Confessions of a Timid Rider

When Is It Time to Stop Riding? Part One: The Horse

I always dreamed of having my own horse. I was an adult when I achieved that reality and knew from the beginning that any animal I had would be part of my forever family. No matter what.

My experience as an equine bodyworker gave me certain advantages when I found out my little guy, Ferrous, had EPM previously and lived with anhidrosis (no sweat). I was able to work with colleagues in veterinary health to discuss supplements, boosting his immune system, and ways to reduce inflammation naturally. Then he was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme disease from tick bites and more recently, Cushing’s or PPID. The hits seemed to keep coming.

We struggle with keeping his immune system healthy, reducing vaccinations to those that are mandatory and spacing them out. Worming him only after we check him annually for a fecal egg count, and slowly transitioning him to a forage-based diet. For the most part, while we have highs and lows, he’s a happy and playful gelding.

Ferrous would be happy living his life at 15 years old as a paddock pet. The truth is, I struggle whether I should retire him or not. He get regular time off especially during the summer when temperatures are too warm for him. What I’ve noticed is that he is stiffer and loses muscle tone incredibly fast during those lulls in our program. When he is back in a low-key fitness program, something that inspired my book Body Conditioning for the Horse and Rider, he is noticeably more relaxed, less stiff, and more playful.

Exercise = Happy, Healthier Ferrous.

No one but you, your horse, and your veterinary team can determine when it’s time to retire. Every situation is different. If I looked on paper, I would probably retire my pony. Instead, seeing how he thrives in regular work, I focus instead on giving him the best foundation I possibly can so that despite his illnesses and neurological status, he’s as comfortable as he can be.

I’m keeping a keen eye on his situation. The second he needs to retire, he will. We’re not there yet, thankfully. But when he does, he’ll still be part of my family.

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