After giving it a fair shake, Declan told us that he was done being a riding horse, and would very much prefer the companion lifestyle. And we, as responsible stewards of his care, listened to him.
To recap: it was clear pretty early on in his training that he had some soundness issues, and after having him examined by our vets, we felt that he could be well managed as a light riding horse with proper care and handling. One joint injection and a pair of front shoes later, Declan was back in the game, under saddle for a bit of walk-trot a few times a week, and doing well with it. He tested his mettle out on the trails, and proved himself a brave boy out there as well. We adjusted our expectations of him and what his future home should look like, and were ready to start showing him to those who met his criteria.
But things changed when his regular volunteer rider began to feel that he was different under saddle — not unsound, but unbalanced. We work so hard on helping our horses find balance in their feet, and on the ground he was moving well, but with a rider he was clearly struggling. After all of the iterations of riding horse he had been through, we decided at this point that it was not worth it for Declan for us to keep trying to find workarounds just so we could sit on him and walk around for a little while. It made the most sense for all involved to allow Declan to hang up his saddle and retire from ridden work once and for all.
As far as a companion horse goes, Declan has gotta be one of the best around. We have a lot of companions at SAFE at any given time, and often there are disclaimers about them that makes them more suited to a specific type of home – all great horses, mind you, but with their unique personalities and quirks, placing them isn’t always straightforward. But Declan has to be one of the ‘easiest’ we have. He is currently turned out with a boss gelding who he gets along well with, and a gelding who, until Declan, has never before had a ‘bromance.’ Declan has taught him the joys of sharing a haybag and sleeping side by side in a shelter. He makes a great buddy to all types, and while he’d certainly prefer to have his friends around, does alright when they are away (some calling does ensue, but he keeps his wits about him regardless).
Declan is a tremendously sweet guy to his people as well, the type to come right up to you in turnout (likely with hopes that you have a carrot for him, but he certainly won’t say no to a pet or scratch). He was a great horse when he was under saddle, and his value has not diminished now that he is a companion.