Photographer Jessica Sanders started the Senior Horse Project to showcase the special, long-standing relationships between riders and their senior horses. Featuring seniors over 25 years old, she shares the photos of the partnership. These stories share some of the highs and lows they’ve experienced together as well as the challenges (and rewards!) that come with caring for a senior horse.
Allison & Maverick | Robin Hill Farm, Pittstown, NJ
Maverick (Registered Name: Primus) is a 24 years old, Rhinelander, photographed at Robin Hill Farm in Pittstown, NJ.
How it all started
My parents bought Maverick for me and we imported him from Germany in 2003…he was 6/7 when we bought him. Mav is my second horse. My first horse turned out to be a bit too much for me to handle and we sold him to a close friend.
My family isn’t a ‘horsey’ family so we relied on the knowledge and experience of the trainers and staff at our barn. I’d been riding since I was 10 and [had] leased a horse before buying my first so [I] had some experience. I was at a farm with a respected trainer and knowledgeable staff as well. Growing up riding and being a ‘barn rat’ at the Union County stable, Watchung Stables, I also had a large community to rely on for support, even though I didn’t board my horse there once I got him.
I always wanted to compete in the jumpers. I didn’t have any specific height in mind but the horse needed to be athletic. We competed in the child adult jumpers initially and we dabbled in eq and hunters to fill classes, etc. After his first injury and rehab we discovered eventing and dressage and competed on a much more low key level. Now he’s retired and gives pony rides!
Board at a nice farm with turnout and an indoor was $450 at the time [we bought him in 2003]! Haha! But in reality [I did] not really [have a full appreciation for how much it cost to keep a horse] since my parents were paying for him. I knew I’d have to take over expenses eventually and when that happened yes, it was an eye opener! I remember telling people he cost more a month than I did! So I took on leasers to help with costs and had a few people who would pay per ride. When he went to the clinic I paid through a payment plan.
I didn’t have the intention of ever selling Maverick, he was always more talented than I was! Not that it mattered, he wasn’t an investment he was a partner. [But] after I graduated college, when the bills started piling up and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, I considered selling [him]. I hadn’t thought the long game through [in regards to retirement]. I wasn’t too serious but told a few trainer friends [that I was considering selling him]. A few people came to try him, a mother asked to put money down and I got cold feet and backed out.
Highs and Lows
Definitely [my lowest point with Maverick was] having to take him to Mid Atlantic [Equine Medical Center] for nuclear scintigraphy. As for highs we won bunches of ribbons but I’d like to think our 17 year relationship is what I’m most proud of.
Where We Are Now
Maverick has always been there for me through what I consider to be the pivotal years of my life, my senior year of high school through college and navigating adulthood. He has always been a steady source of companionship and solace. I hope to one day share with my daughter the love I have for Maverick.
Jessica Sanders is an equine photographer based in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Originally from California, she now lives in central NJ with her husband Gus and senior Arabian gelding Ollie. Specializing solely in equine and equestrian portraits, her pictures tell the stories of riders and their horses and capture the beauty of each perfectly imperfect horse. You can follow her work and the senior horse project on Facebook and @jessicasandersphotography