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Snoopy???s Swan Song

By Leslie Potter

Friday, October 28, 2011

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Champion Snoopy
Snoopy ends his show career with a snazzy rainbow neck ribbon.
Last weekend, Snoopy had a retirement party. We went to our first, last and only off-the-farm show of the season, and I had decided it would be our last hurrah. When I told friends and family members of my plans to retire him, the nearly universal response was, “Again?”

Snoopy turned 15 the year I bought him, and nearly every year I would say, “This will be our last show season.” But then, after a long, dreary winter, I’d get that first class list in the mail and the bug would come back and I’d pull him out of “retirement” just in time for show season to start again. But this time I’m serious. Mostly.

First, I should clarify that “retirement,” in this case, is a pretty loose use of the term. I’m not sending him off to Breezy Acres Retirement Home for Aged Equines. He’ll be more like those “active seniors” who spend their golden years playing golf and touring wine country. I’m not going to stop riding him. In fact, I plan to compete at the dressage shows that my boarding stable holds in the summer. I guess lower-level dressage is like golf for horses: Not too physically strenuous, but keeps the mind and body running. But I digress.

Stall decorations
Stall decorations at Snoopy's show/retirement party.
If you’ve ever discussed retiring a horse with another horse person, you’ve undoubtedly heard the cliché, “He’ll let you know when it’s time.” I’m pretty sure Snoopy would continue to put up with competing and perform reasonably well if asked as long as he still has life in him. However, he’s never been a fan of riding in a trailer. This is a horse who has lived on both coasts and many places in between, as well as having toured the country as a show horse since the age of two. As far as I know, he’s never had a bad experience in a trailer, but for whatever reason, it’s the one thing he hasn’t gotten more laid-back about as he’s aged. This makes travel a stressful experience for both of us, so why keep doing it?

Of course, if he was a promising youngster who happened to dislike travel, it would be a different story. There are other factors at play here that make now the right time for retirement.

  1. Quitting while we’re ahead. Sure, I COULD keep showing him until his age catches up to him. I do like showing and I can’t afford a second horse, so why not show the one I’ve got? But I think it’s better to bow out now while no one believes me when I tell them his age rather than wait until people are raising their eyebrows, wondering why I’m dragging that poor old horse out of his pasture in pursuit of a silly ribbon. Plus, we ended last weekend’s show with two firsts and a second. Can’t ask for much more than that. Better to go out with a bang than a whimper, right?

  2. There’s nothing left to prove. I’ve been riding and showing Snoopy for 11 years now, and he’s carried me to more blue ribbons and high-point awards than I probably deserve. And for a decade before that, he was all over the Morgan circuit with his various previous owners, earning national and regional titles under saddle and in harness. More than 20 years in the show ring is a pretty good run.

  3. We’re halfway to retirement anyway. Logistics have always been a stumbling block to show-ring glory. I don’t own a truck or trailer, which means in order to get to a show, I have to have a friend heading to an appropriate competition. Showing a Morgan around here typically means heading to a fair on a random Tuesday evening in July, or spending hundreds of dollars to go out-of-state to a breed show. So, for practical reasons, Snoopy and I haven’t been doing a lot of showing over the past couple of years anyway. May as well make it official and use it as an excuse for a party.

  4. Snoopy at the show
    Warming up for a class at our last show.
    We’ve got plenty of other stuff to do. This might have been a harder decision before I moved to a farm that hosts a couple of shows every summer. Retirement might have also been less appealing if I was boarding at a barn where the only place to ride was an arena. But since we have some trails to enjoy and can work on improving dressage scores without ever having to leave the farm, I don’t think I’ll feel too much of a void without show-ring goals to work toward. As every graduation speaker says, “It’s not an end, but a beginning.” Take showing out of the picture, and we’ve got the freedom to do all kinds of other stuff.

Any one of these reasons on their own might not have been enough to throw a retirement party, but taken altogether, I’m pretty sure I made the right call. I think.

Now if anyone needs a catch rider, I’m free next season.

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Reader Comments

Alicia    Eagle River, WI

1/30/2012 6:54:51 AM

Very nice story. It is true though that the horse will tell you when it is time to retire! Plus trail riding can be just as exciting as going in a dressage show. Have fun with Snoopy!

Alex    Davie, FL

12/15/2011 4:52:36 PM

My sisters horse Renegade is retiring too. (He's actually a friend's horse, but Sam rides him the most) He didn't show like Snoopy did, but he did teach alot of riders how to ride, and he was still going strong at age 34. However, it is the best decision to retire him. :)

Jill    Richmond, MI

11/2/2011 2:48:24 PM

GOOD STORY!

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