98% of our population is on Facebook and we’ve ALL become accustomed to buying and selling horses on this social media front. How many times have you seen the ISO: Quiet, packer, age 7-10 (unicorn) ad posted in your groups.
I see this all the time and while they know they are searching for a needle in a haystack they continue to post it. Why is this our desired age range? First off, no one wants to have to resell a horse because they outgrow it or the horse as to be retired a few years into ownership. Hey, I get it. Selling horses is a huge undertaking, even for us professionals who know how to do it. Especially with our technology age, everyone wants a video of everything before they come to see the horse. It is utterly time-consuming between that and the mounds of questions. In my opinion, however, wanting to avoid that small piece of it doesn’t outweigh the safety and life experience buying an older (13-17) horse provides.
I think it’s easiest to put it in these terms. I want you to think back to your young 20-year-old self (21-24). You had enough life experience to know how to pay bills, live on your own, be dedicated to going to work, and you could actually start to try to hold nonhigh school type relationships with the opposite gender. I want you to take a good, long thought, about who you were at that time in your life. Now jump to today. Let’s say our general reader age is probably 30’s on up, I mean everyone is 29 for forever of course, but for purposes. How much have you changed since your early 20’s? How has your ability to be a better partner to your significant other, your co-workers, and your kids changed? I know for myself, that it’s a huge growing gap and I’m only 28, so I’m sure there are more skills to be learned. I want you to look at that same analogy when it comes to horses. I don’t feel like we break down a horses life enough. We have baby horses, we have young adults, and then seniors. Most people want to categorize the senior horses as retired out to pasture pets. For me, that late teens, even early 20’s is the absolute perfect time for a horse to have the life skills to help our kids or our amateur around their discipline. They’ve been around the block, they have done it enough, and they are settled in who they are at this point to be able to help you. The majority of our young 20-year-olds who hold a 50-year marriage is a slim category, so why do we expect that from our prime aged horses?
I own two senior horses these days. Both of them are my own, one I have owned since he was four(now 22) and the other I purchased when she was 14(now 18). My first horse, Alec, was the unfortunate culprit of the “let’s grow together” idea, he at the age of 18 was settled enough to start packing people around. Everywhere we go, we always have someone ask who old he is and they are astonished when we say 22, especially when he starts thundering around a jump course, powering through everything with his giant gallop! Alec consistently jumps three foot and above and Rachael could still perform a whole Grand Prix and jump four foot if she so chooses, which she doesn’t choose to, she likes doing laps with her nine year old and teaching her how to jump. Watching these two thrive and continue to maintain their physique makes me happy they aren’t just sitting in a pasture. I just had a young, adult client start shopping for her eventing packer. She has some anxiety from her last horse, so I knew I needed something a bit more in the unicorn category, however, my first instinct was to go older. I don’t think we looked at a horse below 15 until we looked at Colin, who was 14. I am the first one to suggest an older horse when you have a rider who needs to learn or build confidence. I have yet to have a bad situation come out of someone partnering up with an older horse.
There is of course always due diligence to be done when looking at older versus younger. At the end of the day, however, every horse is a crap shoot. Seriously. We can all find stories about the four, ten, or twelve year old who is done with their career long before they probably should have. So why do we rule out any horse just because of age? As with us, every horse runs their own life and I think it is more valuable to view that horse as who they are as an individual and what they’ve done so far versus their age determining what they can do. No horse is a guarantee, brain-wise or physique wise, just like neither are we. The difference in my opinion on a younger horse versus an older horse is that an older horse has been around the block. Usually, they are done learning new tricks in their teens and while they can be quirky, every quirk is settled and probably predictable, which isn’t that what we are looking for when it comes to young or learning riders? Predictability. That my friends is what you get when you put your faith in an older horse.