An Arabian horse named Spirit spent her youth competing in endurance rides that might cover 100 miles or more.
When Spirit grew too old for the sport, owner Marina Bredda spent considerable time searching for the right place for the horse to retire.
She then discovered Little Tree Farms, one of two retirement stables for horses in mid-Missouri where Spirit now grazes comfortably in her twilight years.
“She might be retired, but she’s still my baby, and I want to make sure that she’s well taken care of,” Bredda said. “She certainly is.”
Horse retirement farms are a concept that puts horse owners at ease and gives older or injured horses quality care in a restorative setting. In addition to Little Tree Farms in Wooldridge, the nearby Selby Farm also cares for retired horses.
When horses get older and can no longer maintain a normal routine, they may need more personalized care and around-the-clock attention. Or they may have suffered an injury, ended their breeding career or simply needed a humane way to have a happy retirement.
A horse resident of Little Tree Retirement stands near the gate for a greeting Oct. 24 at Little Tree Farms in Wooldridge. Horses usually retire due to old age, injury, sickness or bad behavior.
After Ferdinand, a champion Thoroughbred racehorse who won the 1986 Kentucky Derby, was sent to a slaughterhouse, breeders and other horse enthusiasts were outraged.
In 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act to ban the slaughter of horses in the United States. The U.S. Senate never passed the bill, and it has never become law, but the mission to find humane alternatives for older horses remains.
Corey Lieberman and Alison LaCarrubba have been taking care of older horses at Little Tree Farms since 1997. The 1,300-acre farm is currently home to 156 retired horses.
They are arranged in herds, based on similarities in dietary needs and level of care and observation needed. Since each horse has a different set of needs, each one is monitored for changes in weight and behavior.
A horse can be moved from herd to herd depending on changes and habits. If a horse loses too much weight — or puts on too much — for example, it is moved to the most suitable herd on the farm to suit its particular needs.
A horse typically needs the most care and attention when it …….