From the Edi­tor: My soft spot.

Horse & Rider - - Table Of Contents - By Jen­nifer Paul­son

I’M NOT EX­ACTLY LET­TING THE HORSE OUT OF the barn when I tell you my heart melts when I meet se­nior horses. In case you don’t read this col­umn regularly, I have two old guys in my barn: Old Paint (my kids’ horse) and Otis (my brother’s for­mer calf rop­ing horse). Both are push­ing 30…or have sum­mited that mile­stone. (We’re not ex­actly sure of Paint’s age.)

With age comes wisdom, ex­pe­ri­ence, pa­tience—and a ma­nure cart full of spe­cial con­cerns to keep in mind. Not to men­tion that ever-loom­ing, heart­break­ing ques­tion: Is it time?

The Dark Days

“The time is near when I’ll see him strug­gle to get up or feel the ribs I could never imag­ine notic­ing be­fore,” writes Tina Joyce in this month’s Your Sto­ries (page 8) about her nearly 40-year-old geld­ing, Johnny. I em­pathize with Tina. In fact, I grew up with Tina and watched her and Johnny top nearly ev­ery class they en­tered at our open shows. Now, as Old Paint gets…older…I also share her thoughts of, “not now, but when?”

In Novem­ber, Paint came up acutely lame. He didn’t want to move, and his gen­er­ally happy de­meanor de­clined. His eyes lacked sparkle. When I called the vet’s of­fice, I tried (un­suc­cess­fully) to hold back tears when I asked to have one of the prac­ti­tion­ers come out to eval­u­ate Paint’s con­di­tion. The wait seemed to take for­ever, al­low­ing my mind to go to the worst-case sce­nario.

Af­ter a brief ex­am­i­na­tion, our vet went to work on Paint’s left-front hoof, dig­ging a path for a deep ab­scess. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so re­lieved in my life— just an ab­scess. The vet quickly packed Paint’s hoof and wrapped it. And just like that, we were in the clear. (Af­ter nights of soak­ing and poul­tic­ing, of course.)

Fo­cus on Now

Paint healed quickly. And as I write this, Johnny is still en­joy­ing his fluffy win­ter coat in Vir­ginia. But it’s not easy keep­ing these se­nior horses healthy, happy, and sat­is­fied with life. It takes close at­ten­tion to their cues to de­ter­mine what they need, make their lives eas­ier, and keep them com­fort­able.

Last night we saw a record-low tem­per­a­ture here in Colorado. I should know that the old man will stay in his stall, pro­tected from the wind and cold, but I wor­ried about Paint most of the night. First thing this morn­ing, I texted my mom. “How’s he do­ing? It’s re­ally cold.” She re­sponded, “Great! Just miss­ing his kid­dos”—mean­ing my sons.

An­other flood of re­lief. An­other day that my boys can learn re­spon­si­bil­ity, compassion, and horse­man­ship from our spe­cial guy. An­other day that Old Paint, though not much of a looker, is a trea­sure to my fam­ily.

I want to hear about your se­nior horses and what you do to keep them in their best con­di­tion. Our reader sur­veys show that 60 per­cent of you own a horse over 17 years old, so send your best se­nior tips to the email ad­dress be­low.

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