It’s that time of the year again, when the UAE’s elderly horses get set for their final long-haul flight of their careers, the last trip back to Europe for their well-earned equine-retirement.
And, while cargo costs have fluctuated considerably over the past few years (thanks COVID!), today they are standardising with a single horse flight to Europe and/or the UK costing somewhere between 25,000 to 35,000 AED depending on the size of box and destination airport.
While some might consider this expensive, to put it in perspective, 25,000 AED is just over 2,000 AED per month for only one calendar year. For many owners, this is actually less than the livery they are paying currently here in the UAE.
Improved Quality of Life
Retirement livery generally focuses on improving the horses’ quality of life. This means they work towards the horse spending the majority of its time outdoors and grazing naturally, living out as a herd and encouraging movement and positive social interactions.
Reduced Livery Fees
Once at retirement livery, owners can expect lower monthly expenditure, with most livery costs less than 1,500 AED per month, and with a more natural lifestyle, owners can generally expect fewer additional monthly costs, plus many of the normal associated costs, such as trimming, worming etc are usually included.
When to Travel?
Traditionally retirement horses fly during the late spring, to allow the maximum possible time for acclimatisation, given that the UAE summer heat has not yet kicked-in and Europe is just beginning to warm up. This allows horses the maximum period of time to prepare for the rigors ahead, which include: living out, colder and wetter weather, adapting their gut to grazing and changes in forage types and quality.
Meet the Equine Retirement Livery Care Givers
Equitrans caught up with the owners of two popular retirement options for UAE horses, Nicky Van Dijk from the Happy Horse Retirement Home based in the Brecon Beacons National park in Wales UK and Jane Eyre from Equine Pensions located in the Limousin Region of France, to find out more about the process of retiring UAE horses in Europe…
Firstly, what do you think attracts your clients to your retirement livery packages?
Jane says, “one of the things that appeals most to the people that send their horses here, whether it’s from the UAE, Europe, Singapore or Hong Kong, is the amount of space we provide and that their horse can live out his days as near to a natural environment, in a herd, as can be found.”
“We have year round grazing, which is also really important, especially as horses age and begin losing teeth, which makes chewing hay difficult.”
For Nicky, it’s about horse care, “we take time in choosing and accommodating the right horses to suit the various herds, we have mixed sex herds and some single sex so depending on the horses’ temperament and dietary needs we make sure they are happy and healthy.”
One thing both agree on is the careful introduction UAE horses require to their new lives. From being almost exclusively stabled, living on imported forage with little to no turn out and little contact with other horses, the UAE retirees really do, get their lives turned on their heads when they arrive in Europe.
Herd living, local forages, grazing, free movement, its all a BIG change, how do retirement homes manage this change for the best results?
“An abrupt change in environment or routine can be very stressful, says Jane, “so it is important that care and attention is paid in ensuring that the horse is happy and settled as quickly as possible. Dietary changes need to be handled with special care, as does the exposure to grazing, which will have been limited up to their point of arrival. We will normally have a long conversation with owners before their horse arrives in order to make sure we have a clear idea of their usual routine, and it also gives the owners a chance to ask any questions that they might have.”
She goes on to say, “Acclimatising the horse, from whatever environment they arrive from, is a really important process and we have the necessary experience to facilitate a smooth transition.”
The Happy Horse Retirement Home’s Nicky Van Dijk says, “The most important thing is to wean them onto grass slowly and keep them warm, we take off rugs gradually but when it rains we rug them in their first summer until they develop a decent coat . We normally only introduce them to one horse to babysit them at the beginning then when they enter a herd they have a friend to protect and guide them.”
In addition to the changes retirement horses face when coming to Europe, there is also the fact that many have or will shortly be encountering age associated issues, such as teeth loss, arthritis, metabolic issues and more, what do retirement livery options offer to assist with these issues?
Jane says, “we provide a wealth of equine experience, from treating and caring for illnesses and injuries, to providing on-going treatment in the form of massage and physiotherapy. Being aware of health problems and how they might affect older horses allows us to spot potential problems before they become serious or significant.”
Nicky says its all about, “the experience and knowledge of caring for elderly horses, there are many health issues in older horses so you need to find somewhere where they are monitoring your horse on a daily basis and have the experience to act quickly when necessary, the welfare of the horse is paramount . Trust is important, I compare sending horses to us as sending your child to boarding school , you need to have faith that your child/horse will have the best care available.”
How important is communication and how do Jane and Nicky choose to update their over-seas owners?
Jane says, “Regular updates are provided to owners via WhatsApp or email and photos are regularly updated on our Instagram account. We are always at the end of the phone should anyone wish to contact us but most owners are very happy using WhatsApp.”
“We have a Facebook, twitter and Instagram page which are updated regularly, plus each owner gets a monthly report,” says Nicky.
The Equitrans Horse Retirement Livery Listings:
Size: 75 acres
Location: Limousin, France
“We have over 75 hectares of traditional meadow land which is home to a variety of species of grass and other plants, which enables the horse to find many of the necessary nutrients from this diversity. There is natural spring water and streams running through the land, with plenty of natural shelter from large mature trees as well as some man-made shelter. The fields are large and allow the horses to live in as natural an environment as is possible as this aids not just their physical health but also their psychological well-being. We do have stables available and, often, the horses arriving from UAE will have a stable for their first winter whilst they acclimatise but most horses prefer being out 24/7.
Extras for Livery Clients: Accommodation is available for clients and we can arrange that their horse is just outside their door so they only have to step outside in order to visit their old friend.
The countryside in this part of France is very beautiful and some clients welcome the opportunity to discover a little of it on horseback, so we keep a couple of riding horses available for experienced riders. Other clients are happy just to soak up the calm, tranquil atmosphere and observe their horse in the peace of the countryside.
Costs: All our tariffs include ad-lib hay, feed, regular worming and hoof trimming, an annual dental check and taxes. Most horses arriving from the UAE start on our Standard Livery rate of €280 per month where they are stabled in the winter but many move to our Grass Livery rate of €165 per month and are outside 24/7. It is what the horses seem to prefer.
Happy Horse Retirement Home
Size: 90 acres
Location: Brecon Beacons National park in Wales UK
What they say: The home is a ninety acre farm situated in a peaceful green valley, with lush, rolling green fields surrounded by mature trees and hedges. It is set in the heart of a National Park, in the midst of beautiful, spectacular countryside. (approx. one hour drive from Severn bridge).
All horses are stabled in winter months and out 24/7 in the summer months, we have accommodation for 50 horses and 90 acres of good grazing with natural shelter.
Additional info: The yard is managed by Nicky van Dijk an experienced, qualified British Horse Society Stable Manager who organises several intensive training courses and also teaches the local pony club. The caring staff are very knowledgeable and constantly trained and updated.
Costs: Our Prices vary on size and dietary requirements, Prices are from £85 to £110 /week.
Fresh Fields Retirement Home
Size: 58 acres
Location: Bridgnorth in Shropshire
Costs: 75 to 95 pounds per week depending on options.
Fedw Equine Retirement Centre
Size: 220 acres
Location: Brecon Beacons on the edge of Wales’ largest National Park
Additional: approved by the BHS
Costs: 80 pounds per week plus
PB Barefoot Rehab and Retirement Paddock Paradise Livery
Size: 18 acres
Location: Staffordshire, Midlands, UK
Additional: Three paddock-paradise track systems designed to keep horses moving naturally.
Costs: Retirement livery 300 pounds per month
Retirement Shipping and Transport
Equitrans is the Middle East’s trusted equine transporter. For almost 20-years, Equitrans has provided shipping for the region’s retirement horses to both the UK and Europe. With extensive expertise in transporting older horses, the Equitrans team understands and provides for the needs of these unique horses. To find out more about the Equitrans service call us on: +971 4 321 1157.