There’s a well-known saying, “Getting old isn’t for the faint of heart.”
I imagine it’s not, but watching your beloved horse grow old is no piece of cake either. Maybe that’s why so few people actually do it.
Personally, I’ve never had a problem with the dreaded “C” word, otherwise known as commitment. I’ve never been afraid to make my old horses a promise: ’Til death do us part.
Perhaps this is because my first horse was an elderly gal…
Lady was 21 when we brought her home. I was ten. She and I shared many special moments, and I never once thought of giving her up. As she grew older, my dad and I devised ways to make her life better—an automated timer on her stall door that would allow her the time she needed to eat her senior feed without the other horses barging in. When she fell on the ice one winter, Dad used an engine hoist to get her up. We would need it a second time the following winter.
After a career in show jumping, Lady had a bum hock, which needed tending to on occasion. Even when she was too old to ride, I never saw her as a burden. She was my trusted teacher and a true friend. She deserved the very best care I could give her. I loved Lady for 12 wonderful, but increasingly heart-wrenching years. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
And now, 20 years after Lady’s death, I still feel the same way about my old horses.
Hershey was my college graduation present. He’s been with me for almost two decades now. Katy is upwards of 30, and she’s been with my family for nearly as long. They’re my expensive horses—the ones that require senior feed in the winter and more frequent veterinary care. But there’s no possible way I’d let them go, knowing all too well where they’d likely end up.
Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression—that I’ve never sold a horse—because I have. I’ve sold or leased out younger horses, whom I knew would have a decent home. But I’ve never once sold a horse because he was no longer “useful” to me. In fact, I no longer view a horse’s worth in terms of their usefulness.
Call me naive, but I’ll never understand how someone can claim to love horses and keep one for many years, yet ship them off to a sale as soon as their joints begin to deteriorate or they require a little more care. In my book, that’s not love.
Love is being willing to go through the hard stuff too. Like soaking cubes or hay for horses whose teeth have been worn down to nubs. Or driving across town to buy the good senior feed because it’s not available at your local feed store. Love is remembering that your horse’s fading outward appearance has nothing to do with the true beauty he holds inside.
Sure, there are unforeseen circumstances that may require some owners to part with their beloved steeds. But many times, people sell their old horses because they simply want to move onto something younger, faster, or flashier.
My simple wish is this: that people would take responsibility for their old horses until the very end. These horses have carried us and our children on their backs for many years. They’ve been with our families through hardship and joy. They’ve often given us everything they had. Even when their bones are creaky and their muscles begin to sag, it should be our duty to allow them a peaceful and happy existence for as long as they’re on this earth.
’Til death do us part is the least they deserve.
About the Author
Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much.