A few weeks ago, I was perusing through my Facebook news feed when I stumbled upon a video from the 2013 KWPN Keuring of a very handsome stallion that I've admired for as long as I can remember: Consul. I remember drooling over his big white blaze and four white socks in the Iron Spring Farm magazine ads as a young rider, and then—as soon as my parents granted me internet access—frequenting the farm's website to look for new Consul photos and videos.
The video—which you can see at the bottom of this post—brought me back to my childhood, watching with a smile as the handsome stallion played around the triangle. And then it hit me: this horse is 29 years old.
As you know by now, I've seen and cared for a lot of senior horses in my day. But it's been a very long time since I've seen a nearly 30-year-old horse look and act so incredibly young. I decided I wanted to find out how the team at Iron Spring Farm (ISF) keeps Consul looking and feeling so great. I sent some questions to Christine DeHerrera, who works with ISF, and she collected the answers:
Consul is one of Iron Spring Farm’s most recognized stallions and at 29 years old continues to be a relevant sire. His son Zanzibar (x Juventafee/Farmer) was third in the 2013 USEF Developing Grand Prix Dressage Horse Championships. Consul is also the sire of Judgement ISF, winner of nearly $1.5 million in prize money in show jumping, four-star eventer Critical Decision, as well as numerous other athletes in all disciplines. Consul bred his first mares in North America in 1989 so his oldest foals in this country are 23 years old. Judgement ISF is from his second North American crop.
Here, we interview ISFs Assistant Broodmare Manager Andrea Bomkamp and Breeding Manager Meghan de Garay about keeping Consul healthy and happy through his senior years.
The Horse: What is Consul's daily routine like? Is it similar to that of the younger stallions?
Andrea Bomkamp: Consul gets hand-walked and hand-grazed twice a day. He does not like being turned loose in a field and will pace and walk the gate area, upsetting himself. He used to go out in a paddock, but he is very sensitive to bugs – he really doesn’t like them at all! The other stallions are turned loose in a paddock daily, weather permitting.
The Horse: How is Consul's diet different from the younger stallions' diet? Does he get any supplements?
AB: Consul is a very picky eater and has gotten pickier with age. He eats only sweet feed because that is the only feed he will eat. He also gets alfalfa, which most of the stallions do not get. We also hand-pick grass to be fed to him several times a day in his stall. This helps get extra fluid in his digestive system, plus it’s just healthy for him. The only supplement he will eat is his Thyro-L. He also gets Cool Blue Gatorade powder in one of his water buckets. It’s the only flavor that he likes.
The Horse: Is he exercised on a regular basis? What is his exercise routine like?
AB: Hand-walking 10-15 minutes twice a day.
The Horse: He's available for breeding via frozen semen—is he still collected regularly?
Meghan de Garay: He was collected for cooled semen until the end of the 2011 breeding season, so he was collected until he was 27. We froze a lot of his semen over the years so we have really good frozen available for breeders.
The Horse: What's his personality like? He looks like a fun horse!
AB: Very fun! He loves attention and likes to show off. He still thinks he’s five years old a lot of the time!
The Horse: In your opinion, what's been the key to keeping this 29-year-old horse looking and feeling young?
AB: Keeping a very close eye on him and keeping him as happy as we can.
The Horse: Is there anything you'd like to add?
AB: I fell in love with Consul thru ISF advertisements I would see on the Internet many years before I even started working here. It has been wonderful being able to see this horse every day and to have him look for me every morning for that daily carrot.
MD: Consul has been here since he was four years old. He arrived in the fall of 1988 and really grew up at ISF. I have been here since 1987 so I kind of grew up here too! I have known him the entire time he’s been here so for me personally he holds a special place deep in my heart.
Many thanks to Christine DeHerrera, Andrea Bomkamp, and Meghan de Garay for helping us learn more about this senior horse superstar! If you'd like to find out more about him, or any of the other Warmblood or Friesian stallions ISF stands, visit www.ironspringfarm.com.
Now you know how ISF keeps Consul happy and healthy. How do you keep your senior horses looking and feeling young?
Video shared with permission from Iron Spring Farm.