Horses are hard work and if you aren't horsey (like I wasn't), I can not even describe what winters are like when you have a horse. What I also want to point out here is that old horses are hard work, I'm not saying any harder than young horses, on the contrary they know their job and are generally well behaved. But older horses are a different type of hard work.
"Bodie will not retire. Ever."
I got Bodie when she was 25 years old, an emaciated 25 year old horse that I was bringing back into work to build condition and muscle. Now, what I want to add here is that the photos of Bodie, are of her recovering from a trial 'retirement' period, which is why I get so defensive and so passionate when people ask me about retirement, or even utter the word to me. Bodie will not retire. Ever. She doesn't want to, she thrives on being active, being stimulated and having a job.
It took me well over a year and a half to get her looking anything decent to a horse, it was a painstaking process with plenty of feeds whenever I could fit them in, in the day. The vet used to come and check her teeth and before I knew it, I would have another tooth in my hands. Her mouth resembles something close to a bomb site and the older she gets the more gaps she has in her mouth. It's pretty unpleasant in there! So each year I have to rethink feeds and come up with an inventive way to get the nutrients in to make sure her body is keeping up with her very active brain. I am all too aware of the age of Bodie, both back then and now. As someone who is really inexperienced, I always ask people for advice about what I should do, how much should I do with her, am I asking too much of her, what would make her more comfortable, is this lump normal? There are a fair few people who have suggested to me that Bodie would probably enjoy being a field ornament, even a saddle fitter asked "So when are you thinking of retiring her?" when I responded with "Never" she was quite taken aback and we didn't speak much during the saddle fitting after that. I guess most horses follow a similar pattern, as most humans do in life: birth, school/learning, work, retirement. Sometimes you have to take a step back and decide what is actually right for the horse rather than our perception of how life should be.
I was so close to making the decision to get a second horse and drop Bodie down a peg or two so she could relax in 2018. It wasn't a random second horse either, it was very experienced, well known, perfect Kate type of horse, an impressive 17hh, black gelding, who has been there, done it and got the tshirt, a real gem. But when the crunch moment came, I looked at Bodie and my gut said she doesn't want a slower pace of life, so why would I do it? To preserve her life or to preserve the life I have I have with her? Because they are two very different things. As heartbreaking as it is to make a decision on how to play out Bodie's final years, if Bodie was to die in the middle of a showjumping arena, I know I will have given her the best life I could ever offer her and she would die doing something that she loves. We might not be able to keep up with the young guns and we might be a bit stiff and knock some poles down. But she is sound and she is happy and when she is in that arena and hears the bell ring, she turns from being a 30 odd year old horse to a teenager again. So, sod it, I'm going to give her as many experiences like that, that I can. Through all the frowning faces, shaking heads and disapproving looks in the horsey world. As the quote says "Sometimes you have to die a little inside in order to be reborn and rise again as a stronger and wiser version of you". Everyone deserves a second chance.