The week between Christmas and New Year's Eve and day is one of my least favorite of the year. Why? Because on January 1, like all Thoroughbreds (and several other horse breeds), Dorado "officially" becomes another year older. This year, he celebrated his 17th birthday.

Age hasn't slowed this horse down! Here, he prepares for a dressage test at 16 years of age. What will 17 bring? I can't wait to find out.

Photo: Kristen Janicki

Fortunately, Dorado has aged incredibly well, especially considering he made 55 starts as a racehorse until he retired at 6, and then picked up a career as a lower-level event horse. He still doesn't look his age, and he sure doesn't act it! (My father emailed me on Dec. 31 asking if this was going to be the year Dorado's mental age caught up with his physical age. My response? "Judging from our last ride,!") He might have gained another year older chronologically, but he's still a giant goofball who grows a hand with excitement every time we go out for a ride (he grows two hands when we head for the jumping arena).

In 2012 we had our first major setback that--I've finally accepted the fact--will impact Dorado's career as an eventer. We discovered an old fracture in one of his right front sesamoid bones and accompanying fetlock arthritis that required months off from work. Despite the fact that the injury is currently behind us and he's back in training, how long he'll remain sound is a mystery. I do take comfort in the fact that his veterinarian believes that, with regular exams and necessary maintenance, Dorado will be able to comfortably event for several more years, barring mishaps and/or other injuries of course.

The plan for Dorado this year--which I've already reviewed with our vet--is to aim for a spring and a fall horse trial with a few combined tests thrown in the mix for fun. His first vet check of the year--barring emergencies--will be in March, when we'll see how his fetlock held up to the winter training and proceed from there. Who knows what the year will bring, but I can tell you for sure that both Dorado and I are itching to get back to a serious training program, as soon as the weather allows.

Because I've cared for so many senior horses in the past, ushering horses into retirement is nothing new to me. I've become a relatively good judge of when they're ready and rearing to go, and when they're ready for a break. But I'll fully admit it's completely different when your own horse that you've trained from the start is (slowly) approaching the day when the bridle finally gets hung up for good. My eyes welled up when I scratched Dorado on the forehead, saying, "Happy birthday, old man." But even though retirement is eminent, it's not yet here for Dorado. We're going to keep forging ahead to achieve our goals.

How old will your senior horses be this year? What are your plans for them in 2013? Share your thoughts below!

And may you and your horses enjoy nothing but the best in 2013!