Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Adopting Aging Equids

November is “Adopt a Senior Pet” Month. Have you adopted or taken in a senior horse?

Adopting Aging Equids
Sometimes senior horses have the most to teach us. | Photo: iStock

Somehow it’s November already and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. But that’s not the only celebration taking place this month–it’s also “Adopt a Senior Pet” month! That’s right, old horse fanatics, a month dedicated to encouraging more and more people to become senior horse owners!

I’ve often heard that in small-animal shelters, the youngest residents are usually the first to find new homes. I’d guess it’s similar for equine rescues. And on one hand, I get it. If I’m looking for a riding partner to train and bring up through the levels, I’m probably going to look for one without much wear and tear on his joints and with a long future ahead of him.

But, having brought Dorado home when he was 13–unsure of what, if anything he would be able to do–I know that you can find an ideal mount who’s not 5. And from my experiences working at a lesson farm in Michigan that catered mainly to girls who’d never interacted with a horse before, I can most certainly assure you that, sometimes, an experienced senior horse is the best way to

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

29 Responses

  1. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I adopted my QH gelding when he was 15.  My friend had picked him up at an auction when he was on the way to the killers due to his ringbone.  He had been a working ranch horse – a tool, and the tool was broken, so he was being thrown away. &

  2. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I rescued/adopted a 17 hands gelding via a friend. Did not know his age/name/breed. Only the ex -owner said to my friend "find him a good home as I cannot look after him anymore". Ben (name I gave)was very hyper and dominant ,but not under we

  3. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    In May, 2015, I adopted a 16 year old Arabian Stallion from a breeder that was downsizing his stable.  Several friends thought I was crazy for adopting a "stallion" as, it had been 30 years since owning a horse.  After long consider

  4. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    Our 6yo daughter needed a horse to learn on so the first place I looked was for an old, been there done that horse. We bought a retired calf roping horse and he’s been amazing. I took him to the vet and when I asked his age she said, "older than d

  5. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I had never had a horse until 3 years ago at age of 49, I told a friend he could bring his old (30+) & dying gelding to the family cattle ranch to be put down in a back pasture.  Because of his sweet sweet nature, we decided to buy some food i

  6. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I adopted my OTT mare Lady 8 years ago when she was 15 and I was 50.  She was on the property next to mine for about 5 years, where the owner paid zero attention to her and fed her but not really enough – she was not skin and bones but she was def

  7. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I love reading these stories, I can relate.  I have a quarter horse that the owner left owing me $6,000 plus boarding the horse Firefly. That was about 10 years ago.  I love the old boy dearly but he is too much of a handful for me now. &nbsp

  8. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I am in tears reading all these wonderful comments/stories from those who own senior equines. They are so touching and it is a pleasure to be in the company of others who adore the old guys and gals.

    We currently have 3 BLM mustangs – their ages

  9. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I rescued Daddy twice. I acquired him and his pasture mate, Pepper and both were so malnourished that they couldn’t even stand. I brought them both back to a decent weight and a neighbor took Daddy to his place. I lost Pepper to old age having been wit

  10. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    If this were Facebook, I would surely "like" all the comments above.  I have 16 horses.  6 of them are rescues and the rest, a mixture of bought and bred.  All will never leave.  I have 5 over 25 and several more in the 20

  11. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    My last horse had to be euthanized last December at the age of 15 after a pasture accident. I decided to look for a good trail horse to lease and found a 23 year old Arab mare who is absolutely perfect. She is a retired endurance horse. She was part of

  12. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I’ve adopted/rescued several older horses. A few I just bought so they would not end up at a slaughter house (or die on the way. I figured I could bring them  to die peacefully but as others have experienced, they did not die, at least not right a

  13. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I would not consider a 13 year old to be a senior – I’d call that the prime of life.  I got my mare when she was 13, and my gelding when he was 21.  Both of them have plenty (too much at times) of energy, and are happily learning a lot of new

  14. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I adopted a 20+ year old retired Therapeutic Riding horse named TC.

    We are best friends and go for "walks" on Sundays in the hills of NC.  He is so done doing arena work (due to the unbalanced riders her endures for 10 years) that

  15. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I grew up with horses, from new-born foals to older mounts.  I was halfway through college when my father died and it fell upon me to part with horses, farm and all, because I could not afford to continue with its upkeep.  Thirty years later

  16. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    Three weeks ago I purchased 2 18-year-old mares from a kill buyer.  They are both sweet as can be, and will not have to do anything but decorate my pasture for the rest of their lives.  Their lives matter, they’re now safe and will get the sa

  17. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    A year ago, I had the opportunity to take on a 19-year old QH gelding that had been part of a therapeutic riding program & needed a new home after an accident from which he’d recovered.

    It was love at first sight – he’s on the small side for

  18. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    We didn’t adopt a senior horse, we bought him and it was more like winning the lottery! He was 19 at that time, a former show horse who was abandoned by his 3rd owner. Ringo was healthy, sound, and really well trained. My daughter was 10 when we bought

  19. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I volunteer at This Old Horse in Hastings, MN which is a wonderful community of people caring for retired and rescued horses.  I ride Joe a 13 year old who is on the young side of our gang but they all have so much to teach us and I am so grateful

  20. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    We adopted a 19 year old quarter horse gelding named Lucky as his original owner was retiring and moving.  He is a super cool horse who knows so much and we are so grateful to be able to give him his forever home.  It’s been 4 and a half year

  21. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I have a 26 year old horse who I’ve been partners with for over 16 years, and I’m now 65 years old. He has been ill and has major heart issues and also has nearly all   age-related issues which are not treatable and not manageable, but he’s still

  22. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    Oops. Didn’t mean to send our story twice. Oh well, its worth the retelling. Happy trails to you and your senior horse.

  23. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    Warrior was assigned to me for my 1st lesson at age 57. I was scared standing next to such a large animal & started to cry. Warrior is an old soul. He lowered his head & put his neck around me. He stood quietly until I calmed down & started

  24. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I was gifted with a VERY old TB gelding. He was starved to a rack of bones but I was able to bring him back to reasonable health and he lived another 4 years. He was the sweetest horse in the world. When he lay down and couldn’t be gotten up, I knew it

  25. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I don’t know for sure how old my horse is due to some gaps in his history, but best guess is that he’s 30 – 32. He’s smart, funny, and oh so experienced, but still has more than enough spunk to tell me how it is. I sincerely love older horses.

  26. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    Sweet, kind school master, Warrior, was assigned to me for my very 1st lesson. I was 57. I started to cry just standing next to such a big animal. Warrior is an old soul. He lowered his great head and looked into my eyes. He put his neck around me. War

  27. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I adopted a 23 year old Arab gelding who had been a winning show horse in his youth but sort of fell through the cracks after various jobs including day camp. He needed a friend with enough money to pay for cancer surgery…that was me.  It was lo

  28. re: Adopting Aging Equids

    I brought home an elderly mare when I picked my horse up from the trainer. The trainer said, "Here, he needs a buddy" and put her in the trailer.

    I couldn’t say no. She was skin and bones. You could see every rib and every vertebra. H

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