Adventures in Moving Part I: Decision Time for a Senior Horse

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Kara and Eddie
The author and Eddie. Photo: Kristin E. Andersen

In late 2014, I had the opportunity to move from my childhood home of Colorado to California to open a new branch of Kiryu Aikido, the martial arts school in Denver that I’ve been part of since 2006.

While the decision to move me 1,200 miles west was a quick and decisive “Hai!” the next realization – what to do about my dear, retired Arabian gelding Eddie – was much more complex.

I knew that, regardless of whether Eddie was coming to California with me, he would be moving someplace else. I toyed for a while with renting my Colorado house to a horse person who would continue to care for Eddie in the home he knew. It sounded great…until I realized that putting my beloved Eddie’s care in the hands of a tenant wasn’t fair for either of them.

I did know one thing: no matter where he would be living, I owed him the best life and the best environment I could provide. He’d given me, and still gives me, such joy and connection that I wanted, first and foremost, to make the best decision for him.

A New Home
My only option, I thought, was moving him to my friend Nicole’s Ute Creek Ranch in northern New Mexico. This was a no-brainer as far as the quality of care and environment he’d have. A life-long horsewoman, hunter/jumper rider and trainer, and rehabilitator of OTTBs, Nicole is one of the finest horse hands I know. She would feed Eddie’s required soaked beet pulp and timothy pellets morning and night, turn him out on her large grassy pastures with retired friends during the day and bring him in for a good night’s sleep in a bedded stall every night. I would never, ever, have to worry about his care.

The downside? I would only see Eddie once or twice a year. That was hard. Really hard.

But moving him to California…. Was this even an option?

Eddie Goes West
My first concern: his age.

Eddie the Arab was 25 years old when I began considering a move. Was it a good idea to move a senior horse across the country? Was it even possible?

Another consideration: the drastic change in climate.

Eddie would be moving from the distinctly four-season Colorado climate with big snows and cold winters followed by spring rains and summer pastures to drought-stricken California, with dry weather and dry (and much smaller) lots. Would this change be hard on my senior friend?

Yet another concern: the fact that I would no longer be his primary caregiver.

This was one of the toughest considerations. Because renting acreage in California would likely be out of the question, I knew that moving him to California – or New Mexico — would mean the end of at-home horsekeeping.

Sharing a Bond
Since Eddie came into my life in 1997, I kept him at home on five acres. Despite his career-ending hoof injury a few years ago, he was healthy, happy, energetic and sparkly. My vet often commented how Eddie looked to be in his mid teens, not his mid 20s. I knew that having complete control over his feed, environment and care was a large part of his well-being.

The biggest, and most weighty, consideration is the bond we share and the years we’ve been together – 18 years, to be exact. Eddie the Arab is a soulmate, and we’ve supported each other through major injuries and life transitions.

How would it feel, to both of us, to no longer be a regular part of each other’s lives? That was a teary, painful consideration.

I shared my dilemma with my vet, friends and an animal communicator.

Dr. Ron Streeter, and his wife and vet tech Kathi, have known Eddie since his pre-purchase exam in 1997. They said, yes, moving Eddie to California would be a little hard on him. And, yes, older horses moved all the time. As Dr. Streeter said, “As humans, we do things in our senior years that are challenging, and we are fine. If we are careful, our senior horses can do the same.”

Good friends who know the bond Eddie and I share opined that it would be really nice if we could be closer together. “He loves you,” they said. “It’s so clear when you’re together.”

Then I talked with animal communicator Terri O’Hara. Although I didn’t know where Eddie would be moving, I wanted to begin preparing him for the eventual move someplace.

She shared the image of Nicole’s ranch – the huge pastures, the other horses. He liked the ranch, and he asked if I would be there. When she said no, he said he wanted to be with me. If I was moving, why couldn’t he?

When Terri talked with me after Eddie’s reading, she asked if I had considered moving Eddie to California. No, to be honest, I had not. I didn’t think it was even an option.

She suggested that I open up to that possibility and begin exploring places where Eddie might live. If it was meant to happen, I’d find a good place.

The Search for a Home
I called California friends, looked at ads on Craigslist, reached out to resources I’d met through writing for
Horse Illustrated. After considering about a dozen prospective places, I found a private ranch about 45 minutes from where I’d be living.

The owner would feed Eddie his soaked food and separate him during meal times so he could eat in peace. He’d be in the company of other Arabian and Thoroughbred geldings, some of which were also retired. There was some land for him to roam around on.
Where I had originally thought that moving Eddie was not an option, it was all coming together.

Next step: how to transport a retired horse – MY dear retired horse – across the country, safely and successfully, to his soon-to-be new-home in California?

Kara L. Stewart is a frequent contributor to Horse Illustrated and now resides in California with Eddie the Arab. www.kstewart.com

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I too am having to move a senior horse from CA to KY in early 2016, and I worry about who I am going to use. I’ve looked into several transport companies. I am looking forward to part II or your story,

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