Farm Horizons, February 2008

A safe haven for older horses

Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

It’s somewhat uncommon for horse farms to keep older horses that are in their upper 20s and early 30s, according to horse owners Doug and Jenell Sawatzke, who are also the owners of Posey Patch Flowers and Log Cabin Gifts in Howard Lake.

Doug sells feed for Munson Lakes Nutrition of Howard Lake and has come across not only older horses who need homes from farmers he’s worked with, but also rescue horses that had been rescued from mistreatment, given a safe home, and then needed to be placed again.

“We don’t have a lot of money invested in purchasing the horses. Many of them were given to us,” because of their age, Doug said.

“When horses come here, they never leave. We won’t ever get rid of them, they’ll die of old age here,” Doug said.

Jenell had horses when she was growing up and that love for horses has never left. Since Doug and Jenell were married 25 years ago, they’ve always had horses.

All of the Sawatzkes’ horses, except for one, are older than 20 years old. Two of the horses are 32 years old, one is 29, another is 28 and is a retired race horse, and five horses are 20-plus years old. The “baby” of the herd is a 6-year-old quarter horse named Sassy.

“They do need a little extra care and special feeding,” Jenell explained. “I’ve had to learn a lot on my own because a lot of vets don’t know about older horses,” Jenell said.

Even the oldest horses are still regularly ridden, which is something that is also uncommon.

“We’re always trying to find people to go riding with us. There’s a 400-acre park on the other side of our trees that has trails. Those old horses just love it,” Jenell said.

“We take a lot of people riding for their first time. You can do that with these old horses – they’ll train you,” Jenell laughed.

The horses only go in the barn into their box stalls during bad weather, or when they get brushed, and when they get saddled, otherwise they are kept outside.

“Especially with these older horses, if they stand in one spot for 12 hours, they will get a little stiff. It’s much healthier for them to be outside. They need to run and play and be social,” Jenell explained.

One of the rescue horses had been locked up for basically 10 years and was considered a horse that no one wanted to ride. Once brought to the Sawatzkes, Jenell found nothing wrong with him, and said it was because he was locked up for so long.

“Now he never wants to go in the barn,” Jenell said.

Some of the horses spend time at Jenell’s dad’s house in Waverly during the times of the year when certain groups tend to not get along, which is very helpful to the oldest horses so that they won’t get bullied.

The Sawatzkes say they really aren’t looking to take in any more horses at this time. They are kept busy with the current group. One thing is for sure, age discrimination will never come into play at this horse farm.

“I wouldn’t have the heart to put any of them down just because they’re getting old and need extra attention,” Jenell said.

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