Eli has a date with sedation and a dental speculum on Monday, and until then I’m not going to be riding him much, because I think his teeth are just on that edge of bothering him with a bit in his mouth. Not too bad, but he’s a communicative animal, and I’d be remiss to ignore it. And plus it rained so the footing is not rideable, at least it wasn’t last night. He will also have his now-regular massage, and I think it is about time for another chiropractic adjustment. We have one last show on the horizon this year, in November, although I am not totally committed to going to it just yet. My job is about to get spectacularly more annoying/more interesting/more demanding in November as well, so I’m in the vacuous limbo of “playing it by ear.”
Many of us who have performance horses see routine maintenance as part of the package, pretty much a given. While dental care is mandatory preventive veterinary care by my standards, I think the grey area for balancing comfort and performance is vast, especially because our animals can’t tell us in words whether they feel good, or bad, or whether they enjoy competing, or not. (I really hope you are having your horse’s teeth checked annually, though!)
Considering Eli’s own situation, I already limit some things that he does in light of his maintenance requirements, coupled with the specifics of his job. (His mental abilities are also a significant factor.) As any performance horse ages, limitations may begin to proliferate, and retirement or semi-retirement is inevitable for most horses. There are notable exceptions–Flexible just keeps going! But my question today is, how do you know when it’s time to change or end your horse’s job because balancing comfort and performance is no longer realistic at his current level?