There’s something especially sad about an elderly horse in need of a home. If this were a perfect world, every horse would grow old and eventually pass on in a comfortable, safe place, surrounded by friends and familiar faces. But this world is far from perfect, and the truth is that plenty of horses end up homeless and unwanted in the final stage of their lives. When a horse reaches a point where they can no longer carry a rider, their “worth” begins to diminish. And at that point, it no longer matters how many kids they taught to ride, or how many ribbons they won, or how much joy they brought to the people they loved. They’re old, they’re useless, and they’re a burden.
And it’s this shortsightedness that cause people to miss out on the meaningful and magical experience of caring for an elderly horse.
Senior horses are remarkable creatures who will open your eyes to an entirely new way of relating to horses. Seniors possess the calm confidence that comes from years and years of having been there and done that. They know who they are, and they are entirely unafraid to show you. Their personalities are refined to perfection by the passing of time. They might move a little slower, but they sure know where they are going.
Senior horses can still surprise you. Just when you think the old grey mare has settled down for good, she’ll get a wild hair and dash across the pasture with her tail held high like an Arab charger. And never fool yourself into thinking that tree stump you’ve walked past every day for the past twenty years is “safe” because your senior horse is always capable of looking at old things in new ways.
A SAFE alumni named Klaus passed away in the care of his adopted family recently, and the way that his family described this old Quarter Horse gelding is like a love letter to senior horses:
Klaus didn’t show the fact that he was 31 years old and would regularly tear around his pasture, annoying my mare, and being a troublemaker. He was such a fun, special horse. He would always talk to us when we’d come out of the house, run with us in the pasture, knock you over if you were standing near him but not paying attention. He brought a lot of life and laughter to our household and made sure my girls didn’t take life too seriously (it was a love-hate relationship). We still miss him desperately.
Taking care of a senior horse can be a challenge, but with the rewards of a relationship like Klaus shared with his family, it’s totally worth it. A senior horse may need you more than a youngster would, but if you can make a senior horse thrive and remain comfortable, you can truly consider yourself a horse person. You will learn so much about horse care with a senior horse. And the satisfaction that comes from keeping an older horse happy, healthy, and secure is just plain wonderful. You may have to work at it, but you will always feel appreciated.
Senior horses have so much to offer if you can slow down and open your heart to them. Here at SAFE, we have several older horses looking for homes of their own: