Yesterday I took Tanner and Harlan to the farrier to get their pedicures and we went for a trail ride afterwards. Another Kelsey (I'll refer to her as KR because I have a habit of slipping into third person to tell stories) is riding Tanner this summer so she came along.
I tried the different cinch on Harlan and set it back farther than usual, and I really think it helped! He was very good on the ride, despite me starting it off by falling off the mounting block onto my butt. And then repeating the performance when I had to get off and get on again mid-ride, this time taking the saddle with me. It was on purpose, to desensitize him to stuff, alright? Totally planned.
Tanner however did not have a good day. He was stiff in his right hind for the farrier and kept trying to pull it away from her. Then on the trail ride, when the trail turned to woods and deep mud he kept tripping and stumbling, scaring poor KR. I figured it was just his clumsiness until I looked back and saw Tanner had stopped and was just standing and leaning his whole body on a tree (and squishing KR's leg in the meantime). My heart stopped because it looked like he was ready to collapse. We sent the rest of the group on while we both got off and walked back towards home. Tanner seemed fine, so when we got back to the road we re-mounted and rode the short remainder home.
As much as I want to deny it, I think Tanner is telling me that he's ready for retirement. His back legs are both compromised, one with ringbone and one with a 5-year-old injury that left his leg permanently stocked up (swollen). Although he hasn't had any soundness issue with the ringbone for 10 years and none with the injury once it healed, I knew it was just a matter of time before arthritis set in or another soundness issue arose.
I just can't justify putting unnecessary stress on his legs especially if he's uncomfortable.
So that means no more long rides over tough terrain. It means I won't be certifying him for search and rescue.
This is really hard.
But instead of focusing on what I'm losing, I want to celebrate our
partnership. We had a great 14 years worth of adventuring and we'll
still have some (mild) adventures. Tanner will still be pack around my friends and go with me
on short, easy jaunts. He is just telling me that it's time to let him
relax and quit bushwhacking through the woods on off-road adventures.
So Saturday will officially be his retirement party. Please come and have a relaxed evening while congratulating Tanner on his successful career of trail horse extraordinaire and celebrating his well-earned retirement.