As I look out over the paddock fence line in my backyard, I am greeted by the site of my horses. All seniors. Currently 18, 20 and 26 years old.
So while reading the latest issue of Horse Illustrated (Nov/Dec 2021), the article by Pat Raia “Reversing Time: Older horses can be harder to place, but they are finding fantastic adoptive homes among senior people” resonated with me.
“Since 2010, surveys conducted by American Horse Publications (AHP) that were prepared by Jill Stowe, Ph.D., of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky, have revealed that women 45 to 65 years of age and older represent the fastest growing segment of those most likely to own horses.” – Pat Raia
I did not adopt any of my current herd, but I am female, fall into the age demographic noted and have three senior horses. Many of the reasons the article listed for older women selecting older horses ring true to me.
Some of the issues mentioned were
- Concerns about their own lifespan in relation to their horses (for example, I feel I have a better chance of outliving a twenty-year-old horse than a two-year-old)
- Welfare concerns about how senior horses may fair in the current equine industry as in the idea that if I don’t provide a home for this horse, who will (this definitely entered into my decision to bring home the most recent addition to my herd)
- Awareness of their own physical limitations in relation to the endurance and athleticism needed to train and ride young horses (that’s me to a T)
- Being able to relate to age-related physical changes they see in their horses (as someone diagnosed with arthritis who often experiences pain through movement, I am open to the idea that many horse behaviors may have a physical competent. I no longer dismiss all unwanted behavior as the horse simply needing an attitude adjustment)
Having said all that, I don’t want to imply that all older folks should only keep/ride older horses. I know plenty of people my age and older who have younger horses. I have seen riders in their seventies and eighties who are more skilled at riding young horses than many of their more youthful human counterparts. Aging is after all a very individual experience.
But as for me? I am starting to appreciate senior horses in a way I did not when I was younger. Senior horses often (although not always) emit this calm, even-keeled energy that I find very inviting. They seem a good match for my skills and abilities. Maybe that is why the article struck a cord with me.
Even so, I know that being around older horses still involves risk. After all, a senior horse is still a horse. Still bigger than me. Still stronger than me. Still faster than me. While in general someone might have a better chance of staying safe around a senior verses a youngster, it takes guts to share our lives with horses of any age.
We all get older. Our horses too. Let’s not let that fact of life stop us from pursuing our passions in one form or another. No matter if we have to make some accommodations for age-related changes or illness. The article echoed that sentiment for me. That there is so much yet to enjoy. Let’s keep going!