Deciding what to do with your retired horse is not easy, but one option is retirement livery.
This involves sending your horse to a yard that is specifically designed to meet the needs of retired horses with minimum input from the owner.
However, this service comes at a cost.
“Retirement livery may appear an attractive option, but it is essential to ensure it is feasible for you financially,” advises Gemma Stanford, head of welfare at The British Horse Society (BHS).
So how does it work?
Rachel Holman runs Hivron Horse Haven (HHH), a specialist retirement livery yard.
“Once a retired horse comes to stay at HHH, it is usual for him to stay with us until he passes away,” she explains. “Owners are welcome to come and see their horses anytime, but generally, we only see owners one to three times a year. I keep in touch with emails and photos.”
Cost and packages
Prices will vary from yard to yard, but you can expect to pay anything from £40 to £130 per week.
“The basic cost for retirement services at HHH varies from £45 to £58 per week depending on the size of your horse, which includes general care, grooming and rug changing, plus feed, worming, hoof trimming and rug washing/reproofing,” says Rachel.
“Horses are turned out in small groups, and during the winter, the horses are either stabled at night and turned out during the day, or have access to field shelters 24/7.
“The only added extras will be for shoeing (most retired horses are unshod), vet bills, major rug repair bills, new rugs if needed, medication and special supplements.”
Packages on offer at other yards vary from basic grass livery where your horse lives out all year with daily feeding and attention, to full care involving overnight stabling, grooming and light exercise if required.
Some packages include feed, medication, veterinary and farriery services, while with others, these will cost extra.
It’s a good idea to visit potential establishments before placing your horse there, particularly if it is a fair distance away.
“It is also advisable to draw up a clear contractual formal agreement between you and the livery owner, signed by both parties, so there is a clear expectation from both,” says Gemma.
Rehoming your veteran is another option, although this can be risky as deputy head of UK Support at World Horse Welfare (WHW), Sam Chubbock, explains: “WHW would always urge caution when rehoming horses for retirement, particularly with younger horses being retired due to injury or the like, as unfortunately they can attract unscrupulous people who say they will retire them but really want to disguise their problems and sell them on for profit.
“Retirement doesn’t suit all horses, so each case needs to be considered individually.”
Another option is to consider having your horse put to sleep.
Gemma says: “It is better to have a horse put down in familiar surroundings than to rehome unwisely. The BHS can offer support via our Friends at the End scheme.”
This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (18 September 2014)