An article of mine was published in a national dressage magazine in 2006. Spirit had been retired two years and he was still pouting (read) and holding a grudge about it.
Once publish the date was set, the magazine asked for a photo. No kidding? Who doesn’t dream of one of their horses on the cover of a magazine?
OK, maybe it was only a small photo at the end of a short article, but did I mention it was a National Dressage Magazine?
I had a herd, but it was a easy choice: this photo of Spirit, retired at 17. It was a small way to acknowledge him that would make a difference to no one but me. My old salon boy got a bath, a new hairdo, and one last vanity photo. I am sure I was more proud Spirit’s picture being in that magazine than my article.
“Years are only garments, and you either wear them with style all your life, or else you go dowdy to the grave.” -Dorothy Parker.
Long in the tooth is a phrase we’ve used for centuries to describe age in horses. That is what Spirit is, and to be honest, I’m long in the tooth myself. Watching Spirit these last years has taught me to hate retirement just as much as he does.
One of my clients brought a horse out of retirement last year. Coro was 22 yrs. old then, with some health questions- but they decided on dressage and gave me a call. Truly, as much fun as Coro is having in lessons, it might have been his idea. He’s plainly grateful. He loves the work and has a wild sense of humor. It’s contagious, I chuckle through the lesson, and his rider…maybe a bemused tolerance.
A year later, Coro has grown so much stronger, his breathing has improved and he’s gained muscle. He feels good, sometimes too good. Coro takes pride in showing off to his barn-mates. His rider has lots of experience, confidence, and focus. And, she is working to keep up with him! Lara and Coro have a second chance that no one takes for granted- because it’s never too late for a shoulder-in.
Retirement Resistance is common sense. Horses enjoy healthy work; strength and suppleness can keep a them sound, body and mind, for precious extra years. Plus, there are good, affordable, and nearly miraculous supplements for added help. If you believe standing out in a pasture forever looks like fun, ask someone who is unemployed how much they enjoy all the spare time.
Spirit says (he is even more blunt than me), “Work = Pride. There is plenty of time to quit living once we’re dead. If you are bored with your horse, you have your own dull self to blame. Don’t retire one day early, because retirement isn’t really like a vacation at all.”
A retirement from injury is bad luck- Spirit and I sympathize. Beyond that, the only limitation a mid-life horse has is their rider. It’s the perfect time to take up something new, and put off the inevitable for a few more years. It’s a great time to adopt a mid-life rescue horse (from Ruby Ranch) and begin a whole new life together.
As for Spirit, he still teaches the master class in visualization (read). When he retired 8 years ago, I had two other geldings. I notice there are 3 mares in my barn now. Spirit out-visualized me again. Getting scratched by soft-eyed mares was certainly never my plan. It’s pretty impressive to get a gelding-lover like me on board- three separate times!
But still, when I take a horse to the arena to ride, Spirit stops and watches me. He paws less than before. We spent years inside of each others mind- it’s a bittersweet habit now.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.
(April is Spirit Month at the blog, 25 years deserves more than one post. This is #3 of 4.)
11 thoughts on “A Retirement Resistant Spirit.”
Fantastic! Anna I love the way you connect things. Great piece and what a beautiful horse. Love the Dorothy Parker quote! I recently decided to let my hair go Silver. Not grey, on no, not for me. Silver silences the singing siren and man am I loving the peace and power of my New shimmering in the sunlight mane.
Having acquired my first horse when she was a spritely 22 year old, I have always had an appreciation for the wisdom the older horse has to impart. Thank you for the lovely portrait of Coro – he makes me proud.
(old Wordpress account, so this is *also* me :))
Love this, was nodding along the whole time. Beautifully written and expressed as usual. 🙂
I find this odd: Hudson attracts people, they want to know about him….but when many people hear his age, I watch them mentally dismissing him as “old”. I wonder why. This is still the same horse whose fire, or sense of humor, attracted them to come ask about him. He’s in his first retirement career doing dressage. Should that not become an option for some reason, I’ve already scoped out two potential second retirement careers, so there’s a plan (still with me) in place.
Oh how I wish we were closer geographically. I want us to come train with you!
It is interesting what horse draws people in a pen. This old boy of mine looks even older than he is, in a pen of Andalusian X’s(attractive and friendly)… yet folks are drawn to him. What do Hudson and Spirit do?? And it is funny, I never think of Hudson as “used” when I read about him, hard to imagine he had a life before he came to re-arrange yours! That might be the best thing of all. And yes, I wish we were closer, it is the good and bad news about blog-friends.
My horse and I are proud members of the equine geriatric farm where until recently, my Buzzy is actually the youngest at age 20. I am with you all the way, Anna. I am of the belief, celebrate what is, don’t mourn what isn’t. I adopted Buzzy fresh off the harness race track in Saratoga. He is my tribute the breed that no one really knows what to do with when their racing days are over. At first I was determined to “make” Buzzy into a collected, English-pleasure horse. Then, I FINALLY listened to my horse, switched to Western, and gave up show ring dreams for back woods trails where we have been living happily ever-after. Thanks for yet another inspiring post.
Yay for Buzzy, what a break to be your older and wiser horse! Thanks for reading.
I enjoyed reading your post. Very interesting.
Hi Anna: My old horse story started when my mare was 2 years old and I bought her, untrained, just in from pasture (3,000 acres) and purchased because I thought she was the most beautiful horse I’d ever seen. I lost her at the age of 27 and, my friend Toushay, was indeed the most beautiful horse I’ve ever seen. She took my breath away every single day of her life. Love your blog about Spirit. Reminds me of times past.
It wasn’t just you, she took all our breath away. You and Toushay are such a big part of my horse history, thanks for posting. She still trots though my memory, bold as brass.