Monday, July 11, 2011

I Love Old Horses!

Today is my gelding Jake's 33rd birthday!  I have owned him since he was four, so that gives us 29 years of history together, taking care of each other.  It is always a wonderful thing when a horse reaches 30; so many encounter life-ending problems in their 20's and when I hear of one that gets beyond 30, I know that there is a dedicated owner, and some good genes, behind it. 

My Jake does have some good genes;  he is one of the most well-made horses I ever seen.  He is purebred Arabian (half pure Polish, half Crabbet), has a nice short back, straight legs with excellent bone, perfect angles to his hocks, fetlocks, hip and shoulder, big, tough feet, and has always been a fluid mover and easy keeper.  He is also smart and savvy, and has kept himself from any catastrophic injuries.  I think he also has a joyful life - he has attitude and spunk, which keeps him moving - so good for the joints.

My husband and I are dedicated to giving Jake (and all of our old horses) the best retirement that a horse could want.  He is fed 3 lbs of Senior feed morning and night, with the addition of flax seed meal and a vitamin/mineral supplement in the morning, and a pound of alfalfa pellets in the evening.  All of his feed is soaked in water in order help him chew and prevent choking.  He is given plenty of turnout; he goes out to pasture during the day and comes into a generously bedded stall at night, to encourage him to lay down and take a load off his legs.  We  make sure that he is well-protected from flies, to keep him from stomping and stressing too much.  Probably most importantly, Jake is never without his buddy Jazz, another older gelding.  They have been pasture mates since they were young horses, and keep each other happy and calm.  The two of them go out in a paddock by themselves, so that they do not have to compete with younger horses, or get accidentally roughed up.  And we keep a close eye on how he is eating, moving and behaving.  Things can go downhill quickly with an elderly horse, so it is important to evaluate them daily.

It is a lot of work to keep old horses healthy, but it is sooooooo worth it!  While many see horses over 20 as more of a burden than a blessing, I see them as quietly beautiful, and endlessly wise.  Jake tolerates my kids squirming around on his back, grabbing on his legs, and giving him kisses on his nose.  Jake and Jazz have comforted many a foal when it came time to wean them from their mothers.  Jake knows all my secrets, from the time I was a preteen, through high school, college, marriage and kids - and he hasn't given anything away yet!  I feel so comforted by his presence - he has been a constant in my life, when it is clear that life can be tumultuous.  I made a promise to him when we first met that I would always take care of him and give him the best life I could.  I am proud that I have done that; proud of the kind of person I have become in doing that for him.  I am certain that it has made me and shaped me, as much as he has given of himself to me and my family.  I think that is the definition of true friendship. 

What a gift having an old horse is!!


  1. This is a very moving blog, beautifully expressed. Thank you for sharing this Shannon - I loved reading it.