Thursday, January 6, 2011

Phases of Retirement

I had a conversation with someone today who is in the initial stage of retiring their horse. Right now they are still in what I refer to as the phase of acceptance. It really is a crummy place to be, trying to accept that your horse that you love riding so much needs to be retired for whatever reason. You are also having to accept that all of your future plans and goals that involved riding the horse are now toast. I can relate with this phase having been through it myself with a couple of my horses over my 30 year riding career.

The acceptance phase is not a fun place to be whether the horse is young or older. Especially since this phase often follows what I refer to as the roller coaster phase where you spend a fortune in money and time, not to mention mental health, trying to diagnose and then treat/rehab your horse. This is the phase where it is the hope that kills you, and I mean it kills you. You keep thinking that after this treatment, or after X period of rest this will all be behind you. And for brief periods it seems like it is behind you. Or maybe now that you are having an MRI done you will finally get a definitive answer and plan of action. Of course you've already done a zillion x-rays and ultrasounds and a full body bone scan, had the horse on stall rest, done some rounds of shockwave, and maybe some IRAP or PRP as well. Oh, and don't forget the joint injections. Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching!!

The bills you can rack up during the roller coaster phase can be frightening! If you've never been through this pray that you never experience it and consider yourself lucky. If you are married when going through the roller coaster phase I especially feel for the spouse. I don't know what gets more drained, your time, your bank account or your mental health. I know Jason hopes to never experience the roller coaster phase again!

The phase after acceptance is the action phase. Especially if your horse is boarded at a show barn with limited turn out this often means finding a different facility to board your horse. Now that the horse is not going to be ridden they will have even less time out of their stall and it is often best for the mental and physical health of the horse to find a situation with either 24/7 turnout or all day/night turnout. We've all heard the horror stories that come with boarding horses so this is a stressful process for a lot of people, especially if it means potentially moving the horse out of your local area. Then you have to also find a shipper, worry about the horse during transport and then worry about how the horse is settling in to their new home. Lots of things to worry about in the action phase!

All in all the phases of retirement often involve a lot of stress and grieving for the people involved. I say this from a very biased perspective but I do think it is possible for this to come to something of a happy ending for all involved, especially the horses. But then who wouldn't be content to be retired and spend your time doing whatever you want to do while someone else totes the note??

Chance and Leo

Gus and Faune

No horse gets more of a winter coat than Lily. I have to let her halter down a couple of holes when she has her winter coat to get it on her head! She is referred to as the plush toy these days.

Wiz, Dutch and Murphy

Ogie and Darby

Johnny, Rampal and Tiny


Sparky and Sky

Cinnamon and Lexi

Bonnie and Traveller


Rocky and Toledo


Gabriella Elise said...

I think that my family and I are in the rollercoater phase with Lucy. Lucy has major hoof and soundness problems, and my family is dishing out the $$$ for treatments, supplements, and care for her as an extra horse. But I know it will be worth it when one day, I can walk out into the pasture, look at her healthy, sound body and say, "That is thanks to us. That horse right there is a work of art; MY work of art." :)

EvenSong said...

My, but Lily is a fuzz-bucket! Don't let Kate see how she's let herself go!

Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

EvenSong - kate told me how hairy Lily got but until I actually saw it last winter I didn't believe her! Lily slowly starts adding hair starting late in the summer and keeps adding hair until about now. It is very satisfying to use a shedding blade on Lily in the spring!

RuckusButt said...

I hope to be informed enough that if I am ever in the roller-coaster phase I will not let it drag on too long. I just don't think it's fair to the horse. Hard to know when it's been enough though.

If I ever find myself in the action phase I can only hope that I have an actionable option as satisfying as your farm. I doubt that will happen though, as there isn't anything like you guys here to my knowledge. If only I had the capital to start one...I'd need a lot since I'd have to hire someone more experienced than I am, or else have a vet on retainer, lol.

I especially love the photo of Rampal, just beautiful. The one of Sparky and Sky is also super cute!

jane augenstein said...

More pictures of Bonnie, please! She's so pretty.
I have never had to go through the rollercoaster phase with a horse and hope I never do. Thinking of what people must go through, it makes my eyes tear up just thinking of it.
Horses look so cute in their fuzzy winter coats. Gilly and Pokey are fuzz balls too.

Anonymous said...

That Lil - I've always thought I should make a sweater out of her hair, but getting the dirt (and the smell! nothing smells worse than wet Lily) out would be quite a challenge!

I know what you mean about having to come to terms with a horse's retirement, particularly if it's unexpected - very hard.

LuLo Designs/Blue Eyed Tango said...

I appreciate this post. I've been wondering if I'm in this phase with a couple of my horses. Can I ask what you feed the majority of your retired horses and how they thrive on such feed? I recently attended a (clinic/chiro/ she actually went to the Tribute plant to see for herself) chiro talked very highly of Tribute feed. She stated so many of the plants (Purina) have skimped or changed the ratios (mere floor scrapings) that they are now crap. We're currently feeding the same feed (Stradegy) that we have been for years and they're losing weight. Especially the uneasy keepers. I put a call into a rep (15 miles away) selling the Tribute to see if they still carried it but no answer. I really want to feed them the best and keep up their weight in these cold temps. I realize one feed may not be the best for one horse but another is good for various reasons. It's the horses that have a bit of Thoroughbred in them and more high strung that are losing weight......younger ones. Any insight you have would be helpful! Thanks!

Vivian, Apollo's Mom said...

Your post really hit home, Melissa. Those were exactly the phases that I went through with Apollo. I still cry when I think about the times we have missed together but I know he is in the best place for him. I love the picture of Sparkey and Sky!

Bif said...

Mine was less a rollercoaster then a mostly straight downhill shot =D Two surgeries, 2 different 6 week stints living with the vet, many other vet visits, and the abcessed tooth/rotted skull was fixed.
Barely started the horse under saddle, and he needed surgery on what we thought was just a bone cyst. I debated throwing another 3-5 thousand into a horse who'd already sucked up close to 10 already, but figured if you average a bone cyst surgery over the span of a useful riding life, plus his comfort and longevity, there was no question.
During surgery it was discovered the cyst wasn't the real problem, but actually degenerative cartilage that will cost more bone cysts to form.
So I have a horse who is very pasture sound on expensive supplements, and miserable without them, and I have to board, as well. So not really a rollercoaster... it was all downhill!

Candy'sGirl said...

I LOVE Tribute's feeds. My Arab gets their Essential K ration balancer and in the winter he gets their K Finish to keep his weight up in the cold. They're each $20/bag, but he only eats a pound of each a day. Its more expensive to buy up front than the sweet feed my husband's horses eat, but its a lot cheaper in the long run.

A friend of mine had a whole barn full of horses start looking like crap on Purina's feeds. She had the nutritionist that designs Tribute's feeds come out to do a seminar at her barn and design a feed program for each horse at her barn. The seminar was incredibly interesting. It took all of two weeks to see a HUGE change in all the horses on the Tribute feeds.

Tribute doesn't change their formulas just because market prices change. They adjust the price per bag to accommodate keeping the same formula. It only ends up going up and down a buck or two though so its not like there's randomly a big sticker shock.

LuLo Designs/Blue Eyed Tango said...

Thanks Candy'sGirl for your reply. I know it's a matter of opinion and obviously not a popular one with folks who don't feed at all and just give hay. But you have to supplement when you notice weight loss maybe due to lower quality hay that you thought was good from what the seller claimed. I finally got a hold of the Tribute sales rep. I'll have to drive 30 miles round trip to pick it up each week but at least the horses will benefit!