The Maybe-Not-Forever Home

I’m about to share what seems to be a rather unpopular opinion: I don’t reeeeally believe in the idea of a “forever home.” When I signed the sale papers to make Frankie mine, I did not promise him that he would be with me forever.

What I did promise him was this: I will always endeavor to make the best choices for your health and happiness.

Now, these two things are not mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible that the best possible outcome for Frankie is to grow old in my care, and that would be a lovely thing. The best choice for him could be a forever home with me.

But there are so many things that could happen differently.

If I hit on hard times financially and could no longer feed myself while paying board: Frankie would go to a home who can feed both themselves and him. There is much I will sacrifice, but I will not sacrifice my basic needs. The better option for him in this case would be to go to a home that could offer more stability in care.

If Frankie gets injured and is no longer sound to jump: he would go to a home that would appreciate his easy-going temperament and trainability for dressage, hunter paces, trails, or other flatwork. The better choice for him would be to go somewhere where he would be appreciated for all he could still offer.

If Frankie tells me that 1.10m is about as high as he wants to go, and I decide that I have 1.20m goals: he would go be the perfect division move-up partner for a timid junior or ammy who needs a confidence-booster of a horse. The better choice for him would be to stay at a height where he is happy and comfortable competing.

These are worst case scenarios- I have a steady career and Frankie is sound and scopy. But they are worth considering.

And these situations hinge on the fact that Frankie is my athletic partner, not my pet. I love him so so so much and always want what is best for him- but I have competitive goals too, and he was purchased as a partner to help pursue those goals.

This is not the case for everyone- I know many people who have switched disciplines and changed their focus in order to pursue the career that is right for their mount. They adjust their goals to meet the abilities and willingness of their horse, and this changes over the years. I am not knocking this in the least- I admire and respect this.

That’s just not how things are for me right now. I love competing in the jumpers, and I want to go be competitive at the bigger shows. I want to jack the jumps up. And up. And up. And while it may be inflexible of me, I’m not willing to change those goals. Nor do I have the wallet to support two horses- I can only pay for one, so that one has to be a mount that can take me where I want to go.

Let me be clear here: Frankie is not for sale. I hope to have many happy years to compete and grow with him.

But I will also put the work into him to increase his value- put on show miles, build his USEF record, install those lateral-work buttons. He is the type of horse that will always make someone very happy. I’m thrilled that person is me, but I’m not morally opposed to it being someone else if circumstances change.

As long as that is the best choice for a safe and happy future for my horse.

What are your thoughts on “forever homes?”

 

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55 thoughts on “The Maybe-Not-Forever Home

  1. littlepiecesofme1 11/10/2016 / 9:37 am

    The only time I ever see “forever home” is in a horse ad. Let’s stop and think about the irony of this. The seller, could not be the forever home yet will only forward the horse on to someone who claims that they can be (which is an impossible promise, as no one can predict the future.) HYPOCRITE!!!!

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    • hellomylivia 11/10/2016 / 9:44 am

      Agreed completely! I get that people want the best for their horses, but don’t expect 100% certainty ever. It’s literally impossible.

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  2. Jenn 11/10/2016 / 9:43 am

    Yes. This. Always and forever this. Preach on, girlfriend.

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  3. Allison Stitzinger 11/10/2016 / 9:48 am

    There are so many ways to do right by our horses! When I adopted Dino, I DID promise him a forever home. He had been bounced around from program to program, never finding his niche, and was unhappy and sick and in pain, and I promised him an end to all of that. But before being my competitive partner, this pony was my friend, and I adopted him with the intention of providing for him for the rest of his life whether we ended up dominating the show ring or he just became a beautiful, happy pasture pet. That said, I do not begrudge ANYONE who sells a horse on to a home that is a better fit when circumstances dictate. After all, if no one ever sold their horses, how would we ever acquire these lovely animals in the first place?! As long as a horse is well cared for until the end by SOMEONE… I don’t much mind who that person is.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:17 pm

      I love that sentiment- if no one ever sold horses, where would I have found my Frankie?!

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  4. tntibbetts 11/10/2016 / 9:49 am

    I grew up with horses and my parents made it a point to sell my horse every year or two and get me a new one. I presume their motivation was to help me improve by getting horses better suited to my skills as I became a better rider, but also to prevent me from getting too attached to any of them. As an adult I have a 23yo QH who was born at my parent’s place when I was 13. It is safe to say he has a forever home with me. I also have a 9yo TB and a 4yo warmblood. Should my situation change for some reason, I would sell either or both of the youngers. I also want to make my horse valuable in case he/she needs to be sold. I want them to have the best opportunity to move to another home and continue to flourish and do what they are good at doing. Forever homes for horses just aren’t realistic. They are large, expensive creatures. If someone can’t care for them, the animal is better off being sold to someone who can provide it the care it requires.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:18 pm

      I agree that making your horse valuable is the best thing you can do to assure them a future where they are loved and appreciated

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Avery 11/10/2016 / 10:09 am

    I have zero intentions of selling either of mine. I also do not have the competitive goals you have. That being said, I always have in the back of my mind the worst case. If I HAVE to sell because it would be better for them for whatever reason, I want them to go to the best place possible and not just anyone. I want them to be registered and continue to improve in their jobs to try and have some extra insurance that they will end up in a better place that is hopefully forever.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:19 pm

      I think it’s great that you’re making them good equine citizens! Best case scenario: you get to hold on to a couple of really wonderful horses, and worst case scenario, you’ve ensured that they can go to a good home and be loved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Avery 11/11/2016 / 3:41 pm

        Hey thanks! It really is the best thing to do. As hard as it is to accept, we have no way to know the future and anything can happen. It is the only way to be a good steward to them.

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  6. Amanda C 11/10/2016 / 10:13 am

    I’m not really a forever home either. I’ve said that before, and you’re right, it’s not always a very popular stance. I’ve ALWAYS bought and resold project horses, my entire life. I’ve owned 14 of them in the past 15 years. But I’ve always tried to do the right thing by every single horse I’ve owned. I do everything in my power to make them healthy, productive citizens that can go on to be useful horses to a wide variety of riders throughout their lives. And for the most part I’ve been really successful at that, which is something I’m proud of. I think it’s great if people can and want to give a horse a forever home, but I absolutely will not judge anyone who sells a horse. I’ll judge you if you don’t do the right thing by that horse, but selling it is not a bad thing in and of itself.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:20 pm

      Healthy, productive, and useful. Yes. Absolutely yes. That is something to be immensely proud of, and something I admire greatly.

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  7. rachelum33 11/10/2016 / 10:17 am

    I do not believe in a forever home either. If I had the means there are some horses from my past that I would LOVE to take back and keep them forever but I do not have the money to do so and therefore their lives would suffer if they were with me. Like TNTIBBETTS I had multiple horses growing up. Some were because I was moving up and some were horses that I was training for other people. I love every single one of them and without my experience with them I would not be who I am today. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have been able to learn from all of them because each one taught me something new.

    I do agree with the notion that holding on to them is not always the best thing for them. I did have a favorite show horse that I had for a number of years back in HS but when I went to college my parents made me sell her. I was upset at first but as an adult now I know that April would not have been happy at my barn without me there and my parents are not horse people and would not have cared for her the way she deserved. (Don’t get me wrong its not like they would hurt her but she needed affection and attention that they just wouldn’t have provided.) I also had another horse that I LOVE so much in my adult life that for his best interest I gave up. When he was diagnosed with cancer his previous owner contacted me and asked to care for him. She had a beautiful boarding facility with amazing pastures and a lot more money than me. It was the best thing I could do for him. He lived for 2 years in the comfort of her home and received all the proper meds to keep him comfortable and as healthy as possible. Not giving him a forever home with me was the best gift that I could have given him.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:21 pm

      Those are both such great examples of making the hard choice that was ultimately right for the horse, thank you for sharing these!

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  8. stampyandthebrain 11/10/2016 / 10:19 am

    I’m definitely more on the lifer side of things although I would sell a horse if I purchased it and figured out after a shorter relationship it was a bad fit. I think a lot of it comes down to past experience and your trust of others when you sell a horse. I don’t have much trust in others.

    Phoenix was (and still is) my equine other half. When he was sold (when I went to college because my parents didn’t believe I would be dedicated enough) I was devastated. I had a rough relationship with my parents throughout college and for a couple years after because of it. I saved all throughout college and bought Stampede right after I graduated with my masters degree with a promise that he would be my partner for his lifetime. I plan to keep that promise for many reasons.

    Something else that cemented those feelings for me about horse ownership being for the horse’s life was getting Phoenix back. Seeing your former horse depressed, feet overgrown and full of white line disease, hair missing in patches and dull, underweight, and living in a dark stall 23 hours a day gives you a general distrust for the human race and their ability to care for others. Clearly several people had let Phoenix down and there he was at 21 in a state that if left untreated would have caused him to likely be put to sleep in a few months due to lack of proper care of his feet (per my vet). This horse came home to me, I took care of him, and now he’s 27.5 and still doing light riding with me. He makes me heart happy and I’m so glad I get to give him a happy ending.

    So Stampede will stay with me as well. I will ensure he is properly cared for in his special needs ways. His physical issues won’t be misunderstood for bad behavior. He won’t be pushed beyond his physical limitations. He won’t be neglected or left behind. He has worked hard for me and despite the fact that we haven’t reached the goals I had in mind when I bought him he has taught me a lot.

    I do believe in the end I will achieve my personal riding goals even if I take the long way a bit. Another horse will come along and because of Stampede I will know more about how to ensure proper saddle fit, how to build up a horse’s back and do a bit of dressage work, how to treat issues like cellulitis, and how to trust my gut and push for answers when I know something is wrong that no one else sees.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:23 pm

      Stampede is so lucky to have found his way back to you, and down the road your next mount is going to be so lucky because of the lessons you’ve learned from him. I can definitely understand your perspective!

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  9. KateRose 11/10/2016 / 10:40 am

    My horses are probably all forever horses. That said I don’t have any specific goals beyond low-level everything at this point. But I think if I wanted to ride grand prix dressage or something I would have purchased a horse suitable to that goal. Also I can’t predict the future, I may have health issues or financial struggles that prevent me from keeping my herd… I hope not but you never know!

    My big thing has always been that this hobby/sport is supposed to be fun and if someone isn’t having fun with their horse, move on.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:24 pm

      Hear hear! This sport is so expensive in terms of time and money, unless you’re a professional it really needs to have that “fun” element.

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  10. sarahczspots 11/10/2016 / 10:45 am

    Yeah, I lean more on the lifer side myself, but if I purchase a horse for a goal and they don’t meet said goal and are likely to find a good home elsewhere, I’ll sell the horse. With that in mind…Copper and Robin were raised with me, so their potential had yet to present itself. They are very different horses in the Robin is a trail horse/local show pony at BEST (she’s pretty neurotic, and I can’t imagine how bored I’d have to be to try to pursue giving her a job lol) while Copper (when sound…fml) is able to go out and compete in a variety of things should someone invest the time into him. I’ve adjusted disciplines with Copper numerous times because of what is right for him because the relationship is there and I don’t want to see life without him in it. I bought Paige to fulfill the purpose of a safe, sane mount that I can trust. She continues to fulfill that role, so she gets to stay. With all that being said…I own my own farm. My 26 acres far exceeds what I need for my horses, and I can take on boarders to help with the bills. There isn’t a reality that exists in which I could keep three horses (plus my random spare OTTB that I don’t really count? and three mini donkeys) boarded somewhere and not be homeless myself. So I’m kind of a different situation in that I could keep up numerous horses for the cost of one in your situation.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:26 pm

      That is so so so great that you have that flexibility (and that your ponies are so close to you, I’m jealous!). And it’s wonderful that you’ve built such strong relationships with your horses over the years

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  11. Leah 11/10/2016 / 10:52 am

    My goal is to always do what’s best for the horse — if that’s live with me until they die, okay. If that’s put some good training on them until they are a perfect fit for someone else, that’s also okay. I have the luxury of my own acreage so I don’t ever HAVE to sell any of mine, but earlier this year I sold a pair of mares to a wonderful home where they will receive way more attention and riding than they were getting with me. It was a win for everyone. I find it a little hypocritical for people to demand a forever home in a sale ad when obviously they weren’t willing to provide that themselves.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:27 pm

      That’s fantastic that your mares found a great home- while I’m sure they were happy and healthy with you, it really does sound like such a win-win.

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  12. shelbyrallen 11/10/2016 / 10:53 am

    I’m an emotional sap, so I am a forever home for Justin, but this doesn’t mean I am for all the horses I will ever own. It is easy for me to say that for Justin because he can be an easy keeper pasture ornament, and I have had my parents offer to always have a place to take care of them. I understand most people don’t have that luxury. At the end of the day, its a personal decision. My next horse most likely won’t have a forever home with me. I think the big idea of this is exactly what you’ve said, that you would do best by him.

    In the case of those “Searching for a Forever Home” ads where people are essentially looking to pass along their non-riding horse, an even more unpopular opinion is that euthanasia is an underutilized tool. I think in some cases where an owner (potentially because of no fault of their own) no longer has the resources to provide adequate care to their horses, people look at this as a heartless option. Not advocating that all horses who can’t be ridden competitively should be euthanized, just food for thought.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:29 pm

      Discussing euthanasia is a very very interesting point, and one that seems even more polarizing than the forever home vs selling point. I’d be curious to see a discussion where people weigh in- I can see good solid arguments for either viewpoint!

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  13. Liz 11/10/2016 / 11:14 am

    Totally respect your POV and would do the exact same in your position. I’ve only got three because it’s cheap for me to have three (Seriously, for 3 horses I pay a total of $3600/year in board. Yep, that’s $100/horse/month. It’s incredibly amazing and I’m incredibly lucky. I don’t have trainers close though. Or facilities. This is the trade-off.) Stan is with me forever. Because I promised him that 10 years ago before he was truly mine. I’d love to have the other two forever, but I do recognize that it might not happen. It’s very likely going to happen though because my discipline interests are teasingly diverse. Endurance, dressage, jumping, so far as competitive interests, and trail riding and cow work for enjoyment purposes. My critters have a lot of options so far as jobs they may enjoy. And as long as my finances can support them (cheap board is huge in making this happen), we’ll plod onward down our path of eclecticity (it’s a word, I just made it a word).

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:30 pm

      Oh my gosh I just did some math in my head and your board makes me cry haha. I think it is SO cool that you guys pursue such diverse disciplines- they’re bound to be happy customers in at least one of them πŸ˜‰

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  14. Lauren 11/10/2016 / 12:01 pm

    Since I’m actively trying to sell one of mine right now, I definitely don’t believe in forever homes πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Heather 11/10/2016 / 12:32 pm

    I agree. Val, byt some stroke of fortune on his part, has found a forever home with me. But that doesn’t mean I’ll ride him until he retires. If at some point I decide it’s time to move on, or I want to switch to focus on hunters with my baby horse, he’ll get leased out to someone who can learn a lot from him. But he’s also a special guy, and has given me so much, and I feel like his best chance of a happy retirement is with me at our family farm. But I guarantee that will not be the case for everyone horse I ever own, and that’s ok.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:31 pm

      That’s a really good point- there are options other than a straight up sale than can open up options for both horse and rider.

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  16. Centered in the Saddle 11/10/2016 / 1:15 pm

    I completely agree with your statements, particularly since they are couched in terms that make it clear your decisions are for the best for BOTH of you.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:33 pm

      It really does have to be best for both- I think if either is left out of the equation things tend to get messy.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Karen M 11/10/2016 / 1:29 pm

    Whether or not to be a forever home to a horse is totally up to the individual–there’s not really a right or wrong answer (obviously unless abuse or neglect is involved!) I am lucky enough that I am in a position to be a forever home for Eli, and I have had to other “forever” horses that I kept ownership but they moved on to other riders and jobs. The one horse I did sell I never expected to be a forever horse anyway but selling was not easy–the horse was marketable enough and he found a good home in a reasonable amount of time, but I felt like I was betraying him somehow and that’s on me. Eli is stuck with me.

    You’ve put so much thought into Frankie’s present and future–he is one lucky horse to have you in his life πŸ™‚

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:34 pm

      I’m new to this horse-ownership-as-an-adult thing, but I’m tryin’ real hard!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Stacie Seidman 11/10/2016 / 3:24 pm

    I agree 100%. Unless we’re talking about Rio. Because he’s my best friend. He IS my pet. But had I not built a farm at my house, that might have been different. None of the others are guaranteed a forever home with me. I will always do my best to put them in the right situation. I want what’s best for everyone. Sometimes the internet makes me feel like I’m a bad person because I know not every horse will stay with me forever. But If we don’t like each other, that’s really not the best place for that horse. Thank you for sharing what I’ve been thinking about!

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:35 pm

      I’m glad this resonated! And yes, Rio cannot go. Because Rio.

      Like

  19. heartofhope10 11/10/2016 / 3:36 pm

    Completely agree. Things change, and I while I would always strive to do the best for my horse I’m not going to pledge to be their forever home. If it ends up that way-awesome-but I can’t predict the future!

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:35 pm

      Agreed! It would be fantastic if it ended up that way, but I simply can’t prepare for every possible outcome.

      Like

  20. laurelashtonw 11/10/2016 / 6:30 pm

    I definitely feel the same way. I have said many times that I will likely never sell Chance, but that is only because he unfortunately does not have the disposition that would thrive in many situations, so doing the best for him likely means keeping him. However, I still never say never since who knows what the future holds. I think as long as they end up in a good situation that they will thrive in, it is perfectly fine to sell them if that is what we need to do to achieve our goals. And like you said, sometimes doing what is best for them means finding them a new situation.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:37 pm

      I really like how you say that-finding them a situation that they will thrive in. That’s what we really want for our beasts!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. carey 11/10/2016 / 6:42 pm

    Agree. Things change, and you may not want, or the horse might not, to do what you were doing or thinking of doing when you bought the horse. Did I say that confusingly enough? And it’s cool to keep him forever because you have a special connection, or don’t have competitive goals, or any reason, really.

    Cosmo is my partner to reach my competitive goals. That said, I knew when I bought him as an 18 year old horse that it would be VERY unlikely that I would sell him. So with me, he gets to stay until the end — that may mean in a retirement home but that’s as far away as he will go.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:38 pm

      That’s a really really good point- age. And that’s something to keep in front of mind when purchasing. Frankie is only 11, so he still has many many years left to teach and compete, but if he were 18 or 19, considering his retirement would’ve factored much more heavily into my decision to buy.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Abby F 11/10/2016 / 8:09 pm

    I feel the same way you do. My horses (my personal competition horses that is. My husband has his own feelings about which of our polo ponies have “earned” a forever home with us and that is his decision) are high quality, competitive, show jumpers, which means that they weren’t exactly cheap. Because of this, I truly can’t justify the idea of a forever home for all of them. Like you, my goal is to move up the levels. While I am currently jumping in the Jr/AOs, I would like to jump in some National Standard GPs sometime in the future. In order to achieve these goals, some horses will have to be sold in order to afford the next one. Currently, my deal with my husband is that one of my competition horses must be for sale at all times. The profit made from that one will go towards the next horse. I will say…. Charlie is the exception. I could sell any other horse on our farm and be fine. He is the rare combination of my best buddy and the nicest jumper I’ve ever owned. Will I sell him one day? Maybe, but thankfully I don’t have to think about it for awhile. He could go jump a GP with my trainer tomorrow, so he will have plenty of ability to help me reach my goals and I don’t see me needing any more scope than he has for a LONG time, if ever. Because of that, he may be rare one that can stick around for a long time.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:39 pm

      I have an actual crush on Charlie. I show pictures of him to Frankie so he knows what he’s supposed to turn into someday haha. That is such a wonderful and rare combination of talent and relationship

      Like

      • Abby F 11/11/2016 / 4:28 pm

        Awww! That makes my heart happy! He is truly one of a kind. I love him and appreciate him so much that it hurts!!! I don’t know what on earth I ever did to deserve Charlie, but I am so honored to be his partner.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Kaity 11/10/2016 / 8:56 pm

    I bought Leo knowing that should the day ever arise in which he no longer wanted to pursue the career that I purchased him for, it would be time to find him a new home. I turned down what I thought was the horse of my dreams because the PPE revealed underlying joint changes that were significant enough that a career as an eventer was not feasible for him. And sometimes, I struggle with the thought that perhaps if Leo were owned by a more experienced person, his progress would be much quicker (thankfully, I can afford to do partial training when I start to seriously doubt my own abilities). So yes, I absolutely understand not being willing to compromise your riding goals should your horse no longer be able to help you achieve them. And I, too, have a deep respect for those that are willing/able to change their goals and disciplines to meet their horses’ needs.
    Also, the money thing is super, super important.

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:41 pm

      Ah yes, the money thing. A lot of people seem to leave that out of the discussion, but at the end of the day food needs to go on the table and the lights need to stay on.

      Like

  24. Nicole Sharpe 11/11/2016 / 11:19 am

    I think part of the implication of “forever home” in my mind is the “do the right thing” aspect of it. And sometimes, as you stated, that simply isn’t staying in one home.

    I do think that retirement of an equine partner has to be considered and taken seriously. At some point, you owe your horse the comfort of a secure retirement for as long as they remain alive. Sometimes, that can be finding the right w/t/kid/pasture pet home for them. And sometimes it means you have to pony up and keep paying, even though you’re getting “nothing” out of the relationship. But even just as our athletic partners, we ask horses to do a lot for us, and we put their bodies through a lot, and we put their brains through a lot (especially in the sports you and I pursue). We ask them to break down their joints push their muscles, and they do it willingly, and at some point we have to pay the piper for that. It’s obviously going to be an individual balance for everyone, but I think that at some point what a horse has given to its rider (or riders) means that they owe him a solid, happy retirement. (It becomes more complicated with multiple owners, different competition years/records/etc., but I think you get my point.)

    Like

    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:43 pm

      I absolutely agree that after we push and push and push, we need to ensure that these animals who have given so much have the chance to enjoy their golden years. I’ve kept track of my old gelding over the years and now he’s hit the jackpot at a retirement farm down in south Florida, but I would’ve definitely stepped in if I saw him being shuffled around or broken down. As I’m sure the other kids he taught and loved would have.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Micaylah Strukelj 11/11/2016 / 2:28 pm

    Having had Riesling for 7 years now and how he has gotten me through life, he has become a pet. I will happily retire him at my house if he doesn’t feel comfortable to play anymore next spring. That said, future horses don’t have that promise. I think my yearling is a cutie pie but ultimately I want to install good training on him and pass him onto a good home. For my goals, that may be with me and that may not. Right now I am looking for a horse for my goals. If Riesling continues to meet them, that would be awesome.

    I have a similar stance with my pets. I’ve always wanted to keep them all and some are my forever pets but my barn cats for instance aren’t. I love them dearly and will take care of them the best I can but if I have to move their job stays at that location (unless they aren’t wanted, I will not dump them on someone else!)

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    • hellomylivia 11/11/2016 / 3:45 pm

      Riesling is a lucky guy! And I think putting time and work into your yearling can only be a good thing- either you hang onto a really cool horse, or you’re able to find a great home for a really cool horse.

      Like

  26. Tracy - Fly On Over 11/21/2016 / 2:05 pm

    For me, this is a personal decision. My first gelding EARNED a forever home with me, and I was okay with all that that entailed and meant. I happily kept him until the day he died, and I would have loved to continue his retirement for many, many more years than we got together. But I don’t begrudge anyone who chooses a different path, so long as they make the best decisions for the horse.

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    • hellomylivia 11/22/2016 / 10:10 am

      I agree that this is a very personal decision- some horses give so much that we surely owe them everything we can give back

      Like

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