One day it happens. The horse that you've shared a thousand miles and a heart full of dreams with is ready for retirement. Maybe you realize your 200-blue ribbon show horse deserves better than loping laps around the show pen. Or, your trail horse is tripping a little more than he used to. Or maybe, just maybe, your middle-aged performance horse has lost her drive to compete. Regardless of the scenario your horse deserves the best possible outcome. There are several options and here are a few of our best leads.
Therapeutic Riding Programs
The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) has over 800 member centers throughout the United States. Horseback riding's benefits are threefold to a handicapped rider, the act of riding will physically, emotionally and mentally strengthen the rider. The results are nothing short of amazing! These types of programs are always on the lookout for horses that are physically and mentally sound, extremely patient, not easily spooked, and especially forgiving. Due to the variety of riders and volunteers working with these horses, the ideal horses will be between 14 – 15.2 hands and between the ages of 6 and 20 years.
College Equestrian Programs
If your horse still has a few working years left, consider a college or university with an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association program. The IHSA provides an opportunity for riders of any skill level to continue their love of riding while enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student. The schools provide the mounts for everyday practice and competition. Horses must be sound, safe and know the fundamentals. To find a local participating school visit their web site www.ihsainc.com.
Do you remember going to horse camp as a child? Well, horseback riding at camp is alive and well. Children are still waiting all year to go to camp and clippity-clop around the property. Your local church, YMCA or Boy/Girl Scout camps may be looking for your safe steed as an addition to their camp staff.
One really is the loneliest number to an equine. Horses by nature are herd animals. Just as you may be searching for the perfect pasture for your horse another horse owner is out there hunting for the perfect companion horse. There are plenty of circumstances that put owners in need of a pal for their horse; maybe they have the sole show horse that needs a next-door friend or a yearling that could use a buddy to teach him the ways of life in the pasture. It's a matter of connecting the needs! Your local Southern States store and online communities are great places to post and look for wanted ads.
Horse Retirement Facilities
For the horse owner who is fortunate enough to be able to afford to keep the horse through the end of his days, professional retirement facilities do exist. These barns provide all of the care needed for the retired equine. Most facilities are pasture board only and provide adequate shelter in the winter months and are prepared to deal with the aging horse's requirements. Use Google® to search the Internet for "horse retirement" centers in your area.
If any of these look like a good fit for your situation, please do some research to find local options. Another great way to find quality programs is to learn more about Southern States Special Horse Organization Winner's (SHOW) Program. The SHOW program online brochure (PDF) lists quality non-profit horse programs that make a difference in the equestrian community and could also be looking for your horse.