Chester in his field

What an awful thought when Pony is no longer useful. Sad but it happens, our loved one gets injured or maybe just to old and can no longer be ridden. NOW, what do you do?

I had a trainer tell me once “Horses are not like dogs. You don’t have to keep them forever”, I think I caused myself whiplash when my head snapped around to look at her in shock and horror.

What? Not keep my beloved forever…. unthinkable.

Horses are a huge expense when healthy and useful, but can quickly become a burden when they are not. If you have the land and the facility, you might not have the worries but if you board… OUCH!!!  Paying that monthly bill for an unusable horse is not what we signed up for. So now what?

Sadly but true many people, NOT ANY OF US, put the unserviceable horse up for sale or free to good home. Many people choose to NOT disclose the real issues. Don’t you just love ads saying a perfect kid’s or grandchild’s horse? In some cases, the horse is a good kid’s horse, but many times the horse is too old or too lame to run off with a child, making it “perfect”.  Personally, if I gave a horse to a child and it passed away or I knew it would suffer in pain while in that child’s care, I would not be able to live with myself.

Other options…

There are people that offer good homes to “Lawn ornaments.” But as we recently witnessed not all people are trustworthy and you could give up you horse as a Lawn ornament only to find it falsely listed for sale later (Buyer beware article here . Work with a equine lawyer if you ever go this route.   (Update from Dana’s case: since we published that article, there have been negotiations and if all goes well, Dana hopes to get her horse back).

Another concern with this is the worry that people who take a free horse know nothing about its care and are expecting a “free” horse, not something that requires them to purchase feed, medication, blankets, shelter, have its feet trimmed, teeth floated and all the other little things we all know cost tons of money.

Several years ago, we found ourselves in the situation of needing to do something with my son’s horse. After raising my son for 6 years, the horse was well into his 30s had arthritis, cushings, ringbone, navicular, to name just a few.

The horse was a “been there done that… had the t-shirt and award saddle to prove it” kind of horse when he came to us. He had raised many many kids and we found out, he had had traveled the world and done everything from rodeo to rated shows. He took my son from learning to ride, through 4H to Junior Young Riders and he was a great love to our family. But because of so many variables, the horse was no longer rideable and we boarded. We talked about putting the old man down, but in our heart it was just too hard, with medication the horse was pain free… so now what.

After a few months of soul searching, a co-worker told us of a human adult assisted living home. The home was located in the country on several acres. They agreed to take on our horse. I found that the neighboring farm grew hay and they kindly agreed to supply the hay as a gift to the home. I continued to supply the grain and cover the vet bills.

For us this turned out to be a win-win. The people living in the home got to use our hoses as therapy, brushing and leading the horse was great exercise and soon everyone was signed up to have their turn. The staff used our horse as bribes… take your medication and you can give the horse his dinner. Do your exercise and you can give the horse a treat…

Our horse continued to have a usefulness which he took serious pride in. Several of the residents’ families chipped in money to help with the expenses. We got to remain involved with our friend’s life and gained new friends. My son could visit often. In fact in the beginning, my son was the one teaching the elders how to groom and lead the horse. Our arrangement lasted another couple of years until the day came finally when we had no choice… but we were all there when we placed our friend to rest.

Although no one wants to think of about this sad time, there are Horse Retirement Home options to insure the horse is cared for. You can find some here: