What do you do with an amazing horse when you learn you can’t ride any longer due to medical issues?

“Stacy-What do you do with an amazing 8-year-old mountain horse when you learn you can’t ride any longer due to medical issues? Deborah R.”

A good horse is never a bad color.Deborah-

I guess, if it were me, the first thing I would do is pray that they were wrong. Then in the mean time I would consider the following options:

  • keeping the horse as a companion animal
  • teach the horse to drive if riding in a carriage is an option
  • loan or donate the horse to a therapeutic riding program or other group that uses horses to help people emotionally or physically
  • sell to an approved home

Or be even more creative. My first pony was a ‘penny pony’, we bought her for a penny and when we out grew her, couldn’t use her any more or didn’t want her any longer we had to give her back. This gave the original owners a way to keep control and it gave the person keeping her an easy way out if she became a burden. We kept her until she passed away in her 30’s…she was never a burden.

There are good people out there that can offer great homes. Just because you sell a horse for money doesn’t make you greedy or heartless. Consider a situation where the current owner has medical issues that also involve paying out large amounts of money for treatments.

A possible win-win-win would be selling the horse (a financial win for the current owner) to someone who will care for and use the horse (a win for the horse) and will love owning and enjoying the horse (a win for the new owner).

I’m so sorry you are facing this. I’m not saying that this would be emotionally easy.  I know that often animals are used for therapy…if finances allow yours might be your therapy animal for you.



  1. Janette on June 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    No one needs to ride a horse to justify owning one.
    If you have an amazing horse, you probably have enough knowledge to give some lessons with him. A lot of personal satisfaction and joy can be received from helping someone learn. Perhaps you could help someone with a disability/extra-ability experience the healing power of a horse.
    I have seen some amazing people work with horses from a wheelchair

  2. Jordan on June 2, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    There is also always trick training :). And perhaps even at liberty excercises that keep you involved with the horses you love. I my self am afraid to ride… It’s a fear that I am slowly but surely getting over, but I love horses and being around them. I currently drive, practice tricks, and do choreographed at liberty work :).

  3. Donna Fitzgerald on June 2, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    I agree with all the other posters here. I don’t know what I would do without my horses. As a busy mom of a grown handicapped son and caregiver of an active grandson, I don’t ride as often as I’d like to. But just being able to go to the barn, see my 4 legged babies, brush and love on them, is therapy for me. But another option would be to lease your horse to someone, with references, of course. That way, you could still keep him and he’d get exercise is the process.

  4. Lissa Haun on June 2, 2014 at 10:32 am

    my horse.. we kept for 10 years with on/off lameness before turning her over to a rescue.. they have an acupuncturist who thinks he may be able to make her sound

    we held on to my old barrel horse for several years until she injured herself again in the pasture {opposite rear leg – was given a 50% shot at being pain free after 6 months – we euthanised because it was in her best interest

    (we spent thousands of dollars between these 2 at the U of IL/C-U vet school with NO answers before we ran out of money – I will NEVER take another animal there.. we finally found an amazing vet in Farmers CIty, IL who got my barrel horse companion sound)

  5. Saskia on June 2, 2014 at 3:03 am

    I don’t know if it is an option for Deborah, but here (in the Netherlands) it’s very common to share a horse or have someone to ride and care for your horse. That means you keep it yourself and someone else who does not have the possibility to own one can still have access to a horse. All kinds of variations are possible, like riding once a week with limited responsibilities to full care and they treat them as their own or even a full lease. Depending on the circumstances, costs can be shared.

  6. Terry Jirsa on June 2, 2014 at 1:22 am

    Have the horse taught to drive, and keep on trucking!!!

  7. t grant on June 2, 2014 at 12:06 am

    I am no longer allowed to ride due to bad back. I need my horses as friends, they are great for an anti-depressant and just to look at. My 7 yr old is blind and i could never part with her.

  8. Mary Lombardi on June 1, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Please consider the other side of this equation. I was lucky enough to find my beautiful mare seven years ago (she was seven at the time) from a gentleman who owned several horses and had become disabled. Even though I had ridden most of my life, I was not able to afford a horse of my own until I was almost 50, so I knew she would be my first, last and only horse. She is my treasure, and is my wonderful companion for riding, ground work, tricks and loving- had she stayed in place, although she would have been well cared for, I’m pretty sure she would have never have had the kind of life or relationship with her owner that she and I share now. I will keep her through her lifetime, and count everyday I own her as a blessing- and I would never have found her had her former owner not realized that a new home truly was the best thing he could give her.

    • Mel on June 1, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      I am sorry to hear of your situation. Like others have written I truly believe you don’t necessarily need to ride your horse to have one. Keep him! I will tell you why. I came across and use a wonderful method that would work great for you! Someone mentioned “at liberty” in a previous comment! I love doing liberty work with my horses! Check out The Carolyn Resnick Method, it is more than magical! If you can walk you can do this! Also, I just want to say that I kept my last horse for over 28 years until the end. I couldn’t bear the unimaginable not knowing where he would end up if I ever got rid of him. He was more than my horse he was my beloved friend and he gave me and dozens of kids rides on his back for all those years.

  9. Tami on June 1, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Maybe horse agility would be an option for you.

  10. Mary Busse on June 1, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Riding is only one thing that horses and people do together. I’ve looked…and nowhere is it written that you must be able to ride to keep and enjoy a horse. I like the idea of training your horse to drive but there are other things as well! Work on your sms or develop your ‘at liberty’ skills and enjoy your horse without being in the saddle. Your horse can still be productive and useful in so many ways and most importantly…you don’t need to ride to love and care for your horse and those are the things they need most of all. 🙂 Good luck to you!

    • Nuala Galbari on November 2, 2015 at 1:04 pm


      I agree, completely. I am 62, I still ride about once or twice a week, but only for 15-20 minutes to preserve my horse’s back. Otherwise, we hand-walk them (two or three horse) around pasture trails, and/or hand-graze them around the farm, we play games, we are teaching them to play ball,slowly. We do Parelli, some Resnick. The horses are happy, healthy and calm and they love doing things with us. When we arrive at the farm, they trot or canter to the gate and nicker loudly to be brought out. We never have to go into the (multiple horse) pasture to halter them. They simply walk out the gate into a paddock and put their noses into the halters. I see riders chasing their horses all the time, and the horses don’t want to see them and run off.

      A little riding, keeping them under saddle, is good if you can do it. My horses don’t care, as they know the rides are short and they get lots of attention.

      This is not for the competitive people, but for those among us who truly bond with, respect, and live ethically with our horses.
      When we do ride, it is with light, English saddles that are specially made for them, and with Dr. Cook’s bitless bridles, even then, only for 20 minutes (an occasional 30).

      When you are on the ground, your horse can see you and the bond is strengthened ten-fold in my opinion. My OTTB used to be a poor lead walker; I stopped leading him and asked him to walk with me. Now he walks quietly by my side, is happy, calm and enjoys the walk. No more coercion, just a patient ‘ask’. What a difference. If he dawdles, which he does sometimes, I simply strengthen my ‘ask’ by using a stronger voice, which he understands means ‘go now’. If we treat them ethically and intelligently, there is a huge difference.

      Best wishes to you,

      Nuala Galbari

  11. Nikki Schleppe on June 1, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    I don’t know how I’d survive, I’m guessing I would disobey doctors orders (not suggesting that you do, but I prob would), I could never be without my horses. That being said I have a mare that is awesome and I’ve had her for 10 years, I put my heart and sole into training her and we’ve had an amazing go. However the last two years she’s been a pasture ornament because of severe arthritis and huge broken side bones. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ran to the pasture for consoling and I put my face in her neck and breathe in her horsey smell and she stands there in the middle of the pasture and lets me find peace, shes even pinned her ears to warn other horses agaist coming over for a pat. Even though I can’t ride her again she will be mine forever. But I don’t judge people for finding new homes only you can decide what is in the best interest of your family and your amazing horse, sometimes they need what you can’t provide and it takes a lot of courage to do what you need to do.

  12. Judy Shepherd on June 1, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I am SOOO in agreement with Jodi. For the last 10 years I’ve been seeking relief for sciatic pain in my right leg. Lots of doctors said ‘Sell the horse’ (I HAVE a Rocky Mtn). Finally 10 years later, I was finally diagnosed correctly with right hip dysplasia and had hip surgery 2 weeks ago. I kept my horse through it all and am approved to ride again in 4 months 🙂 Where are you located? My Rocky could use a friend.

  13. Susan Dudasik on June 1, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Just because you can’t ride doesn’t mean you must give up your horse. Try in-hand trail, where you lead your horse over and through various obstacles. This opens a whole new world of learning and builds a stronger bond as you begin to train your horse to do stuff on the ground like turn on the forehand and haunches, back, and sidepass. Then you can teach your horse to ground drive and do the trail obstacles that way. It’s amazing how much you can learn and do. Some events also have in-hand competition for horses of all ages. If you do go on to teaching your horse to drive, make sure you find a very experienced person to help you. Ground driving is one thing, but once you hitch a cart, things can go south in a heart beat and you need someone who knows what they are doing to handle the situation.

  14. Joanne Pluger on June 1, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    If you own a horse, you must know others in the horse community that could help you with this decision.If it were me, I would look for a solution where I could at least come see my horse whenever I wanted. Your horse will never forget you if you had a good bond with them.

  15. http://theenglishprofessoratlarge.com on June 1, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Excellent advice. If the horse is trained to carry a shay, the owner could take rides about the countryside (if there is one). Therapy is a great idea, for the owner and others. It’s hard to have to stop riding for health reasons. That happened to me years ago, and I still yearn to get on a horse’s back and ride for a few hours.

  16. Jodi on June 1, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    First, I’d get a second opinion – and decide for yourself if you need to stop riding. Many doctors don’t understand that riding can be helpful for many diseases… I have rheumatoid disease, and keeping active at the barn and riding helps me very much.

    If you really can’t ride, I’d go with plan B, and train your horse to drive (or have someone do it for you). Mountain horses are wonderful, and versatile (I have a Rocky), no reason your horse could not drive as well as ride.

    If it were me, I’d still keep the horse, but find someone who could ride him regularly, while he stayed in my care. Riding isn’t necessary to enjoy horses 🙂

  17. Liz on June 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    We would never give another horse to charity, we thought a good home would be riding for disabled for our very quiet Quarter gelding, he was started professionally and developed a slight leg problem and we were advised only light work, so no Reining, we thought RDA would be perfect for him as he was such a lovely horse. They didn’t care for him, not enough food and then he developed sarcoids due to his lack of adequate care. We warned them several times and one day went with the float. When I took the rug off I cried. He is back to himself now, he is a bit of a lump, 16.2 and chunky, but he will live here forever. May still yet rein him as the vet now believes he is sound. Maybe your charities are better in USA but I think the RSPCA turns a blind eye to some of ours.

  18. Diana Burroughs on June 1, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    IF pasture & care will NOT be a burden; I would suggest keeping your horse. I was physically hurt too badly to ride for about 3 years. I walked beside my gelding, with an arm over his withers for support, almost every day. I walked out to him & leaned & talked & grieved & smelled him & just b~r~e~a~t~h~e~d …

    • Lisa Abel-Alton on June 2, 2014 at 11:18 am

      as you say, if not a financial burden… I would just ‘be’ with my horse… I can’t ride anymore but I so love visiting neighbors horses and soak up the peace and smells and companionship…

  19. Peggy on June 1, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    I would hold on to the horse if it is financially feasible. After along illness,I never thought I would ride again. But, I was able to get back on, and I am thankful for every day that I can ride. And some days, when I don’t feel up to riding, I can do ground work, take my horse for a walk, or just sit by him. Good luck.

  20. Anna Edmunds on June 1, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    I have serious medical issues and chronic pain that make it so I can not ride very often but just being around the horses makes me feel so much better!! And if you like showing you could always learn to show halter or showmanship or loan the horse to a 4-h program but you still get to keep the horse and love and the horse 🙂

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