Few horses are as special as the saintly lesson horse. The one that happily carts kids and adults over their first cross-rails and instills in them a love for riding. The one who never takes a wrong step, who always shows up to work with his ears pricked.
Scotty is one such horse. In his seven years in Liftoff Equestrian’s lesson program, in Versailles, Kentucky, the dark bay Thoroughbred with the kind eyes taught countless riders their diagonals, leads, and basic horsemanship. But at the ripe old age of 28, barn owner Ashley Watts decided he’d earned his retirement. His joints had gotten stiffer and his coat a little grayer. As Ashley watched him lope around a little course one afternoon, swap his leads without prompting, and do his exuberant “big trot” around the ring upon completion, she thought, “That’s it. He can be done.”
She wanted him to retire on a happy and healthy note, and his owner agreed. A fellow boarder at Liftoff needed a companion for her 24-year-old blind retiree, Magic, so all parties decided that Scotty would move to her farm a few miles down the road.
But first, they had to throw the retirement party of all equine retirement parties for the horse who’d won so many hearts. Here’s how it’s done.
Invite everyone you know.
Ashley set up a Facebook event page for Scotty’s retirement party and sent invites to all barn friends past and present. She posted flyers around the barn and scribbled a reminder on the lesson board. The party would start at noon on a Saturday, allowing admirers a couple-hour window during which to show up, feed Scotty a few carrots, and wave him onto the trailer to his new home. Based on my best estimate, I’d say about 50 people came and went during that time.
Buy or make party favors.
Riders designed poster board signs, signed a retirement card, and brought themed balloons and streamers to celebrate the occasion.
There would be no mistaking who the man of the hour was. Scotty wore his monogrammed stable sheet, a “Retired and Fabulous” sash, and a regal crown. He’d been groomed to the nines, had his feet polished, and was surrounded by a constant hoard of fans.
One boarder baked an amazing homemade carrot cake for Scotty. While it was both human- and horse-safe, Scotty preferred actual carrots to cake. There was no shortage of other pastries and cookies for us hungry humans.
Snap lots of photos.
Everyone wanted their photo taken with Scotty, and he was more than happy to oblige. Of course, a lot of carrots and apples were involved, cut into small pieces to make chewing with his long incisors easy. He was particularly interested in small children and babies—maybe because they tended to have sticky apple fingers, maybe because they all gravitated toward the shiny streamers in front of his stall.
Take a lap of honor.
Between photo sessions, Scotty paraded through the barn aisles and to the indoor arena, pausing to hang out in the grooming bays and eat more carrots.
Share the wealth with your four-legged friends.
The other critters on the farm partook in the festivities and enjoyed the extra treats and attention: Elle the pig, Ozzy the goat, Roosevelt the Miniature Horse, Ashley’s dogs, a small herd of dwarf minis, cows, and even a llama. Elle ultimately overturned the treat table and ate Scotty’s entire cake.
Make a grand exit.
As the celebration wound down, Ashley packed up the two-horse with everything Scotty would need in retirement and let the remaining partygoers say their farewells. A turnout rug replaced his stable sheet, crown, and sash. Roosevelt hopped on the trailer to keep Scotty company on the journey, and off they went.
Upon arriving at his new home, Scotty marched right off the trailer and into Magic’s paddock. The old guy took a canter tour of the field, with Magic in tow, despite his lack of sight after losing both eyes to uveitis and glaucoma. Then they settled down and sniffed and snorted and got to know one another. Scotty’s new job in life will be to essentially serve as Magic’s guide-horse, helping him navigate gates, fencelines, and stall doors.