You might be able to relate to this: someone who is thinking about purchasing a horse probably spends hours pouring over for sale ads, picking out their dream horse. We've all been there! While on one of her many searches, my aunt found a gelding that sounded perfect for her. One small "but"- he was 22 years old.
Paint Girl, my mom, and I convinced my aunt that age isn't everything. Many horses remain sound and rideable into their mid and upper twenties. My sister's co-worker has a 35 year old horse that she was still riding until recently. It just depends on the horse, how it was used, and how well it is cared for. And like people, probably some genetics. Pat Parelli's gorgeous black stallion is at least 20, and doesn't look a day over 5 years old!
The grayed out Paint gelding my aunt found was a roping horse. He was originally a ranch horse in Wyoming. Here is a picture of him from his sale ad, in his earlier years:
My aunt was told that he was pretty much unflappable, still knew how to head and heel, and was great on the trails. His owner had only been riding horses for around 5 years, had started roping on this gelding but had upgraded to a new horse that was younger and more challenging. She had told my aunt on the phone that this guy showed some wear on his knees from roping, but otherwise, was healthy and could still hit the trails all day.
The horse sounded perfect for my aunt in temperament- calm, been-there-done-that, child and husband safe. However, when we saw him this morning as he was eating his breakfast, he moved about his stall and it was obvious he was sore. The night before, he'd laid down in his stall and couldn't get up. Apparently the stall cleaner hadn't put in enough bedding and that mats they use were slippery. One of his pasterns were swollen and he seemed overall in pain. The owners felt bad that they hadn't known he was sore or they would have called and had us come another day. They obviously hadn't given him any bute and said he'd been feeling and looking quite spry the day before. Aside from the present soreness from whatever happened the night before, his knees were pretty knobby. I've never seen knees so knobby on a horse! Probably bone spurs?Despite his winter fuzz, the gelding sure was a handsome boy with a nice head and kind eyes, but showed quite a bit of good muscle tone for his age. He had a sort of a ranch horse wear-and-tear look to him, though. Like a high-mileage car. He was very calm and a bit like my own Boy in personality- a bit indifferent. They said he had warmed up a lot in the past few years. In the past, he was a "working" horse and not much for affectionate chit-chat or conversation.
I don't think my aunt was too disappointed. Although open to the idea of giving an older horse a continued useful life, I think she was realistic in realizing that although probably perfect for her in disposition, this boy was a little beyond what she was looking for in soundness and age. Especially since she will have to board the horse. If my aunt had property and pasture, it would be possible to ride him a few years until he couldn't be ridden, then just give him the retirement at pasture that he deserves.
My auntie will know when she finds the right horse. For now, she might consider leasing the Arabian she is taking lessons on. I think that is a good place to start. Hey, look where that got me!