What about a horse you can't sell? What do you owe that horse? Again, the best that you can. There are a lot of right answers, but here are some wrong ones:
Retirement is a great option for some horses. But, it is not the be-all and end-all answer that some people will claim. To start, your horse has to actually be retire-able. If they're suffering from some debilitating injury or condition and are in pain, retiring them to is not a kindness. Living out the rest of their lives than a 12x12 stall is also not a kindness. If they can't have a decent quality of life, please do the right thing and euthanize them. Keeping your horse alive even when they're in pain because of your emotions makes you an asshole. I had to put my heart horse to sleep many years ago. It was devastating and I still miss her, but it was the right thing to do.
I still miss this horse
Do not move your horse somewhere that you cannot check on them unless it's a well-established retirement home like Paradigm Farm. Even if the farm is local, always establish a death certification requirement. Some kill buyers will front as retirement homes. At some point, they'll tell you your horse died (probably after billing you for months first) and your horse will have been shipped off to Canada or Mexico. Set up in advance a requirement for a picture and a vet's certificate be presented if your horse "dies" in their care. Visit often and make sure your horse is healthy and happy. You're responsible for your horse's well-being.
Donating Your Horse to a Rescue to Save Money
Having worked at a rescue, I cannot tell you how much I hate people who donate their old horses and then turning around and buy a new one and spend money on that new horse. It's like taking your old dog to the SPCA and going out and buying a puppy. Please consider that until your horse is adopted, it's taking up a spot that could have gone to a kill pen pull. If you're in a bad situation (lost your job, major medical issues, or something like that) then please do consider donating your horse to a rescue. They would like to help you. They just don't want to take your old horse so that you can go spend your time and money on a new show prospect.
If you want to give your horse away, but you're worried about them ending up in a bad place, some rescues will work with you to adopt out your horse with you paying their expenses until the adoption occurs. The rescue can help you vet prospective adopted and they will already have the experience and legal setup for keeping track of their adopted horses. Again this is only ethical if you're paying for the horse's care until it's adopted. The rescue may charge the adopters an adoption fee as a safeguard (#2 from yesterday's post). You do not get this money, the rescue does. Not all rescues will do this and there are a lot of scammers acting as rescues so do your research before going down this route.
Again, I think we owe our horses the best that we can. This does not mean that you should have to spend every dime you have (or borrow more than you have) on your horse. If they've been injured or are suffering from an illness or critical condition, you should do what you can afford to do to help them. Now, if you're too poor to afford a vet call at all or too poor to afford euthanasia, I don't think you should even own a horse so that's an entirely different discussion. However, if you're an average, non-rich horse owner who can't afford an expensive surgery, procedure, or hospital bill, then I won't hold it against you for putting that horse to sleep. Many people will disagree with me here. And that's fine. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but I don't think we owe horse everything. We owe them the best that we can.
Inappropriate Use/Denial of Treatment
Continuing to use your horse even though it needs retirement is wrong. Denying your horse medical treatment that could benefit it is wrong. I shouldn't even have to talk about this. I am sure that none of my readers would ever do this, but I have seen people in real life do this. I'm sure we've all seen that person show up at a show or come across them on the trails. The horse is lame or skinny or suffering in some way, but the owner is still riding it, or still pushing it further than they should. And I'm not talking about the mildly lame older horse who benefits from the exercise and mental exertion. If your vet says some exercise is good, go for it. I'm talking about the horse that is suffering.
Does better with exercise
There is a woman at my barn who changes vets and farriers every time one of them tells her she shouldn't be riding her horse anymore. This horse will be laying down in her stall or standing with her head in a corner. Not only does she ride the poor horse, but she leases it out to others to ride it. Most of the leasers are sane enough to realize what's wrong and they usually stop leasing within a month. She also refuses to have the horse shod or give it the medications recommended by the vet because they cost too much. I have washed my hands of this woman. I don't own the barn so I can't kick her out, but I don't have anything to do with her.
The Right Answers
There are lots of right answers. The right answer depends on your horse's unique situation. It might be retirement or semi-retirement. It might be switching to a different sport (dressage instead of jumping). It might be selling them to new home. It might be donating them to a riding program or other charity (I donated one of my previous horses to the Park Police). It might be euthanasia. I don't even know what my plan is for my own horses since I don't know what will happen to them in the coming years. But I know that I'll do the best I can.