It was a happy-sad moment when I realized I was no longer my horse’s “mom.” The epiphany came recently while visiting my 22-year-old Thoroughbred, Wally, in Lockwood, where he lives in the care of Terri Eadens.
Located in Central California about an hour north of Paso Robles, Eadens’ equine retirement facility is far enough away that I haven’t visited more than once a year since I sent Wally there in 2004. As I stood with him in the grass pasture, he acknowledged me politely and welcomed my attention, but it was Eadens’ pockets he was nudging. She makes a point of honoring her client’s relationship with their horses and describing herself as a “step mom” to the now 32 retirees in her care, but I realized the distinction was made for me and not Wally. I realized how lucky I was to have found an affordable, trustworthy retirement facility where the proprietor understood and shared my feelings about my horse.
Add to that Eadens’ expertise as a horsewoman and access to 140 acres of gently rolling pasture space, and Terri Eadens Horse Retirement is a dream come true for horse and owner.
From her neatly kept home atop a knoll overlooking eight pastures fenced in barbless wire, Eadens doesn’t miss anything that goes on with her horses. An animal science degree from Cal Poly and many years as a Grand Prix jumping rider and hunter/jumper trainer were terrific preparations for running a retirement facility, but observing her charges 24/7 has added many layers to her knowledge of and appreciation for horses. “I love watching them learn how to be horses again,” she comments. “I have green grass, fresh air, fresh water and lots of land. It’s everything a horse
could want and I love watching each horse’s attitude change as he settles in here. They relax and let down.”
Well-known San Diego horsewoman Sally Black witnessed the effect first hand when she trailered her late husband’s mare to Eadens’ property last year. “She got out of the truck, pranced around and then she was settled,” Black recounts. “And, she is not the settling kind. She is an extremely difficult horse, but she was instantly comfortable there.”
“As was I,” Black continues. “I’ve known Terri for a long time and I know her to be a consummate horsewoman. I’ve seen ads for retirement places. Some are closer and some are both less and considerably more expensive, but I’m very comfortable with where my horse is.” Black has since referred several clients to Eadens, as have fellow trainer Kelli Clevenger and her bookkeeper Barb Messenger.
Thanks to her ties in the hunter/jumper world, most of Eadens’ charges are former show horses. Most come because soundness issues and/or age have ended their riding days. Some are outgrown kids’ horses the family can’t part with but needs to maintain affordably. Few have ever lived in anything but box stalls or small paddocks.
Whatever their backgrounds, however, their herd instincts surface quickly when situated in pastures with anywhere from three to 10 other horses. “I can usually tell when they get off the truck what pasture to put them in,” says Eadens. Most are quick studies in getting along. Even though aggressive posturing between stablemates is common in a show barn setting, newcomers figure out quickly that, without fences and bars to separate them, they better settle down and get along with their new roommates. Veteran retirees are often nonchalant about new arrivals. “It’s like they’re saying, ‘OK, here’s another new one. We’ll go check him out when we get around to it,’” Eadens notes.
She enjoys watching the horses look out for one another. When a blind pony lost its longtime companion to old age, the three other horses in her pasture “automatically tucked the pony under their wing.”
“It’s incredible to watch them be themselves,” Eadens says. “They are incredibly tactile animals. They love to play with each other, scratch each other.” She laughs at the memory of how hard it can be to ride a horse into or over water, while noting how easily her retirees wade into the property’s ponds to roll and cool off in the summer.
Eadens is a master at keeping costs down. Board is $250 a month and includes twice daily hay feedings, constant supervision and administering of medications and special feed as needed. She grooms the horses regularly and keeps their manes trimmed: ostensibly to keep them accustomed to being handled, but I suspect it’s because Eadens just can resist. With the exception of dental work and rabies vaccinations that require a veterinary license, Eadens does all worming and shots herself, billing owners just for the medications. By handling the billing for her farrier, she keeps the typically bi-annual hoof trims inexpensive: $40 for my horse.
“I don’t like nickel and diming my clients,” she explains. When Wally seemed particularly bothered by flies one summer, Eadens found me a great deal on fly sheets. She puts those on, as well as blankets in the rain and cold during winter.
Eadens is grateful to her neighbor Beto Villarrual for his generosity in allowing her to keep horses on his adjacent land at very reasonable rates. The extra space adds to her options for rotating horses into fresh grass pastures as needed.
A famously fastidious horse and barn keeper, Eadens handles 32 horses herself by staying very organized. “I drive people crazy sometimes!” she laughs. A sturdy pick-up truck enables her to feed efficiently and drag pastures daily to keep them clean. Horses who get special feeds are so familiar with the routine that they walk up to the buckets near her home on their own and return to their friends when they’re finished. Her rapport with the horses is particularly valuable during vet visits. “I can tell you the personality and quirks of every horse here,” she says. “My vet is astounded that we don’t have to chase the horses ever. Even after shots or worming, they just hang around.”
Eadens welcomes more retirees. “It’s a labor of love, really. Horses are so generous and giving and they have worked hard for us and are part of people’s families. I take their care and their
life very seriously, while also letting them just
For more information on Terri Eadens
Horse Retirement, call 831-235-2310 or visit