My 18 year old thoroughbred is my only riding horse these days. Before I moved, I always had a project horse around, a horse that needed to get healthier or needed training or exposure to become a better riding horse. When I moved, Baron was the only horse I brought with me to the island. He is an ex-racehorse; the human equivalent would be an ex-NFL player. He only raced for three years, but he had at least one major injury (he was pinfired at the track and still has the scars), and a couple serious freak accidents since coming off the racetrack. He isn’t exactly sound. He’s sorta/kinda sound. For some things. On some days. Basically, he’s pretty beat up.
Sometimes I wonder if I should keep riding him or call it a day and retire him. He creaks when he walks, and some days he seems stiff in his hind end. I pretty much never ask him to canter under saddle, because he bucks every time. It feels like he can’t push smoothly off his hind end to begin the canter and has to jump into it with a little buck. He also flat refuses to do arena work. He absolutely will not behave if I try and get him to do small circles, the kind you would do in a dressage lesson. Stepping deeply under with that inside hind leg on a tight circle is too much for him.
He has a great attitude about trail riding, though. Here we trailer to the beach and ride, and he walks on the trailer before I even get the door all the way open. I’m very aware of his attitude and his willingness when we ride. I’ve questioned whether I should retire him and look for another younger horse to ride. I haven’t done that because Baron genuinely seems to enjoy being ridden on the beach.
On our last ride we turned around early because there were a ton of trucks on the beach and they park down near the water, which forces us to ride in the deeper, softer sand near the dune. Have you ever walked in deep sand? It’s a workout! I cut the ride short because I didn’t want him working that hard.
We were headed back to the trailer and we had crossed over the dune onto a hard packed dirt road that leads back to the parking area. We always trot here. The footing is great – hard, but not too hard, and not enough gravel to hurt his feet. As we neared the trailer, Baron stopped and stood still. He’s done this before, so I knew what was up. I let him stand there and eventually he turned around and headed back toward the beach. He wasn’t done! We trotted the length of the road again, then turned and trotted it a third time. It’s maybe a quarter mile, if that. Once he had trotted it 3 times, with a powerful, ground covering trot, he was ready to be done.
Moments like that tell me that he’s not ready to retire just yet. He lives in a much smaller area than he did when we lived in Georgia, and I think he enjoys going to the beach and stretching his legs, especially being able to trot a long distance. Moving in a straight line is a lot easier than being lunged or being ridden in small circles. It loosens him up and lets him burn off some energy as well.
I used to want to do a lot of hard core riding, first jumping and then I though I might like to get into endurance. Baron wasn’t able to do either of those things for very long. His body just didn’t hold up to the work. At this point, I am perfectly content with a walk/trot ride on the beach for about an hour, once or twice a week. It seems that my ambition level and Baron’s ability are finally a match.
I’ll keep riding him as long as it’s fun for him. When he starts telling me he’s done, we’ll be done. Until then, he’s a fun horse to ride!