Why I Decided To Stop Riding My New Horse

Welcome to retirement, Piper. Yes, I’ve decided to retire the horse that I bought one year ago this month. For those of you who missed it, you can read my first post about Piper HERE.

There’s no dramatic story as to why I made this decision. I didn’t get dumped. He didn’t get injured. I simply decided I just didn’t feel good about continuing to ride him. My nagging doubts about his potential physical discomfort as well as our mismatched personalities just won’t leave so we had our final ride at the start of this month.

Many older horses have some physical issues, of course. Maybe stiff, one-sided, a hitch-in-the-get-along when asked to do certain gaits/movements.

Some of that can be worked through by the rider to a certain extent. Or managed by the rider through being attentive to things like footing conditions or length/intensity of exercise. Sometimes farrier or veterinary interventions help. But not always. Riding can be therapeutic for a horse but it can also be damaging. It all depends.

Piper often feels stiff to me when he moves under saddle. And it’s not something I feel he works out of very well as you would expect a horse with mild arthritis to do. He is periodically quite fussy/argumentative with me, too. That might just be part of his bolder, jazzier style, but it could also be him trying to tell me that riding hurts at times.

I generally enjoy the process of getting to know a new horse, even when challenges present. I think Piper and I have certainly had some good moments together. I know I’ve detailed some of those times in my blog posts. Times where I perceived we both enjoyed navigating some of my trail obstacles or taking a stroll through the pasture, for example. But on the whole, I just didn’t reach the point where I consistently enjoyed riding him. Nor did I feel he particularly enjoyed me.

I had of course considered pursuing veterinary intervention. Lameness exam, X-rays, chiropractic work, etc . . . Maybe shoes or hoof boots (his previous owner rode him shod on all fours). But I am cautious about going down a very expensive rabbit hole that may lead to me to the very same conclusion.

Currently, I don’t believe he needs any intervention other than basic health care to be perfectly comfortable at pasture. He gets around just fine without me on his back. But I am thinking in order to ethically continue to ride him, I would want to have a full body workup. And that’s not an expense I can easily absorb right now.

I suppose I could explore different interventions in the future, but the start of Winter in my area is just a short couple of months away. After that, I won’t ride at home again until Spring when Piper will turn 22. That’s not an unheard-of age for a horse to retire anyways. I keep circling around to the same conclusion. It’s time to stop riding him.

But whether I am riding him or not, Piper still has a home with me. I have no plans to sell him. He’s at the age where he needs to be safe, stable and protected, not launched out into the world towards an uncertain future. Of course, I know enough about life now to realize that sometimes realities do not allow someone to keep a horse until end of life. But, Lord willing, I will be able to do for Piper what I’ve done for all the other horses I have owned.

Am I disappointed? Sure. Not many of us who like to ride enjoy not riding. Horses are big, expensive, sometimes dangerous and often long-lived creatures. All that is involved in having a horse of your own is often made worth it by the wonderful riding adventures you experience with them. It is very human to want to get something out of the deal.

At the same time, I personally think that part of being a horseman is practicing good stewardship to the best of your ability. I have the ability to care for Piper and so that is what I plan to do. Hopefully he will enjoy the life of a pasture ornament with me more than he’s done being my riding horse.

These types of decisions are often hard to make. They involve so many factors, and the reasons are so personal. There may not always be a right answer. But if you have an older horse, you may also have to face this decision sooner or later as they age.

If you have your own horse retirement story to tell, please share them in the comments section. Sometimes by sharing your decision making process, you can help someone who is struggling with their own situation. It’s all part and parcel of sharing our lives with horses.

13 thoughts on “Why I Decided To Stop Riding My New Horse

  1. Virtual hug.

    Have you considered driving? Milton is voting strongly to be retired from riding and to take up the life of driving horse. Even if you don’t do much, it is something to do together. Some horses like to have a job. OTOH, some are just fine with sitting on a rocking chair.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good idea. I DO love to drive! I’ve practiced with a mini, a Saddlebred, two draft-type ponies and a Percheron. Unfortunately, I have no driving equipment. But I also enjoy doing all sorts of groundwork with horses, both in-hand and at liberty. If I have a retired horse and they seem like they want some attention more than grooming, I definitely will take them out periodically and play around with obstacles and the like. So far, Piper has seemed perfectly happy with his daily grooming sessions and not much else. He’s usually been kind of “meh” with me from the get-go. But that could change with time. Anywho, thanks so much for taking your time to stop by the blog and leave a comment!


  2. Amber is retired for the most part. Her injuries have just produced too much arthritis at this stage for her to really be able to do all the things comfortably. She can still walk-trot-canter with relative ease, and I know it helps her arthritis feel better when she can move around. She does still like to get out and have fun with me, but having her be mostly retired helps ease any pressure I may feel about how we’re riding when we do. It’s just fun and easy. But just like Piper she isn’t going anywhere. She’ll always be with me. I have considered doing some fun “tip” videos with her, of small things I’ve learned over the years that just make for a more pleasant ride or that help when you might potentially get into a dangerous situation. That way, we can still do things together and have fun, but it isn’t taxing on her body. She’s already on the general things for arthritis – HA, glucosamine, and MSM – along with Equioxx and that seems to be helping keep her comfortable 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really appreciate you because you do care about Piper. But I don’t think so horses like to sit. They enjoy the competitive environment if their is no medical issues. I will recommend you to focus on the emotional health of Piper along with physical.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Elsie. I agree. Many horses still benefit from different types of stimulation and interaction, even if their person decides that the horse is no longer suitable for riding. I enjoy doing activities on the ground too and have been expiramenting with Piper to see what he seems to enjoy. Thank you for taking your time to read and comment!


  4. I can definitely understand the difficult decision to retire Piper. It sounds like you put a lot of thought and consideration into what was best for him. One thing that might have helped in this situation is incorporating a calming feed for horses into his diet. Calming feeds can help to ease stiffness and discomfort in older horses, and may have helped Piper to feel more comfortable under saddle. It’s always a shame when a horse has to retire, but it sounds like you’re doing everything you can to ensure Piper is comfortable and happy in his retirement.


    1. Thank you for making me aware of your StressLess Horse Supplement made by Centerline distribution. I understand that the active ingredient is Hydrolyzed Casein. I suspect that Piper’s issue may go beyond something that can be addressed by a supplement. But I also understand that some folks swear by certain feed additives in helping their horses conquer certain problems. In any case, I appreciate your stopping by The Backyard Horse Blog and taking your time to comment!


  5. I found your blog after searching for answers about whether or not to retire my horse. I’m so glad I did. I have a 13 y/o Arabian gelding that I bought so he wouldn’t go to auction. That last ditch “I’m getting older, so I’m getting a horse!” move that is so common. He’s got myriad issues, starting with his feet, EPM and pretty extreme reaction to being alone in a barn. I wanted to give riding him a chance to see if it could work. After four years, through some stumbles, a pandemic, health maintenance, difficulty finding a trainer and now being at a facility that clearly highlights his anxiety with barn living, I have had my moment of clarity. I took him because I didn’t want him to go down the auction pipeline. If he were able to be comfortable with being ridden after being raised as a halter horse, that would be great. But he is an anxious, stressed horse due to the way he was raised and the type of showing he did. He will let me ride him, but I can feel that there is nothing in it for him. And so, I strip it down to why I got him – which was to give him the best possible life. And I realize now that his best life means pasture, friends and freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, Katie. As you read, I can certainly relate to your situation. It sure is disappointing to come to the conclusion that a particular horse just doesn’t seem suitable for you in the riding department. At the same time, I so appreciate that you are committed to your horse, trying to figure out how to keep him as healthy and happy as possible. It can be a roller coaster of a journey, I know! Your gelding is fortunate to have found his way to you. Thanks, again.


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