One of the best parts of my NC visit was getting to visit my former horse bff, Elvis. When I first got the news that he would be retiring back to my friend’s farm, I immediately scheduled some time to go visit when I was home for the holidays.
Armed with a bag of carrots, an apple and a big lump in my throat, I walked out to the pasture where my friend told me that he’d be in. It’d been about four years since I’ve seen him last, and since he’s nearing his 21st birthday… I didn’t really know what to expect when I saw the old man.
I should have known exactly what to expect. It was feeding time, he was the last horse out and he wanted DINNER. My bag of carrots and the apple proved a good distraction while I gave him a hug and looked him over. His weight looked great, coat looked great, and the only visible signs of age were that his already long back has a much more prominent dip in it and the white hairs from his star are spreading all across his forehead.
Bringing him into the barn, my friend snapped some pictures of us while we chatted about Elvis. His last owner emailed me before my visit, and let me know how much she loved him and was sad to send him back. She explained that he has arthritis in his hocks/back that she tried everything to treat, but in the end it was best for him to retire from jumping and anything more than light work.
So really, his current stage of retirement isn’t quite full retirement after all. He may have a beginner half leaser lined up, and the owners at the farm he’s at now are getting him injected for light ring work. Old man grumpy may still have to work a bit yet… but it’ll be easy and I’m sure he’ll love all the treats he’ll be showered with.
With this info, I decided to hop on bareback when my friend suggested it. I just looped the lead rope around his halter and putzed around the ring. It’s really weird riding a horse you used to feel 100% in sync with, and then not have that feeling anymore. Part of it is of course because he’s a bit creaky and stiff at this stage in his life and doesn’t feel much like the little hot rod I remember. Part of it is that I’ve been riding a horse a full hand taller and substantially more athletic – I’ve gotten used to that kind of ride.
Regardless, it was great to walk around with my old friend… even if he threw several mild temper tantrums that he wasn’t eating dinner. I don’t have to worry about his spirit being dampened any in his hold age!
At one point, I decided to trot a bit and got a quick shuffly gait that he really wanted to be a canter (Elvis always preferred cantering to trotting during his hay day). I had no bridle, no tack, and a somewhat lame at the moment old horse so I brought him back down to a walk instead of cantering around bareback. Honestly? My bareback sea legs aren’t good right now and I wasn’t sure I could ever live down the humiliation of falling off my geriatric old horse in front of plenty of witnesses when I was riding without a helmet. Although, I guess that would have made a great story for this blog post.
Instead, the story is I got to see my old friend. He was really well cared for in his last home, and he continues to receive great care in this next phase of his life. I still love him a lot. I also think I now realize that everything does work out for a reason. Even though it took several horses after Elvis for me to have a suitable partnership, that was the way things needed to go. I needed the experience from riding a variety of horses, and Elvis needed to not be pushed into the hunter/jumper world.
He’s a great old guy, and I’m still just happy and grateful that I know where he is and can see him from time to time 🙂