Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Too Old?

My mare is 25 this year.  For a horse, that's pretty old.  I've debated for the last couple of years, especially since my riding has been sporadic at best, and non-existent at worst, if I should just consider her retired.  She has lost her conditioning with the lack of consistent work for several years running.  And, she's starting to develop a little of the old-horse sag that they all get sooner or later, if they live into their twenties.

Yet, she is in good physical shape for her age.  She's a nice, solidly built horse (a nice way to say, not all that refined, and not all that pretty when she's just standing still).  Never had a lame day in her life.

Add to that the fact that she seems to miss the one-on-one work we used to do.  Being fed is great with her, and being groomed she likes too.  Yet, after she's fed, and after she's groomed, and after I've turned her outside for her daily fresh air and sunshine, she looks at me with an expression that seems to say "Is that it?  Don't you want to do anything with me?"

A lot of people retire their horses once the horse hits the late teens, or the magic number of twenty.  So, most people I've mentioned her age to, tell me not to worry about finding time to ride her anymore.

But then there's that face that greets me every week day.  Those eyes that watch me come, and go, and not do much with her.  We used to be quite a team, she and I, before a series of life interruptions threw my riding schedule all to heck.  We used to dance together, as dressage horse and rider do when they click and are in sync.  I miss it.  I've been getting the feeling that she misses it too.  That she isn't ready to be retired.

So, I decided she won't be.  Not yet.  I'm going to start working her regularly again.  I'll let her determine how strenuous of work I ask from her.  If she holds up, we'll do all the stuff we used to.  If she seems to be unusually stiff or sore, I'll back it down.  Maybe we'll do fancy dressage stuff.  Maybe she'll get a second career as a low-key trail riding mount, and I'll learn how to ride to watch the scenery go by instead of always riding with a goal of improving our skills.  That will be up to her, and her body.

Meanwhile, I'll be looking forward to this sight on a regular basis:

The Mare, untacked and in her post-workout cooler, looking at me with the look that says "Wasn't that a good ride we just had?"

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