From the Editor: My soft spot.
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.