Phases of Retirement
I had a conversation with someone today who is in the initial stage of retiring their horse. Right now they are still in what I refer to as the phase of acceptance. It really is a crummy place to be, trying to accept that your horse that you love riding so much needs to be retired for whatever reason. You are also having to accept that all of your future plans and goals that involved riding the horse are now toast. I can relate with this phase having been through it myself with a couple of my horses over my 30 year riding career.
The acceptance phase is not a fun place to be whether the horse is young or older. Especially since this phase often follows what I refer to as the roller coaster phase where you spend a fortune in money and time, not to mention mental health, trying to diagnose and then treat/rehab your horse. This is the phase where it is the hope that kills you, and I mean it kills you. You keep thinking that after this treatment, or after X period of rest this will all be behind you. And for brief periods it seems like it is behind you. Or maybe now that you are having an MRI done you will finally get a definitive answer and plan of action. Of course you’ve already done a zillion x-rays and ultrasounds and a full body bone scan, had the horse on stall rest, done some rounds of shockwave, and maybe some IRAP or PRP as well. Oh, and don’t forget the joint injections. Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching!!
The bills you can rack up during the roller coaster phase can be frightening! If you’ve never been through this pray that you never experience it and consider yourself lucky. If you are married when going through the roller coaster phase I especially feel for the spouse. I don’t know what gets more drained, your time, your bank account or your mental health. I know Jason hopes to never experience the roller coaster phase again!
The phase after acceptance is the action phase. Especially if your horse is boarded at a show barn with limited turn out this often means finding a different facility to board your horse. Now that the horse is not going to be ridden they will have even less time out of their stall and it is often best for the mental and physical health of the horse to find a situation with either 24/7 turnout or all day/night turnout. We’ve all heard the horror stories that come with boarding horses so this is a stressful process for a lot of people, especially if it means potentially moving the horse out of your local area. Then you have to also find a shipper, worry about the horse during transport and then worry about how the horse is settling in to their new home. Lots of things to worry about in the action phase!
All in all the phases of retirement often involve a lot of stress and grieving for the people involved. I say this from a very biased perspective but I do think it is possible for this to come to something of a happy ending for all involved, especially the horses. But then who wouldn’t be content to be retired and spend your time doing whatever you want to do while someone else totes the note??
Chance and Leo
Gus and Faune