Neu Perspectives

Flecks of Gray

An old horse with grey hair.

Signs of age should remind us of all the great places to which our senior horses have carried us.

I truly believe that there’s something very special about an old horse.

Now, I may not be an expert, as I’ve never had one myself. Our livelihood is built around the beginning of a horse’s riding career. We deal with the young horses—the prospects, the hopefuls, the greenies. By the time a horse reaches the phase of “tried-and-true,” old steady, or a bombproof gelding, he’s long gone from our barn.

Even when I sell a horse, it’s usually right there in the “prime” years, somewhere between 5 and 12. When he ticks into the teens, buyers tend to be a little hesitant, as though there’s some sort of an hourglass counting down the riding hours left. (To be completely honest, most people can ride an old horse well into his twenties when properly cared for!)

When I ran a trail riding operation, the best horses were the older ones. They had logged a million miles and still came in for grain every morning and happily packed camera-touting tourists through the aspen trees. I’ve been to many an event where a fuzzy senior citizen takes great care in keeping the small child on his back safe and out of trouble (even when the kid is wanting his horse to travel faster and snappier!) That’s not to say that they can’t continue to be useful or competitive. A lot of rodeo horses aren’t even considered properly seasoned until they are well into their mid-teens.

An old timer’s coat doesn’t always glisten and gleam, and it may be tough for him to maintain optimal weight. Extra maintenance is often required. A veteran of the show pen sometimes carries battle scars and might have a slight bob from an old injury incurred during his glory years. The flecks of gray that grow on his face are a badge of honor—not just a sign that he is past his prime. His dark, liquid eyes are wise and tranquil, though he may still carry a little spark of mischief on a cool morning. He is patient, but not a pushover. He is kind, but clever in his habits.

An old horse with grey hair.
Photo by Kelli Neubert.

The old horse has gifted us memories and logged a million miles with our inexperienced selves on their backs. If your elderly horse is a mare, perhaps you’ve gotten a special foal or two out of her through the years. And just maybe, if you’ve got a horse with some age, he’s still your main mount, your go-to guy, your proven, rock-solid, dependable partner in the arena or out of it.

I’ll be honest—we’re fortunate to have a string of beautiful, strong, young horses that are in our care. There is a lot of untapped potential and talent just waiting to find the right direction. There are plenty of miles to be ridden, mistakes to be made and lessons to learn.

But I hope that one day, I’m lucky enough to earn an old horse of my own.

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