Sunday, May 9, 2010

Life After The Life After

Since being home from school for the summer, something has really been weighing on my mind.

My dad brought it up the other day when he mentioned that I was not half way through my college years and headed towards the real world in just two more short years.

The question that I have been pondering so hard these past few days is "what am I going to do with Johnny when I graduate?"

Emmy isn't going anywhere. She was my first horse; my 13th birthday present. She is currently 23 years old and will be 25 by the time I graduate college. She's with me until the day that she dies.

Johnny on the other hand, will only have just turned 19 when I graduate (funny how I say "ONLY 19 like that's a good thing...) and will hopefully have long years of use ahead of him. Selling him isn't really an option...well it is, but it isn't just because I would hate for him to end up getting bumped around from place to place. I don't like the thought of selling horses which are older and not as sought after as younger horses because, generally speaking, they end up getting bounced around from place to place and treated improperly in the process. I want to know that, wherever he ends up, he will always come back to me if that person can't take care of him anymore. I know that you can write first right of refusal into a sale contract, but let's face it, Johnny just isn't all that sale-able. He'll never vet clean because of his front leg splints and his conformation is a little wacky. He's not fancy enough to be a hunter and not quite athletic enough to be a "real" jumper (aka: show at the 3' height)  Plus, I don't know anyone who would want a 19 year old Standardbred.

Then again, you never know where he might be in two years. Maybe he'll be going 3'...maybe he will be broken (I hope not on the latter!). Two years is an eternity yet goes by in a flash, so I want to start preparing for it should I prep this horse to make him successful for someone else in the event that I get a job somewhere and can't keep him anymore?

E made a suggestion first semester as we were playing around with Johnny in Maplebrook's indoor. Somewhere between me pulling a tarp over his body from head to tail (while he stood without a halter) and E hanging hula hoops over his neck and off his ears, did she suggest that Johnny might make a great therapy horse. "He's super quiet, he's easy and he's not afraid of anything" she said. Therapy was something that I had never considered for him. The thought had briefly crossed my mind with Emmy when I was getting ready to go to college as a freshman, but I quickly shot it down when I thought of a) all the little quirks Emmy has which can make her difficult/intimidating and b) how unhappy I thought she would be in a super-controlled program, not to mention that fact that she responds totally differently to different people. She's very much a one person horse and therapy horses get handled by different people all the time.

Johnny on the other hand, might be perfect. While 19 is fairly old for a donation (most places accept horses up to 20 years old) it might just be the best place for him. I researched some qualities which are sought after in therapy horses to see how he compares. Here is a list:

  1. Height vs. weight carrying ability:  (Johnny is 16 hands and rock solid. He's a Standardbred for goodness sake!)
  2. Temperament: He's got the best temperament I've ever seen in a horse...he give and gives and gives no matter what you do to him.A dressage judge/trainer once told me that he has the kindest eye and he never gets frustrated. He just keeps trying to do what you want.
  3. Training and train-ability: Although he doesn't have a whole lot of training under his belt right now, he's sharp as a tack and smart as can be. He learns faster than any horse I've ever ridden. The Standardbred breed is known for being highly train-able.
  4. Soundness: Most places recommend that the horse be sound in at least the walk and trot. So far, so good on this one. Plus, his canter is so smooth that he would be perfect for someone who's learning or has a disability.
  5. Conformation: This refers more to the horses actual weight carrying ability than anything else. Johnny's conformation isn't super correct, but it doesn't hinder his ability to carry taller or heavier riders.
  6. Health: We don't have any chronic health issues other than a seasonal cough and a runny eye (which might be the beginning of mild Uvitis...I'm not sure how that would affect him later in life, but right now it's not a problem. He wears a fly mask for turn out on sunny days and that's it. His hooves are good and strong. He only wears front shoes and he grows good hoof.
  7. Movement: Lets face it, Johnny isn't the world's best mover because of his breed. This is the only thing we might have a problem with because his trot to the right can get a little wonky...but who knows where that might be in a couple years? Like I said before, his canter is smooth as silk.
  8. Spook-ability: We've got this one down pat. See above about the tarp. He's not afraid of anything that would spook a normal horse.
  9. Age: 19 is near the top of most program's cut-off ages, but if he's got everything else going for him and he's sound, maybe this won't be a huge problem?
So what do you think? Sound like it might be a plan?




  1. We have had a lot of horses come though the adoption program and end up as therapy horses. Standardbreds are very good at that!

    I'm glad you are thinking ahead. Two years seems like a long way off, but you can never be too prepared!

  2. I think thats a great idea! Way to think outside of the box and really take your horse's personality and abilities in mind.

  3. My old barn just donated a 20+ yr old horse to a program about an hour south of you. But I think that's a great idea!

  4. Thanks guys! It really helps to know that others think donation sounds like a good idea :)

    Becky - What program did the horse you know go to? I know of two up here...Fieldstone Farm (which is SUPER close to us) and Victory Gallop (which requires horses to be a little more broke and works more with people with emotional disabilities rather than physical I believe)