Retirement Jobs for a 21 Year Old Horse

Jane’s concept of retirement:

A time to ease up on the intensity and craziness of a full life. Head off in a new direction, at a reduced pace.  Exercise, read, learn something new, find a cool retirement job: stay sharp, have fun.

Hudson’s concept of retirement:

Old people with no teeth.  Yuck.

It’s a puzzle in which I’m still working out the details. Hudson’s input:

Cattle-Drive-A-Day.  That would be a GREAT retirement job, Jane!

The day after the round-up, Bella, Alice and I meet to walk out the horses. Hudson is angled broadside in the pasture, to catch the most sun.  I try to remember if I’ve ever seen him nap. We un-blanket, everyone riding bareback with halter or bridle of choice.

Both boys fussed at our mounting block: the retaining wall.  (Hey, Hudson is tall!)

There was mud on the ground.  We expect them to stand in MUD?

Ruby, Dressage Queen, whose hooves only touch pristine arena footing, pins her ears and snakes her neck meanly at them.  She sidles up to the retaining wall, and Alice slips on. Ruby sashays off, clearly broadcasting the message: men.

After the cattle drive, where they both looked like off-road vehicles, no one is even remotely convincible that the boys don’t “do” mud.

I expect Hudson to feel stiff, somewhat clunky, with a gas needle hovering around E.

What I get: a relaxed 4-year-old.  He’s jigging, fluid, and hot to go go GO.

Oy.  He might not know it, but a good forward walk is what his muscles need.  Doing that will allow him to continue to deny his age.

I decide we’ll do an hour walk again the next day.

Hudson decides I’m insane.

We don’t fight, but we don’t connect either.  I let him trot, hoping for loose and stretchy. I get a taut missile.  His red light is flashing, and there’s jet fuel in the tank.

Bad timing.  I can’t even let him canter. Unsteady kids taking lessons, a green horse in long lines: bad idea.  His single-mindedness might set off Spook Cooties.

The following day I saddle him with one of Bella’s extra roping saddles. I’m going to let him run it out in the big arena.  I’m not convinced I’m fit enough for light speed in a dressage saddle.  Not too proud to use a saddle horn.

Hudson is ecstatic. We zig zag in warm up, to keep him from blasting off.  The roping saddle means FUN.  He’s humming: a running we will go, da dee dee dee dee GO, Hi Ho the go go go, a running we will GO.

He makes me laugh.  I start humming with him, thinking his words.

We go.  We gallop.  I let him brace against the bit for better reach.  The latent TB in him comes out and I feel him lengthening, building up speed inside.  30 minutes later, I’m exhausted, he’s amped to the moon, not a damp hair on his body.  “We” cool out.

I’m not sure if I dismounted or fell off.  It’s a blur.

Bella is taking him to roping practice the same night. I text her: H on fire, 30 min of gallop, still has 3/4 tank.

She emails me the next day:  Last night, inexhaustable. He’s still in Super GO mode.

The retirement issue hits me in a different way.  This is a horse that needs to hover near peak fitness, all the time.  a) He’s not willing to step down a notch.  b) I won’t damp his enthusiasm, period.

At 21, I don’t want him behaving like a 4-year-old without the underlying fitness to support the athletics.

It dawns on me.  I’m going to be doing push ups, jumping jacks, and knee lifts for the rest of our life together.

How to retire a 21 year old horse into a lighter job?  I don’t.  Jane gets fitter.  Jane steps up.  Jane learns new things.

I own Jack LaLanne.

He’s going to kick my butt.


4 thoughts on “Retirement Jobs for a 21 Year Old Horse

  1. Trish

    Excellent! I love it! Having taken my 25 year old Morgan gelding out on our first hunter pace this past October, because I “wanted to do one while Celby was still around…” I discovered that this bored, cranky, well-trained, but obstinate, and ring-sour, 2nd-level dressage pony thinks he’s an eventer! Three hours of canter, gallop, and “oh, jeez, if we must trot, lets passage” and I could not walk the next day. Celby, however, floated like his soul had been set free.

    The “one while we still have him around” has morphed into exactly the same commitment– we’re doing plenty of them in 2011… as long as Trish can keep up… which means Trish had better get her buns in training…

  2. dressage rider

    LOL! Abs. It’s all about the abs. I know because I had to actually use mine last night. Shocking isn’t it? I think I need to step up my game too.

  3. Carol

    What a great story. I love hearing about older horses who still want to go, go , go. Sounds like you’re right – you’ll have to keep him fit enough to maintain the pace 🙂 There’s a 30 year old horse where I board who is still going strong.


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