We all love old horses. The ones that carted us around in their (and our) younger days and pilot young riders around the farm, putting up with all the associated shenanigans without batting an eye. The ones that babysit your younger horses, teaching them equine etiquette and providing companionship at the same time. The ones that seem forever young and still accompany us to competitions, trail rides, clinics, and more.

Photo: Erica Larson

We all adore our senior horses. But every now and then, we—or, I do, at least—have a moment when you realize just how old they are.

“He just turned 21!” I lamented to our veterinarian a few days after Jan. 1—Dorado’s Thoroughbred birthday. (Our vet was visiting, by the way, to look at a minor injury we think Dorado sustained when he was careening around his paddock like a 3-year-old preparing for the Kentucky Derby, his saint of a babysitter Romeo trying his best to keep up.)

With a completely straight face he looked up from examining Dorado’s mid-winter body condition and said, “So what?”

“So, he’s old!” I bemoaned.

“So, he’s old … so what?” he asked again. “He’s in better shape now and sounder than he’s ever been! So he’s 21 … so what?”

And he was right … so what?

After a rough 2015 with a laminitic episode and a pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction diagnosis and a 2016 that didn’t really get underway until autumn thanks to some freak incidents and a few poorly timed shoe-pulls, Dorado really is sounder than he’s ever been. He hasn’t had a joint injection in two years. He still loves to go to work every day, and he absolutely detests sitting around doing nothing. So what if the calendar says he’s legally old enough to have a beer with us? If he’s happy and healthy, I’m beyond ecstatic.

Our vet gave us details on how to get back to work after Dorado’s minor mishap and we got straight back to work. He was happy, I was happy, and that’s all that matters! (This lasted a whole three days until he managed to stick his leg through a fence trying to play with the gelding on the other side and nearly sever a tendon and an artery, but that’s a story for another day.)

So here we are, 2017 … my 21-year-old horse and I are ready to play!

What are your plans for your senior horses in 2017?