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Taking Care Of Retired Horses

A retired horse in a pastureDeciding when to retire your horse is one of the toughest decisions a horse owner has to face. Unlike humans there is no standard retirement age for horses. While a Thoroughbred may run his last race at three years old, other disciplines such as dressage and hunters have horses excel at the highest levels of competition well into their late teens. Ideally injury will not force a horse into retirement; rather the horse will tell us when it is time to start reducing his workload. When it's time to retire your horse you must design a retirement plan that keeps him mentally and physically comfortable.

Out to Pasture

Just because your horse can no longer perform at his highest levels, doesn't mean he should live out the rest of his days in a field. The best way to retire a performance horse is to gradually decrease his activity level. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. You could start jumping lower fence heights or ride your horse fewer days a week. If your horse is sound, willing and able there is no reason to stop riding him cold turkey. In fact, light riding can help your horse stay mentally and physically fit.

Tender Loving Care

While our performance horses are competing, we make their health a priority so they can be at the top of their game. As they age it’s even more important that we continue with their regularly scheduled wellness checks, vaccinations, dental examinations and farrier appointments. Additionally, if you have had your horse on a joint supplement or injection regime, talk to your vet before discontinuing it. Although they are no longer competing, these joint extras can go a long way to making your horse comfortable.

Daily grooming is another way to give your horse some TLC, while serving a useful purpose at the same time. When it comes to retired horses, grooming isn't so much for making your horse show ring ready, but rather it helps you access their body condition. Getting hands on with your retiree can also help you discover any underlying skin conditions or superficial wounds.


As horses age, even the most solitary horse tends to appreciate companionship. Pairing your horse with a like minded pasture mate will help keep your horse in good spirits. Avoid putting your horse with young, pushy horses as they may prevent your horse from accessing food, shelter and shade. If your horse can't get along with other horses try pairing him with a goat, donkey or pony.

Stick to the routine

If you have had a horse for many years you know what makes him tick. If your horse has never been a fan of hours and hours of turnout, don't assume pasture board is the right retirement solution. Horses are creatures of habit and have become accustomed to a certain routine over their many years. As most performance horses have been managed throughout their career, their retirement should be no different. Let your horse guide you as you design the retirement situation that is best for him.

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