound and happy to be in work, there’s no reason to “retire” them. I also think it’s better to keep them working (even if the work is cut back). I’ve seen many older horses get retired just because of their age, but then subsequently watch them lose a lot of their muscle mass and fitness rapidly, and it can be nigh on impossible to help them regain any of it as they age. In my own experience it’s usually much easier to maintain than it is to rehab.


Many years ago, my sister moved her OTTB (Magic) up to Prelim at age 23, and competed him at that level for several year.

I retired Music from Eventing in her late teens, because I finally got the message that she did NOT like cross country, but I continued to compete her in Show Jumping and Combined Tests into her 20s. When I retired her from jumping it was because she had some vision problems, but continued to compete her in Dressage (2nd level) for several more years.

My current “old lady”. Belle, is 25. I was competing her at Novice and Training in her early 20s, then I had some physical problems which stopped the competition. But I took her out again at BN (my limitations, not hers) this spring, and plan to do at least Novice and probably Training in the fall.

I ride the old horses pretty much the same as when they were younger, 3-5 times a week, but with less jumping as they already know how to do that.


In my experience, the older horses do better if you can keep them working. We have two right now (24 and 21), and they are both living their best lives at elementary and BN, ridden consistently 5 days a week. We just keep an eye on them, same as we would any other horse and have them on routine supplements and joint injections as needed. What I do differently is if the footing is suspect, we withdraw. Especially as they get older we’ve had some random swelling here/there and strains on tendons and ligaments… so we want to minimize the risk.


I was given a mare who had done a ton of show jumping and started eventing her when she was 21. She went strong for 3 years, had some ups and downs year 4, year 5 (so when she was 25) I had planned to step down with her and do less but she came up with coffin bone rotation in 1 hoof and was retired. She never went past novice due to age but she did do the Novice 3 day at ages 22 and 23.

My keys- joint maintenance of your choice the second you think they seem a little stiff. 24/7 turnout to keep them moving. No long breaks- give them an easy winter of light rides a few days a week. Ride regularly but only jump 1x a week. Have the vet listen to their heart. Body work.


Wow that’s so cool! I hope my old man can stay sound that long!

After bringing him back into some sort of work these past few months I do think I made a mistake retiring him. He was quite jealous of my young horse and I felt really bad I didn’t have as much time for him anymore. I think I should have just stuck with the one horse in hindsight. I love competing and starting to realise I don’t care what level it is as long as I’m out there doing it!

Wow that’s awesome!!! Thank you for sharing!

Awesome thank you for sharing!

Thank you! My boy is turned out 24/7 in a large paddock in a herd so gets plenty of movement. I’m thinking of starting to ride him 4 times per week this winter. There is a long format in August so that would be pretty cool to go to, even if I’m only jumping 60cm :smiley:

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I didn’t compete mine, but I was still riding him regularly at 23/24 ish. I remember having to chase down a friend’s 4 year old TB that had gotten loose at the park and thinking he hadn’t lost much in his senior years. The only reason I stopped riding him was he started losing his eyesight.
Whenever I worry about a horse’s age I think back to the showjumper, For the Moment, who competed in the Olympics at age 19 and won a Grand Prix at age 21.
I think if I was going to bring an older guy back into competition I would have a thorough vet check done beforehand just for my peace of mind.
Sorry about your young horse!


Just last weekend my 21 yo OTTB finished 7th at Training at GMHA and have entered more. Dressage has never been his favorite and so we still struggle with that, but his jumping is great. He rocked the xc. My trainer even commented that he really loves his job.

I too have had young horses in the pipeline to replace him, but so far none have wanted to do eventing as a career. I keep him in work year round and he has an awesome health plan of monthly massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, and whatever else he needs.

If your horse still wants to work and enjoys competing keep at it and have fun!


How timely. My 20 year old has some stiffness and we’ve tried a couple of things, most recently hock injections. What are your horses getting for supplements and treatments? I’m not really sure how much the hock infections worked, and in the past we’ve tried cosequin and adequan, and I still couldn’t really tell how much it helped. Right now he’s on Equioxx, and he was diagnosed with mild cushings before we did the hock injections, and he’s getting 1/2 tab of Prascend. I’m contemplating a regular joint supplement or adequan or legend, and we are scheduling a chiro appointment.

He’s a very up and down horse. Some days he’s on fire and has ADD, and others days he acts like an old man.

I also wonder about stepping down a level. In the past we’ve done BN/N at home and just intro at shows. At this point, I wonder if I shouldn’t lease him to a kid that’s doing crossrails and learning to go XC. How do you know when it’s time to do that?


As he hasn’t been in much work and I haven’t detected any stiffness as yet, I don’t actually have him on any supplements/treatments. Is yours turned out 24/7? I think that may help - my guy is in a herd so moves around a lot. I will have a vet check up on him soon when he’s due for his teeth. Also will schedule a chiro appointment. He can have the absolute very best now that I don’t have the expense of a second horse!

I’ve had him since he was a 3yo so I don’t think I could ever lease him to someone else. For now I have decided I will only do what he can do. Have given up on competing higher… for now! But that may change :slight_smile:

My husband‘s partner is 21. Currently competing novice/training. He gets evaluated twice a year by my vet- joint injections as needed, adequan and OsPhos have made a huge difference. Don’t jump him more than once a week, and usually not much at height. He was a right bastard on the flat when we got hin at 17 and he’s had some great remedial schooling with a good pro dressage rider to get him to his current level. We are careful not to overschool him, most days he gets about thirty minutes of quality work. Typical week would include one hack day, one jump school and maybe two flat days. Turned out 24/7. gets the best hay I can afford to buy.


This is a lovely thread - thank you all for sharing the stories of your older horses doing well. They are clearly well cared for and well loved :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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