Stiff joints. Achy muscles. Slow, intentional movements. The savoring of a meal or of time to bask in the sun. A dash of contempt for the overly playful. Appreciation of stillness. Of clean air. Of a safe, cushiony bed.
I could be talking about me. But today, it’s senior rescues who are on my mind.
Spring’s early shedding started a few weeks ago, and one morning, I was grooming Dark Night, one of the senior residents at 13 Hands. His hair was flying everywhere, and as I ran my curry over his hind end, his brand—an “H” once burned into his skin, hidden by his winter coat—appeared. The image took my breath away, a bold reminder that he’d been owned—and discarded. Thrown away, as a senior horse.
When I talk to friends about this, there’s a lot of head-shaking. Most ask, “Who does this?” How do you raise a horse—train him, feed him, tend to his injuries, love him—and then throw him away? Dark Night was cared for once. It’s evident in his level of trust. He loves to be groomed. He loves human hands on his silky coat. He recognizes kindness and trusts the humans who offer it. It makes no sense that any horse would end up in rescue, but particularly a senior horse this gentle and loving.
The same is true for the other senior residents at 13 Hands: Tanka Rae. Big Mac. Hitch. Delmar. Arnie. Mocha Latte. And more. All with scars. All with stories.
Here’s the thing. We know loving and caring for a senior can be tough. Those stiff joints and achy muscles might need regular attention. Those slow movements require patience and understanding. You might have to mash meals and provide breaks from rowdy paddock mates. You might even have to add some extra bedding. But imagine what you get in return.
Seniors have the capacity for joy and love. While they might not be able to work the way they once did—carrying riders or pulling carts—they’re great company for your working herd members. They’ve seen it all and often provide stability to their paddock mates and their humans, teaching everyone not to get riled up over nothing. They model mindfulness for all of us—appreciating the sun on their faces, the light breeze tickling their ears, mouthfuls of sweet grass and dandelions. And they looovvvve a good snooze. You’ll know it the first time you see your senior flat out on the ground—snoring with such zeal it rattles the earth.
Your senior rescue might have a brand, like Dark Night’s “H.” Or perhaps the scars are internal. Either way, I believe this: When you welcome a senior rescue into your life, it’s the opposite of discarding. You’re literally undoing the throwing away. The aches and pains become manageable. Stillness and safety become a way of life. A cushiony bed becomes a joyful reality.
And an “H” becomes, simply, the symbol for Home.
Until next time,