Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Older depressed horse and is it time to let him 'go?'

First off, thanks so much for all you do. I can't believe the huge amount of information on your site. I have the Savannah dvd. My horse and I haven't done any round penning yet (snow) but have done a few of the exercises. He will lower his head and sidepass really well!

I got the horse two years ago. He's 26 this year. He has a hard time maintaining weight and acts really depressed. He eats but doesn't seem to enjoy life much. When I've had the vet out they don't find anything in particular - they just shrug and say he looks really good for his age. But I see him moping around and see his lack of enjoyment in life. He doesn't interact with the herd much.

Should I be thinking about putting him down? I'll do it if it's time. When is it time? I'm having a hard time watching him just scrape by from day to day not enjoying life. Will some work at liberty help him perk up? I haven't been riding him because he just seems so down and unthrifty. I do spend time with him on a regular basis though, grooming and hanging out.

I want to do the right thing but nobody will tell me what it is! I'm frustrated by how easy it is to find riding instruction but so hard to find guidance when it comes to horsemanship.

Thanks! Lisa

Hi Lisa,

You are so right on about there is little guidence out there about solid, efficient and gentle horsemanship. Lots of places to get unexplained technique. But not so much about equine psychology and why something works or does not. Anyway, horses want to do something. They get bored just like people. They have a very strong work ethic and assume responsibility within their herd. Once the opportunities to make a contribution are removed, they get depressed as you are seeing. This is very common with older horses as the owners think the horse should just hang around and do nothing all the time. This is because of our misguided understanding and paradigms about 'retirement.' A lot of humans, when they retire, go into depression and die soon from feelings of not being useful in life anymore. So your horse's behavior is understandable.

You hit on a good possibility to try. Play with him. Round pen or on a line doesn't matter. But play with him. Even slow play that is gentle and thoughtful will help. Practice movement in slow-motion. Precision is not tiring to a horse, it stimulates them mentally. One step forward and one step back..cha-cha-cha. Learning is always good for the mind, no matter whose it is. Teach a few simple tricks like shaking the head up or down on cue. pulling a blanket off its back on cue. The horse does not have to bow to do a simple trick (also older horses may have arthritis). A newly learned simple trick will stimulate its mind and provide a sense of usefullness for this horse. Ground driving slowly is good. Get creative. Get a trick training dvd and teach some simple things....This should help your horse come back to life and feelings of usefulness and happiness.

Good question.....

Sincerely, Franklin

Look for: