There's nothing I could have done for him.
That bothers me. All of us hate to see our beloved creatures hurt. To see the extent of what Cuna has gone through this year in the course of just being a normal horse, I have to question what I'm asking him to do.
Everything I've asked of him, he's done before. His care has been excellent, start to finish. He's always tried his heart out for me, whether it was a dressage lesson or keeping up with a horse a third his age while he tied up in the hills.
I'm at the point of wondering when enough is enough. I have watched my beloved Cuna Matata be crippled to the point of not walking not once, but twice, both times for no apparent cause.
Maybe I'm overreacting to unrelated incidents because I have too much time on my hands. Or maybe, Cuna's trying to tell me something. He came into my life when I needed him most, and changed me into the rider that I am today. For the first time in years, I came out this spring and was relaxed and confident on horseback. All the credit goes to him on that score.
In a meta sense, it feels like he came to me for that very reason. He carried me through things I thought I would never overcome, and now he's telling me that he needs to rest. I don't want to emotionally overreact, but I also want to listen to him.
In light of my post the other day about clarity in decisions regarding the vet, I guess I wanted to go a step further. How do you know when it's time to let a horse retire? If you haven't retired one yet, what signs do you think you'd be looking for? What does equine retirement mean to you?
Hugs!! I think about you and Cuna alll the time, as you know, I have been there! Like Solo did for me, Cuna did give you so many wonderful gifts and is a priceless partner!ReplyDelete
I wanted to share a couple thoughts with you, that I've been able to think about a lot in hindsight and get some clarity on now that some time has passed. Sorry, it is way long so I put it in an email. But I love y'all!
And it is sad when our buddies have to slow down, but I want to put here that there are more than two choices.
I've never had to go through this, but it's something I think about and struggle with. People who own older performance horses tell you "the horse will tell you" when he's ready to retire. But what does that mean? One person who rides him feels a slight hitch in his gait, a less perceptive rider wouldn't, does that mean he's ready to retire with the first rider but not the second?ReplyDelete
We have our prelim rider's old retired eventer that brought her through the ranks when she was a kid, and they tried to retire him at 20, but he started doing poorly until they put him back into a couple of lessons a week. It was that horse, at the age of 24, that got me over my own confidence issues. I owe having Connor to that horse.
I guess what I'm trying to say is I have as little of an idea as you do. It's so personal to both the owner and the horse. Though I have to say that Paradigm Farms Horse Retirement is one of my favorite blogs. They are always posting pictures of these old show horses just hanging out and being horses, nothing on their agenda except playing halter tag when the farrier comes and scratching each other's withers and grazing. She and her husband are what I would call retirement experts, and as good at counseling owners as they are caring for the old guys. She wrote a post that might help you:
Your horse WILL tell you. Mine did.ReplyDelete
We had an injury, turned out for a time, and then I slowly started working him again. As time went on and he was still willing to work and was happy and comfortable, we gradually did more. One day he was just done -- came out three-legged lame, and even after we saw the vet, he was on and off. At that point, I knew we weren't ever going to jump again, and I took each day and did what he felt like he could. Sometimes we rode, sometimes we didn't.
I truly believe that no one knows Cuna better than you and even if you are unsure, you will have a gut feeling. Don't put a timeline on it, if you don't have to. I knew that I would never send my guy away to retire, so once I decided no jumping or showing, there were no timelines.
That's a tough one. Having an old semi-retired horse, I can totally relate. I "retired" him and then decided It would actually be good for him to be doing a little bit of work. Personally I think slowing down with them is better than completely retiring them. Roz got really stiff after 6 months off in the pasture. I'm slowly bringing him back to light work and he is doing well. The reason for his initial retirment was navicular changes in one foot, and I was unable to keep him sound anymore. He's been barefoot a year, and aside from the arthritis he looks good!ReplyDelete
Carlos retirement went way further, but my original plan was to step down the level of work as my schooling went into full swing, as well as gradual turnout until eventually he'd at most do light hacks now and again and be ideally turned out 24/7.ReplyDelete
I've retired 2, but both were because they had diagnosed injuries that made it clear they were no longer useable for eventing. One has been sound off and on from what I understand for trail/light riding. One took about 3 months off and returned to be a lesson horse and even returned to jumping, he just needed a little time off and a slow 'come back'. I think the hard part is, there is no quick answer in these situations, it's a little trial and error which can include time off then slow return to work, then you make a decision. My sister retired her upper level eventer from competing, gave him a few months rest, pulled him out of pasture and he eventually went all the way back up the levels with a kid to Prelim and NAYRJC! Sometimes a few months rest does wonders, sometimes it doesnt, unfortunately I think it's time that tells you and the wait can be tough. We're all here for you though sweet girl!!!! XO to you and Cuna.ReplyDelete
Think it means different things for different people. I stepped Elvis down to a home where he could do less work because I had tapped him out fence height wise, he was stiff every summer and getting stiffer, and he had given me so much in the show ring already. On top of all that, I was frustrated at our inability to go higher. I felt like giving him to a home with a less strenuous work load would allow him to be sounder longer, and also would allow him to relax and not be asked to work at the top of his ability for any longer. I miss him still, but it was the best decision for him and he's still healthy and going around at age 20.ReplyDelete
Personallly I don't think horses should ever retire fully. My first pony, when I got to big for her we free leaseed her to a little girl, after she got to big she went to my old trainers lesson barn where she stayed for three years being ridden weekly, teaching little kids how to ride and being a good lesson pony. We finally brought her home last fall when she couldn't keep weight on and was looking horrible. We ended up putting her down that fall, she was in her late 30's we think. My point is, I firmly believe that horses are happiest when they are in work, doesn't matter what kind. So Cuna might have to have a break and then he will come back, or maybe you will have to find a little kid who loves horses and will treat him like a prince to ride him walk and trot around, and he teach them all the tricks. He will tell you what he wantsReplyDelete
I've retired three. One we still rode a bit for a long time. Eventually he became unsound to the point that he fell down after tripping. The second guy was still rideable on the trail, but he too had a chronic limp. Both were the types that would have just kept on going regardless, so the decision was mine. The third guy I retired from competition because he was developing chronic hock soreness. Once we stopped the upper level dressage, he was fine and is still sound as anything. BUT, if I approach him with the bridle in my hand, he very clearly turns away and will even be impossible to catch. Retirement, in this case, is purely his idea. If he wants to do a little work, he'll let me know. Otherwise, he's free to just be a pasture pony.ReplyDelete
I "retired" my old guy, Pie, when he was 19. He had been mine for 9 happy years, he had spent a year already as a pasture pet while I competed on another horse. Things changed around and he came back to me, and I thought hey, I'll try and bring him back around, at least we can ride regularly. But, he quickly made it known to me that he was not happy being ridden regularly. He was mellow and content and happy to be brushed and loved on, or even just a mellow trail ride down the rode. But as soon as I got him in the arena he would get grumpy, tense, and agitated. He had an old injury to one of his front feet that would flare up, and he was just over working through the discomfort. And, I don't blame him. He had tried his heart out for me for years, it was the least I could do for my ol buddy to just say "Ok, I hear ya, you've done your time, I won't make you be a riding horse anymore." So he's back to being a pampered pasture with a lady who just adores him. He has a cute little pony girlfriend and is given oodles of treats and taken out for a short ride here and there. I am very happy with my decision and I know it was right by him. That said, if he had been all gung-ho about riding, and wanting to go to work, and still showing that ethic, things would have been different. I strong believe in listening to your horse, they will tell you when they've had enough and are ready to live a life of leisure. :)ReplyDelete
Such a tough decision. Sometimes I think it all just really comes down to what your gut is telling you. I retired my gelding not because he was unsound but because he just couldn't keep up with the things I wanted to do. If I had the time/money/place to ride him as well as my new guy I would most definitely continue light riding but he is happy, healthy and sound either way.ReplyDelete
I've never had to retire so no advice here but want to let you know that you are supported and that there are lots of us out here who care! We are rooting for you and Cuna no matter what happens!ReplyDelete
I agree with Karley! Sending you and Cuna lots of love!ReplyDelete
You're already doing what you can - trying out the pasture situation to see if that helps. Retirement seems like such a permanent word. My first horse passed away while still in "semi-retirement" phase (less work load, pasture board, could only canter on one lead due to ringbone...).
To me the big signs to look for are changes in attitude and energy. Soundness comes and goes in older horses, but personality changes signal when they may need a change.
He will tell you when it is time. His attitude and personality will change, and you will just know. I wish I could explain it better :-/ Give him some time to rest and then see how you and he both feel. Try not to get too discouraged. *Hugs*ReplyDelete
I "retired" Barley after his colic episode last fall when it was clear that he wasn't himself after he recovered. That, plus his age (20) and a mystery lameness that cropped up over the winter (nothing major, just enough that I didn't feel comfortable working him) convinced me to let him have an easier life. I was ready to move up the levels in dressage, and it was getting harder for him to keep up with that level of work comfortably.ReplyDelete
Now, he's ridden lightly 1-3 times a week, depending on my schedule, but it's just for a hack around the fields (or a basic w/t/c ride in the arena). He is happy, sound, and enjoying taking lots of naps in the sunshine. It was a hard decision to make since he's been a big part in my development as a rider, but now I can see that it was the right thing to do.
It is a tough decision. I retired mine when I realized that I was working so hard to fix him for my benefit not his. It was really tough to "let it go." But you will know. My guy was 17 and I finally realized he had nothing left to prove and deserved retirement. It's tough when you board though and maybe getting another horse and having to pay board for 2 isn't an option. Some how things always seem to work out. You will make the best decision.ReplyDelete
I think if there are severe soundness issues then the question is a valid one. I retired Archie and he is sound, just not right for me at this time. I am looking to free lease him out but in actuality, he will always be with me and he doesn't care if he is worked or not.ReplyDelete
You have to follow your instinct on this one. Cuna will tell you when the time is right.
I constantly struggle with the same questions. My struggle is a horse that I can see is lame, but doesn't act like he wants to be retired yet. He still seems to like being ridden and having adventures, but I think he would go past what his body can handle because he's that kind of horse.ReplyDelete
Hmmm such an interesting question/thought. I consider Laz to be in an active retirement. I ride him when he's sound and try to keep him fit. He's on turnout 24/7 to help his constant healing, he's only 12 but that laminitis did a dooooozy on him for sure. Day by day decisions for us. It's hard to plan things out, but when the stars align and we have good rides, it's fantastic. Having a #2 now will help tremendously ;)ReplyDelete