So, I’m sure how many of you currently own an older horse (maybe not many) but most of us, at some point in time, inevitably will. So hopefully, even if this insight isn’t useful now, it will be eventually.
A vast majority of us looking to get a horse, especially a first horse, probably aren’t looking for an older one. But you know what, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Having the opportunity to be able to have Hamish (thank you so much Ellie for allowing me to be able to look after Hamish for the last 4 years!), has taught me sooo much. He is really a school master I guess, and it means that he actually teaches me quite a lot – if I ask correctly, then he’ll do what I ask, which has been so helpful for my progression.
There is lots to think about with an older horse, but from my experience with Hamish, he is happy as long as I keep him going in a steady and regular routine. I have found that spreading his work out evenly over the week has been a massive help; too many days off can cause him to feel quite stiff. Over the winter I was riding 5 times a week, but I have just slightly changed our routine a little bit. We now do 4 days ridden work a week – 2 schooling sessions (where he works quite hard, roughly 45 minutes) and two hacks. This is plenty of work to keep him fit and supple, whilst still allowing him time to rest too. If I wanted to do an extra days riding then a very gentle stretching schooling session or a walk hack would definitely still okay too.
I am super lucky to have found an instructor (who has now become one of my closest friends), KATIE BAILEY, who really took into consideration my goals and Hamish’s ability. We have slowly brought him up into doing more difficult work; working on his canter and working him from behind into a more consistent, round contact. This has been done really slowly and in a way that’s suitable for Hamish. It’s meant his fitness and strength has continued to improve as he has gotten older, without putting too much stress or pressure on him, both physically or mentally. I honestly do think this has been one of the biggest factors in keeping Ham feeling so great into his twenties!
Feed and supplements also play a big part in Hammy’s health. He has a couple of supplements which I swear by and that have really made a difference for him, they are:
GLOBAL HERBS AIRWAYS for his cough, which has virtually disappeared since having this supplement. He used to really cough quite badly of a morning, after being in his stable all night and also when I rode him (warming up mostly), so it must be such a relief for him to not be coughing and spluttering all of the time (it was a big age give away, and no one wants that!)
HACK UP, JOINT PLUS SUPPLEMENT – Does what it says on the tin! It is really good for keeping him supple, stopping him from getting too stiff and stopping to much filling in his legs. I have really noticed a difference when he is on this and it’s got really good ingredients in. Plus, they are a super super helpful company and offer bespoke supplements. You can fill in all of the details about your horse and they will come up with the best supplement for you!
These supplements really work and I definitely wouldn’t consider changing them; you know the whole, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it thing.
I guess a combination of the above and a little bit of TLC and it’s a recipe for success. Having an older horse doesn’t mean they have to stop, sometimes you just need to slow it down a little bit and take each session as they come. Some days Hammy won’t feel as great and that’s okay, I just listen to him and change the session to suit him. It can be a little while of ‘trial and error’ to work out a good routine and find what works but when you do, it will be soooo worth it!
I thought as an end to this post, I would give you 10 reasons why I think owning and older horse is so wonderful:
1. They have been there and done it – they’re often pretty confident with most things (although saying that, a leaf on the ground could be slightly the wrong shade of green and Hamish could have a melt down and think the scary monsters are after him!!)
2. You treasure every moment you have and really enjoy your time with them. I think it is easy to take what we have for granted sometimes!
3. They know their own mind – Hamish often tells me what he thinks of me when I try and cuddle him whilst he’s trying to eat his dinner or have a snooze
4. They often teach you more than you teach them! Hamish has taught me so much and allowed me to get a real understanding of how to do things correctly – so thanks pal!
5. Hamish is a massive confidence giver, even when he is a pickle I know I can trust him. I am sure a lot of people would say the same about their older horses too.
6. Looking at your horse and thinking ‘WOW, just look at what a stud you are’. When they are looking in good condition and you know they are feeling well, it’s such a lovely feeling that your hard work has paid off.
7. They are very forgiving. I am sure, if Hamish could, he would often roll his eyes at all of the silly things I do wrong, but he is always so kind and forgiving.
8. They make THE BEST companions for us humans – I am sure they are always so thankful for all we do for them in their later years
9. You can justify your hours of grooming, with the ‘this is to help his circulation’ excuse, when your partner asks where you’ve been for the last 5 hours… But genuinely, it does actually help their circulation, really, honestly it does!!
10. Lastly, you might now (or one day) have an older horse because you have spent many, many happy years with them doing what you loved. Now, what could be better than being able to look back and have such wonderful memories to share together.
Thank you so much for reading & I would love to know how you get on with your veteran and any advise or tips you have to share.