The owner of a 32-year-old mare who is still happy in her work has urged other riders not to write off older horses.
Vicky Pearson’s late husband Chris bought Friday 12 years ago, from the field; Vicky told H&H the mare is a “force of nature”, who was miserable being retired.
“Chris had never ridden when we met but he got really interested and had some lessons, and was riding a horse at the yard to come hacking with me, when Friday arrived, as a companion to an older horse,” she said.
“She was in the field next door and Chris fell in love with her. We bought her for £600 including her tack and rugs, and when I got to know her, I thought ‘Wow. This mare isn’t ready to retire’.”
Friday needed more condition, and was stiff, with arthritic hocks, but thanks to careful feeding, treatments and supplements, the Pearsons were able to bring her back into gentle work, and she loved it.
“She wanted to do more so we started jumping,” Vicky said. “She took Chris round lots of different cross-country courses; he didn’t really know what he was doing but she looked after him.
“She got really fit and the more she did, the better she got. She gets quite depressed if she’s not ridden, and if she sees other horses going out in the horsebox, she gets stressed.”
Vicky described Friday as an accident-prone mare, who spent time in hospital aged 23 after a puncture wound led to a systemic infection, and again some six months later when, having stepped back on the road, her hind leg went into a drain up to the stifle. She also injured her check ligament aged 30, but each time, after Vicky has “followed the vet’s advice to the letter”, has come back fighting fit.
“We never thought about her age when we bought her, but we’d never have thought we’d still have her like this after 12 years,” Vicky said.
Friday retired from jumping six years ago, when Chris thought it was becoming too much, but she has since had a varied life, including beach rides, showing and dressage. And the plan is to take her to the South Downs again when the ground is less hard.
“I know it’s exceptional that she’s still going but it feels normal to me,” Vicky said. “She looks really well – I’m having to cut her feed back because she’s packed on a few pounds – but I think people should know that with careful management, it’s possible and that older horses can offer so much.
“I manage her so carefully; I can read her like a book and notice anything small before it becomes a problem, and I’ve got a fantastic team.
“She’s beautiful inside and out. She comes out of the stable like a little old lady but you get on and she’s a different horse; everything she does, she puts in 100%.”
Vicky said she has no plans on when Friday will finally retire.
“I’ll see what she tells me,” she said. “I don’t want to stop and her be desperately unhappy again, so I’ll just keep going all the time she’s happy. She’ll let me know.”
There was heartbreak for Vicky two years ago, when Chris died aged 57, having been diagnosed with cancer four years previously.
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“They were such a partnership; he adored her,” Vicky said. “She’s chestnut and he had red hair – and they had similar temperaments! He had two other horses after her but she was always his favourite, and I look at her and think of all the things they did together.
“It’s been a tough couple of years but the horses were what pulled me through; without them, I’d be lost. No matter what’s going on in your life, you have to go down and look after them, and that’s what saved me.
“I feel he’d be proud of me for looking after her so well and still doing things with her – and I know he’d be proud of her.”
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