Its sunny and we’re riding again. The horses have had two weeks off due to bad weather. Monday we saddled up and rode in my riding ring—walk trot only because the ground is not perfect yet. The trails will be too wet for some time to come. Both Sunny and Henry felt pretty good—who can blame them. And yet both little guys were well behaved for a fairly sedate session of walk trot work. I am so grateful for them.
So yesterday, as I was thinking about writing a post, I decided I just want to sing Henry’s praises and through him, extol the virtues of buying your child an old, solid horse. So often people opt in favor of the younger, less solid horse, and I know the reasons for this. But the absolutely wonderful, 100% positive experience my son has had with Henry is a good reason to consider that older horse when you’re shopping. And for those who are not the boldest older “re-riders”, this applies to you and me, too. Don’t overlook the “Henry’s” of this world. Let me show you why.
Here is Henry. Henry is a registered QH gelding, of mostly running bloodlines. He is 14.3 hands. I’ve known Henry since he was a young horse. He belonged to a friend of ours, Harold Warkentin, who team roped on Henry until Harold was 80. The photo above shows Henry as a six-year-old at Harold’s place.
Henry was always reliable for Harold and when Harold gave up roping in his 80’s my uncle bought Henry. Henry was 15 at the time. My uncle used him as a practice rope horse and to mount his grandkids on. I watched Henry be perfectly sound and well behaved for an assortment of people for four years. His only vice was being a touch lazy, and I consider that a virtue in a kid’s horse. Henry had smooth gaits and was absolutely reliable, in the pen and outside. When my son’s pony died three and a half years ago (my child had just turned seven years old at the time), I asked if my uncle would sell Henry. Sure he would. For the same five thousand dollars he’d paid for him four years ago.
My friends told me I was nuts. I shouldn’t have to pay five thousand for a nineteen year old horse. And I was perfectly aware that my uncle was cutting a fat hog at my expense. (He’d done this before.) But I knew Henry was the horse I wanted for my son. And he’s been worth every penny.
Since I bought Henry, my son and I have been on hundreds and hundreds of rides together (I kept track the first year—we went on 120 trail/beach rides that year, not counting arena riding). Not once has my kid been hurt or even scared. We have seen many lovely things that will be with us forever. My son has learned to be a confident and effective rider. What price could I put on that?
The photos below show my son riding Henry. They’re not the best pictures, since I took them while riding my own horse, Sunny. But if you look you will see the relaxed, confident demeanor in both horse and child. They are enjoying the world together. And look at what they get to see. I could not have taken my little boy all these places without a horse as solid as Henry.
Henry in riding ring.
Henry on the trail.
Henry at the beach.
Henry is twenty three this spring and still perfectly sound. He colicked when he was twenty and I paid for colic surgery to save his life, but that happens to horses both young and old. The odds are that he doesn’t have ten more years left as a riding horse, as a younger horse might have, but certainly many younger horses have more soundness issues than Henry—who currently has none. He is completely sound and goes barefoot. And if I lost him tomorrow, those last three and a half years are a gift I will value forever.
Henry—twenty three years old.
My son rode Henry yesterday—another pleasant walk/trot session in our riding ring, which still has some muddy spots. Nothing special. Took about twenty minutes. Just what you see in the riding ring photo, which was actually taken last fall. But I cannot think of one single thing that I consider a greater gift than this regular, pleasant, confidence-building interaction my son has with this great old horse. When my son was done he gave his horse a cookie (which we have taught Henry to take politely) and we turned him loose to graze in the ring (which has plenty of grass right now) for an hour. We were all content.
So thank you, Henry, for all you’ve given and are giving us, I will take care of you and love you until the end of your days. And to all of you who are looking for a horse and are offered a chance at a rock solid oldster—do not discount the pure joy available in the reliable ride, free of fear and struggle. Does this look like happiness or what?
Henry and kid—loping in the springtime (last year at this time).
Anybody else have an older riding horse you just love?