It seems like just yesterday that I wished Dorado a happy 17th birthday and tried to forget the fact that there was now less than three years until he's 20. But alas, that was a full year ago. Where did the time go?

Dorado is turning 18 on Jan. 1...where did the time go?

Photo: Adam Spradling

Unfortunately, 2013 didn't go quite as I'd hoped it would. So now, as my quirky, beloved horse turns 18 on Jan. 1, I'm making some resolutions that might help 2014 go a little more according to plan. That said, nothing with horses ever goes to plan—we all know they could be locked in a padded stall and still find a way to get hurt or sick! But I digress. Here's what my old man and I will be working on in the new year.

Resolution 1—Keep the Horse Sound In 2014 Dorado had some major lameness issues which eliminated any chance we had at competing after the initial injury in July. In 2013 I spent the entire first eight months of the year planning a wedding and the last four months sorting out a cornucopia of small issues with Dorado's body and brain. So in 2014, I will do everything in my power to keep his body and mind sound enough to compete in at least a couple small combined tests, dressage shows, and horse trials.

To make this resolution a reality, I'll continue wrapping Dorado's legs with therapeutic quilts when he's in his stall at his veterinarian's recommendation, keep giving him his veterinarian-prescribed joint medication and a supplement (even if the placebo effect is what's at work for the latter product: he feels better to me when he consumes it, although I fully admit I have no proof that it does or doesn't work), and avoid excessive jumping. And of course, Dorado's veterinarian will examine him several times throughout the year to ensure he's still in good shape physically and his current workload isn't causing any additional harm to his old injuries.

Resolution 2—Maintain Good Body Condition As you probably know by now, Dorado hasn't always had the easiest time keeping weight on. But we've been very successful in maintaining his body condition over the past couple years. So in 2014, I resolve to continue ensuring Dorado's weight remains stable throughout the year.

There are two separate steps to accomplishing this resolution. First, I'll keep in close contact with Dorado's nutritionist about his weight and any dietary changes that we might need to make (and yes, I'll admit this step is much easier for me than for some people since said nutritionist stables her horse right across the barn aisle from Dorado!). I'll also weigh him at least twice per year—usually once in the spring and once in the fall—on an equine scale for a little extra confirmation that he's maintaining a stable weight.

The second part is to ensure his teeth remain in good working order. Because he's rapidly approaching the big 2-0 and because he came to me with a very badly kept mouth, Dorado's teeth are always a concern for me. He had his teeth floated last September, our vet will check his mouth in March when he comes for spring shots, and we'll care for any problems that arise promptly to ensure Dorado's getting all he can from his food.

Serial photos help me keep track of how Dorado's body is aging. He's 15 in the top photo, 16 in the middle one, and 17 in the bottom one, which we took just last week.

Photos: Erica Larson (top), Adam Spradling (middle and bottom)

Resolution 3—Continue Maintaining a Health Record As soon as Dorado and I moved out on our own, I "tried" to create and maintain a health record that included all his basic information (height, color, breed, bloodlines, etc.), weight, feeding information, and identification information, in addition to detailed records of each farrier and veterinarian visit with notes on what procedures were performed, any medications prescribed, and any follow-up information. I say "tried" because I was not—in any sense of the word—successful.

But when Dorado got hurt in 2012 and we had repeated vet visits and medical maintenance assignments, I realized just how important these detailed records are. When my vet asked if he'd been had any problems with his right front leg before, "I don't think so?"—yes, in the form of a question—was my answer. When he came for fall shots for the first time since Dorado had moved to Kentucky, the vet asked which vaccines he'd received that spring. Uhh...the ones my trainer recommended? Needless to say, these were some pretty hearty wake-up calls.

In 2013 I finally created a solid document I use to track everything about Dorado's health and wellness, including annual conformation photos I use to compare his body condition from year to year and see how he's aging. And in 2014, I resolve to continue maintaining the database so I can access all my horse's health information in minutes, whenever and wherever I might need it.

Resolution 4—Have Fun! Both Dorado and I will have fun with what we're doing next year. There really hasn't been a time that I haven't had fun with Dorado—or any of my family's three other horses for that matter—but there is absolutely no point in making the other three resolutions or spending countless hours and dollars to carry them our if we're not having fun. That's why we got into horses in the first place, isn't it?

So above all, I resolve to keep Dorado and myself happy in 2014. If something doesn't work out—if we don't make it to a show, if he starts to drop or gain weight, or if I forget to log a vet or farrier visit—I will be satisfied as long as my horse is smiling at me in his own way every day when he meets me at the paddock gate and as long as I can't wait to go see him. I'm okay with changing plans as long as I know it's the right choice for the horse. As I learned last year, I'll never have enough time with Dorado. So as long as we're both happy and healthy we'll have a successful year.

What senior horse resolutions do you have for 2014?