reason seasoned veteran mounts are
chosen as track ponies, employed to
help calm and guide flighty racehorses down the track to their post
These stoic creatures are the
epitome of composure, leading both
horse and jockey safely to their destination in front of a crowd of sometimes hundreds of thousands cheering
onlookers. In fact, these track ponies
are even more than a safety net for
capricious sprinters. Between races,
they can be seen standing quietly at
the edge of the track, often within
reach of the stands.
Track ponies are ambassadors to
their species, offering a soft nose to
a tentative hand for a friendly pat.
Because, after all, isn’t that what
having horses is really about? It’s the
quiet moments that are sometimes
the most meaningful. Senior horses
excel at those quiet moments.
ANNA O’BRIEN, DVM, is a large-animal
ambulatory veterinarian in central Maryland.
4. Enter the snooze zone.
Often, young riders yearn to simply soak up a horsey environment; just being
around horses is really the best. This might mean perpetual baths in the summer
or repeated mane braiding, then unbraiding, then re-braiding. Learning to pull
manes, paint hooves, condition and detangle a tail … these are rites of passage for
many horse-crazy kids.
Of course, these actions require a patient and gentle horse to endure the constant onslaught of well-meant attention. Enter the senior horse, whose ability to
snooze while flowers are woven into his mane and glitter is amply applied to his
hooves means he is worth his weight in gold.
5. Those kind, understanding, soulful eyes.
You know that look. It’s a deep glance, perhaps with a cocked eyebrow or a slow
blink. Maybe there is some haziness to it. Maybe some gray hairs about it. But
that eye has seen a lot of stuff and knows even more. It knows you and trusts
you. Treasure it.
6. Age is a virtue.
Little is more meaningful in the realm of the barn than a rider learning from a
horse older than that individual; it’s a classic scenario of master and apprentice.
A 25-year-old horse with a 15-year-old rider—think of the knowledge gained,
the experienced shared, the bond formed. These are lessons learned to last a
7. It’s not just about us humans.
Senior horses are role models for more than just us awkward humans. There’s a