Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Value of An Older Horse

Since the weather isn't the greatest, and I'm not out working with Beautiful as much, I thought it would be fun to write about each of the horses in our herd and the themes that each brings up.

I'll start with Red--our 28 or 29 year old Quarter Horse.

We bought Red for our daughter when she was learning to ride. He'd been recommended by our farrier and our trainer as a rock solid, awesome horse. Of course, he was 21 at the time--but they assured us that this horse would do everything we needed and give Shiloh the confidence and horsemanship skills she could take with her to the next horse.

We went to see Red--he was for sale for $1,200 at the time. The woman who owned him couldn't speak highly enough of all he'd done--both in 4-H and helping the handicapped with therapeutic rides. She saddled him and we tested him out--bought him immediately.

Red's quirky history: He was a ranch horse for most of his life--owned by a "playboy" rancher from Lewiston, ID--whatever that means. He would take his dates to the ranch--and he'd let them ride Red--who, even at a young age, was always safe and obedient.

That part of his history, as it was told to us, has always made me sad--although maybe it should be funny--but it implies a certain amount of disrespect to both horse and rider. I've never had anything except respect for this horse.

Now, other people, some friends of ours, had looked at him and passed, and one friend in particular teased us that their young ones would be around long after old Red was in the grave....hmmmm...

I've watched many a kid go saillllllling through the air on their green horses, but Shiloh, in all these years, through Red, Shadow and a green filly, has never hit the ground!

Trail ride after trail ride--4-H--parades--Shiloh built up her confidence and love of horses, and eventually moved over to Red's white twin, Shadow in the picture with him here last week--and then on to her green filly, Cowgirl.

Another quirky part of Red's history: He was a horse who did what he was told--and that was it. Where some horses showed curiosity--playfulness--this wasn't a characteristic of Red. He had a natural inclination to protect Shiloh, but he was a horse who had been trained to do a job--obviously by a man who didn't believe in horses as "pets." (We were his third owners.)

When we bought him--I always felt it was like we'd bought a slave. He'd stand out at the end of his run and look back up the road toward the property where we'd purchased him. I never felt good about it. I'd talk to him--stand with him--pet on him--but he'd stand looking away--obediently.

When his second owner had left after dropping him off--he whinnied out for her for a long time--but she cried all the way back to the truck and quickly pulled out--before she changed her mind. Selling him broke her heart.

Years later, I raised a colt--Sonny--full of personality and life--he was a twin to my Cowboy--and a nephew. But it was Red who did the caretaking of Sonny--Cowboy just wanted to beat him up (He's an insecure Omega). Red and Sonny bonded like father and son (Red is a nurturer of younger horses).

About a year and half ago, when we moved up here, Sonny coliced and died. I was broken-hearted about it. At night, I'd go and stand out in the dark where Sonny had stood--and look and smell and see what he saw---and miss him.

During one of those nights, Red came to me--for the first time ever on his own--and he allowed me to pet him--and he sniffed me (a sign of acceptance for a horse) and nudged at me. It was the first bit of affection he'd ever shown to me in the many years we'd "owned" him. We've remained real friends ever since that night.

Red is my example of loyalty and survival.

All of which leads me to ponder the value of the older horses. I think every herd should have one. They are a safe and steady mount for visitors, grandchildren (in our case), and the best babysitters ever.

Also, I think the well-conformed ones with the good minds, like Red, live longer. Everyone's always said, one day we'll go out and find him dead--and sure enough, many of the old horses we know have passed on. But not Red....not yet!

We've gotten all of these years of solid riding out of him and he has never had ONE injury or sickness. Not one. He's an easy keeper, even at his age--just alfalfa and a scoop of Allegra in the winter.

So, here's my list of why you should consider older horses:

1. They set the mood for your herd.
2. They train the young ones.
3. They're good to learn on.
4. They're dependable with green riders.

I imagine there are some honery ones--or ones whose arthritis and other health issues would make it difficult to ride them--but if they're sound and well-trained--they're worth their weight in gold.

What does everyone else think about the value of an older horse?


  1. I totaly agree with you on the value of old horses, my herd of mares is now, 24,20, and 9. The 24 year old has been there and done that for the last 20 years we have had her, my 20 year old is the boss mare and she has finally put the young one in her place, I see respect now from the 9 year old, it took awhile though. My 9 yr old will probably be my last horse, unless she dies of unnatural causes, if that was to happen I think I would get an older horse to enjoy in my old age, and for the grandkids that I dont have yet LOL

  2. Blackie was a very old horse I knew, but he was the gentlest horse I'd ridden back in my teens on our weekly trail rides, so sweet. Red sounds like a gem, may you have many more happy rides with him.

  3. What a great story, I got teary! Red is so handsome (love the rich sorrel color!) and worth his weight in gold, I agree. It sounds like he has many good years in him, too! I commend you for purchasing him at 21! More older horses need to have productive lives. Nothing saddens me worse when I see someone trying to give away an old horse for cheap or free. It's like they're saying "hey thanks for the ten great years, now I want the next younger model younger so you're off to whatever fate....." Hopefully many of these older, useable horses are able to find successful second lives for youth, beginngers, or back-to-horses mid-lifers!

  4. I got teary too! I also had an older horse growing up. I was 10, and I think he was 15 (we're not sure). He was super dependable, although a little hot (old gaming horse), but he was solid and always tried to do what I asked. He was also not very affectionate. But has never lame or sick a single day of his whole life. We put him to sleep before winter began the year that he couldn't keep weight on anymore, despite being fed mash every day. I miss him and wish I could have him back! Old horses are unforgettable youth first horses.

  5. You guys are all wonderful for respecting older horses! I wish every new horse mom shopping for her child's first horse could talk to all of us!! They get confused and think the purchase price is like dollars versus years--a 3 year old for 300 will live 30 years, thus the cost will be 10 dollars a year--or something like that. An older one--may die any day--thus the cost could be high for what may be a short time. But it's so wrong. What you get from the older ones--the confidence it built in Shiloh--priceless--absolutely priceless. I knew after a month of owning Red, he'd already earned his price tag. I have never for a second regretted that 1,200 cost--the best 1,200 dollars I ever spent! And Kudos to Shari--his owner--for expecting me to pay every dime! :):)

  6. I wouldn't be the horsewoman I am today if it weren't for an old horse! He is in fact still around, and I believe he will be 29 this year. He was my Uncle's old roping horse, and he taught me so much!

    He coliced when he was 18 and I am pretty sure the only reason my Uncle decided to keep him alive was for me. Expensive surgery was required for his survival. But, he went on to take me to the State 4H show 2 years in a row!

    Now he is too arthritic to be ridden, but I still go out to visit him at least once a month. Old horses are worth their weight in gold, if you ask me!

  7. I love your story about Red. It makes me teary-eyed.

    I am extremely grateful to the old horses we have, and have had. They really are worth their weight in gold. Our old horse Coda, who will soon be 31, has given so many kids their first rides. He was sold (emaciated) at auction after raising a bunch of grandkids in the show ring. Too old, they threw him away. Luckily he was rescued that day and ended up with us. He's now at my sister's helping her daughter build confidence.

    Our Soxy will be 24 this year, and she's still a wonderful riding horse. Like Red, she took a while to warm up to us, but she's comfortable here now, and loves to be loved on.

    Yep, old horses are worth their weight in gold.

  8. I too have an old horse. She is 28. She did get injured at about 20 so does not get ridden often. But, if I have a beginner to large for a pony, Ditto is who comes in. I ride her once in a while in the arena. She is the smoothest horse I have ever ridden. Maybe I will write her story and how I got her on my blog one of these days. She is a registered Paint. Could not part with her unless she dies.

  9. Red sounds like my old guy, Phoenix. He is now 33 and I can still ride him lightly. He taught my nephew how to ride. I bought him for $500 ~ what a treasure he has been.
    I hope that Red is doing better today. Good thoughts going out to you and him.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.