Mixing It Up: How We Retire Horses and Add To The Herd
There is always something new and exciting at the Rancho…even within the herd. The Rancho tries to keep approximately 35 horses at all times, but throughout the year the lineup changes in order to ensure the horses’ optimal health and to fulfill the staff’s continued quest to have the perfect horse for every rider.
Everyone in the community recognizes the Rancho horses and admires them for their strength, endurance and athleticism. Therefore, the locals knock on the Rancho’s door when they have a horse on offer. They appreciate that their pride and joy will receive plenty of food, training, and proper medical care if it can pass the Rancho’s stringent inspection.
The staff never knows what type of horses will show up, and they have no way of telling how a horse will perform in the long run. However, there are a few key indicators which help them hedge their bets on which are the best of the best:
- General Health: First, the staff looks for a healthy coat, clear vision, and properly cared for teeth and hooves.
- Overall shape: The staff then removes the saddle to review the horse’s overall shape and conformation. Is he strong with good muscle tone and free of swayback?
- Behavior: Every staff member rides the horse and judges it for comfort, responsiveness, and attitude. Depending on the needs of the Rancho at the time, the staff could choose a horse because it is an easygoing, good listener or because it is a spunky, energetic steed for an advanced rider.
- Age: While age isn’t the most important characteristic, the Rancho does take it into consideration. The staff tries to maintain a large age range so there are never too many horses due for retirement at the same time.
When a new horse enters the herd, the wranglers spend eight to twelve weeks providing conditioning and training before it is given a full workload. This is the proving ground for newbies. If they don’t perform or show signs of promise, they may be sold immediately to make room for a better fit. The horses that respond well will continue to live and work at the Rancho.
Rancho guests vary from first-timers looking to relax and enjoy the scenery to experienced riders seeking a new challenge. Because of this, the staff makes sure all types of horses are on hand. Just because a horse doesn’t have the stamina to work all-day every day doesn’t mean he isn’t the perfect fit for the constant slew of airliners that come for short two- or three-hour rides. A horse that seems a bit loco to some may be an absolute thrill to others.
The staff also has to retire horses for a variety of reasons. Many work at the Rancho for years and are simply rewarded for their efforts by being given a simpler, easier life grazing in the fields and shuttling the occasional five-year old. Others suffer from injury (either chronic or acute) and the healthiest decision is to find a new home where they can relax and recuperate. Most of the time, staff members end up fighting over who will get to own one of the retiring horses. After years of caring for these magnificent creatures, it’s near impossible to send them to a stranger!