Q: Is it worth buying an older horse?
Answered by Farryn Day
A: Over the years, I have heard many people discounting the value of an older horse for themselves or their children. Older horses are labelled as ‘difficult keepers’, ‘lazy’, or ‘over-the-hill’ and the question is often asked “Isn’t it better for my son/daughter to learn and grow with their horse or pony?” In my opinion the simple answer is – no, not always.
I think we have forgotten the true value of an older horse. By using the term ‘older horse’ I mean a horse that has passed the prime of their life and can no longer compete at a top level. These types of horses do not often come onto the market and if you can find one that is still sound – they are generally worth their weight in gold! I have come across many retired showjumpers, polo ponies and dressage horses that have left the competitive arena behind and started a new chapter of their lives – teaching the next generation of riders before their ultimate retirement. A horse may no longer be fit to jump in the big classes, perform high level dressage movements or play high-speed polo, and yet that doesn’t mean that they cannot enjoy and excel in a new career with a new owner.
These types of older horses still have so much to give and I believe that they are worth our consideration. ‘Been there! Done that!’ is the motto of these experienced horses and generally speaking, they know how to handle various situations such as shows, travelling, noise and crowds of people. For an inexperienced or nervous rider, these characteristics are invaluable!
The most important reason for buying an older horse is their knowledge. If you want to learn to jump, buy a horse that knows how to jump well. Not only is this horse more likely to be able to help you out of a sticky situation such as the incorrect line or stride, they can teach you the finer aspects of jumping a course successfully. Should you be looking for a safe all-rounder horse or pony for your child, consider a cross breed that has done some farm work, or an ex-polo pony. These types are likely to be surefooted, sensible and easy to handle.
Another incredibly valuable lesson these horses have to teach is ‘feel’. For example, you can read and memorise all the aids for a perfect canter strike off and have the best coach in the world, but you can never truly understand what that perfect canter strike off ‘feels like’ unless you have experienced it. These older horses know ‘what to do and how to do it’ and can be enormous confidence builders.
The downside to purchasing an older horse is that they may need a little more TLC and the responsibility for their retirement is going to fall on you. However due to their reduced workload, I have known plenty of horses that enjoy many happy years in their final careers.
To keep your older horse sound and happy for as long as possible remember the following:
Next time you’re looking for a horse and you come across an ‘oldie’; consider giving them a chance – I for one believe that they are most definitely worth the effort!
By Farryn Day
Myofascial Release & Kinesiology Tape Therapist
Instagram: @smic_equestrian or @smicfarryn