We recently retired our daughter, Lizzie’s Junior Jumper, “Hamilton.” I have very strong feelings about taking care of our senior animals. Hamilton came to us by very unconventional circumstances. My cousin, Vance Frey, an accomplished equestrian, saw him in Ocala, winding down from a bigger jumper career. Hamilton is a deer and very careful deer, who loves to jump but also knows his job about keeping his rider safe. Lizzie had just come off of a nasty fall and subsequent concussion protocol and she needed a confidence builder. Hamilton was that and so much more. He’s a kind, easy keeper who gets along with everyone. When Vance called me and said he was the one, we had him shipped, sight unseen to us, knowing that if he didn’t work out he would none the less be our responsibility. And we knew Hamilton was in the twilight of his career due to his advanced age of 17. We spent considerable time getting him back into shape and keeping him sound by not over using him and keeping the fences under a certain height so as not to wear him out. In short, he accomplished just what we asked him to do always with a smile on his face and taking care of Lizzie, helping her to gain her confidence back. And what a fun second career he had!!!
Lizzie competing on Hamilton in the Jumper ring.
I’m also convinced that every horse that comes into our lives, for however long, brings a unique connection with them and they become members of our family. Horses are magical, uniquely individual creatures with huge personalities. But the reality is not everyone, ourselves included, can keep every horse to the end of their lives. The question of responsible placement for our senior horses becomes an important consideration that everyone needs to think about. For Hamilton, sitting idle was not an option. He needs a job and he loves his work. So, while Lizzie went off to college, Hamilton took a year to live with a high school equestrian program where he was doted on and we kept careful watch. After a year or so, we all collectively decided that having different riders and being patient in a schooling ring was not his forte. He needed an individual to bond with and he still had so much more to give.
Hamilton sure enjoyed his second career with Lizzie. We all enjoyed Hamilton!
So Hamilton traveled home to us and after careful consideration and interviewing many people, we placed Hamilton in the perfect forever retirement home, where he has a wonderful companion buddy and a marvelous long time equestrian who was looking for an older “been there, done that” horse to have at home with her. She knows that this is his last placement and that if for any reason it didn’t work out, he would head back to us, because we are committed to his welfare. People need to understand, the older horses get, the fewer options they have, especially if they have health issues. It is incumbent upon us to make sure their senior years are as vibrant and loving for them as their younger years. As they age, they require much more work, health concerns arise and they can’t do what they did years ago. By being responsible for them, knowing their limits and knowing where they are at all times, that is our gift to them. And if their health deteriorates and we can’t give them that gift of knowing they are in a safe, loving environment then our last gift to them should be responsibly, humanely euthanizing them so they don’t end up on a one way street to a very bad ending.