horse & rider
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Mackenzie & Eeyore are the final pair in The Senior Horse Project. I knew when I started the project that there was always the risk of something happening to one of these senior horses before I was able to publish. Before sharing their story, I do want to disclose that unfortunately, Eeyore passed away in May of 2021 at the age of 27 at his beautiful farm, Weathervane Stables. My heart goes out to Mackenzie and her family, and I was so, so sorry to hear of his passing.
To say Mackenzie went above and beyond to make Eeyore’s life as comfortable and happy as possible is an understatement. Eeyore was the center of Mackenzie’s universe, her best friend, her companion, her everything. She and her family bought a gorgeous farm in Howell, NJ, which she named Weathervane Stables. Here Eeyore was able to live the last year of his life alongside his mini horse companion, Storm.
I used to joke with Mackenzie and our mutual friends (everyone knows Mackenzie as well as her work as the owner and practitioner of Impulsion Equine PEMF) about Ollie. If anything ever happened to me, I was going to make sure that she got Ollie and he lived out the rest of his days at Weathervane Stables! In other words, Mackenzie epitomizes the modern horsewoman – and Eeyore was all the luckier for that. I know that Mackenzie would say it’s the reverse – that she was lucky to have Eeyore. All I know is that it was a match made in heaven. To see these two together was to understand what it means to unconditionally love. So much so that you would do absolutely anything for them.
My goal is to do justice to Eeyore’s memory and his relationship with Mackenzie. Mackenzie’s interview took place in 2019 (with a few updates in 2020), so her responses to my questions reflect what was happening at that time. Additionally, I have chosen to include some of Mackenzie’s personal photographs of Eeyore at the end of the post.
Mackenzie I am so sorry for your loss, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to photograph you with your best friend. Thank you so much for collaborating with me on this project.
Horse: Eeyore (Jockey Club Name: Mount Rocky Top), 26 years old, thoroughbred, photographed at Weathervane Stables in Howell, NJ
Eeyore was 19 years old when I got him [and I was 17]. My [then] trainer picked Eeyore up for me because the horse I was [taking lessons on] contracted lyme disease. Her [childhood trainer] had forwarded an email from Eeyore’s original owner. She was looking to rehome him. I didn’t know he was going to be mine until I received a picture of him in our arena at home. Over time I gradually took over his expenses from my trainer and then when I left for college, I took him with me.
Eeyore is registered with the Jockey Club and has papers, but I didn’t receive the papers when I got him. There is a winner’s circle picture of him [that I have] as proof. I contacted his old trainer and owner on the track to see if I could get any further information about him as a baby or on the track…I sent along multiple photos of him, but she didn’t remember him at all and had no information.
Eeyore was the first horse I owned. I did have 2 horses that I rode and cared for like my own prior to owning Eeyore. Owning a horse versus leasing a horse is often very different in many cases (depending on the terms of your lease). As an owner you are responsible for being your horses voice and making sure that it’s heard. I felt like when I acquired Eeyore, I did have an appreciation that having a horse did cost a lot of money. But over time, circumstances change and so do the cost of things. My biggest surprise was when I moved out of South Jersey and I realized how much keeping a horse further north [would cost]. Everything from board to the farrier and even vet calls were much more expensive when I moved. There were also things along the way that I never thought I would ever have to deal with, that have cost a great deal of money and/or time.
I try to take things as they come, and I never ever add up the total cost of [his yearly expenses] because I’m sure it would make me cry. What I do try to do is have an emergency fund for him, just in case…but I didn’t initially [have one] when I got him. Over time, as I became more educated, I realized the cost and the likelihood that some of these emergencies could occur. At that point I decided to keep a fund for him so that it was never a question of money (of course within reason and within the limits of his emergency fund). Financially, as a young horse owner, I do forgo many things in life (like vacationing, going out to eat, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I still very much enjoy my life. But a lot of my enjoyment comes from my horse. That’s just a personal decision for me, so I choose to spend my money wisely on other things.
As far as maintenance is concerned for Eeyore, I will say that I didn’t realize how much it [would] to cost in [regards to] how frequently [he would need something] in order to keep him feeling great. Luckily, right now in my career, because I am a Certified PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy) Practitioner, Certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist, and Certified in Kinesiology Taping, I am able to keep him very comfortable on my own. Don’t get me wrong, he still very regularly gets chiropractic and massage from a vet because I feel like they all work so well together. But some of those expenses have decreased over time because I’m able to do them myself.
I did have in-depth knowledge when I got Eeyore about how to properly care for him. But obviously over the years that I have had him, I have gained so much more knowledge. Being a horse owner, you never stop learning. I was involved with horses for nine years prior to owning Eeyore. I lessoned regularly and helped in the barn when I could. As a first time horse owner, I relied a lot on my trainer at the time for information and support regarding decisions I needed to make for Eeyore. As I have grown up, branched out, and gained additional knowledge, I really rely on my gut instinct for support.
What I have learned from being in this industry is that everyone has their own opinions about how horses should be cared for. Now, if I feel like I don’t have an answer for something, or need help making an important decision for Eeyore, then I contact the vet. Having a great team of vets/farrier/alternative therapists is super important when you have an older horse. I also talk to friends in the industry to get their take on a situation and I try to formulate my own decision based off what I feel is right. I feel that I have a great connection with my horse and some of those decisions that need to be made come from Eeyore himself. As an owner I think it’s super important to listen to what your horse is trying to say, and you just need to be their voice.
I did not have any specific goals in mind when I got him…just because getting him was a surprise. I try to come up with daily goals for him when I sit on his back. Those goals vary day to day depending on how he feels when we warm up. With a senior horse, how they feel day-to-day can vary tremendously. For example, maybe one day he doesn’t feel great to canter, so I make a goal for that ride to work on bending at the walk or trot. I always try to be flexible for what his body is trying to tell me for that day.
Eeyore is currently injured and on stall rest. Mostly [we] just have fun at home doing flatwork and small jumping. He was just rehabbing from a previous (possible injury/suspect it was tick borne now-mystery) incident last year. [We’d] started light jumping again. We did a handful of [hunter jumper] shows with him a few years ago. Before being injured he was in work 6 days a week.
I did not view my horse as an investment, he is definitely a lifelong companion. It was never a question to sell him if [his abilities couldn’t meet my needs]. He will live the rest of his life out with me. It has never even crossed my mind to sell him. My plan for Eeyore’s retirement was essentially [for him to] continue living the same life he has been – minus the riding. I do want to purchase my own horse farm so I can retire him at home. But he will always stay close to me, always have the best care, and always have a stall (he’s not much of a living-out 24/7 kind of horse). Even in retirement, he will always be loved and cared for to the best of my abilities. He will still continue to get his alternative therapies (PEMF, massage, chiropractic, and acupuncture). The reason that I am choosing to keep [his liefstyle] this way is because he deserves to be spoiled for everything that he has done for me.
I don’t think it’s fair to say that there’s a highest and lowest point in owning my horse. Every day he brings me so much joy, so every day is a high point of owning him. We have had our fair share of obstacles/injuries. Would I consider them a low point? No. When I think of a low point in owning my horse, I think more of when he will no longer be with me.
He has had many injuries since I’ve gotten him. In 2013 he tripped while I was riding and ripped his knee completely open. This required about 10 weeks of stall rest. [Then] in 2017 he had a tendon injury in his left front leg that required months of stall rest and an in-depth rehab program. In 2019 he had a mysterious lameness that he ultimately ended up at the clinic for twice. [Finally] in January of 2020, he was diagnosed with two lesions in his deep digital flexor tendon (within the tendon sheath) and damage to his straight sesamoidean ligament in his left hind leg. This is what we are currently dealing with. Unfortunately, prognosis is poor with this combination of injuries. Fortunately, I have a great team of vets and an amazing farrier. With their help, in combination with PEMF therapy, Eeyore is much more comfortable.
Thank you so much for collaborating with me on this project Mackenzie, and for the warm welcome to gorgeous Weathervane Stables. I am so grateful we had the chance to work together with Eeyore.