Age Is Just a Number for Senior Pony Gramps

December 11, 2023

Katie's niece riding Gramps while Katie leads him

Katie S. was looking to adopt a pony suitable for her young nieces when she came across a horse named Gramps on social media.

“I had put out a lot of feelers for appropriate ponies,” says Katie, an equine veterinarian who lives in Carthage, Missouri, with her husband, Cole. “A friend tagged me on Facebook about an older horse named Gramps who was available through the ASPCA. When I watched his videos, something about his story captivated me. He seemed quiet and gentle. I said to myself, ‘I think I need this pony.’” 

Gramps, a 33-year-old pinto, was available at the  ASPCA Equine Transition and Adoption Center (ETAC) in El Reno, Oklahoma, 250 miles southwest of Carthage. While Katie hadn’t originally considered a horse Gramps’ age, she decided he was a good fit—especially for her three-year-old niece, Westyn—after conferring with Libby Hanon, ETAC’s Equine Adoption and Marketing Specialist. 

On July 31, Katie and her sister, Brittany—who have ridden horses since they were young—drove to ETAC to see Gramps. They brought along Westyn’s big sister, Wyatt, age six. 

L: Gramps, Katie, Wyatt and Brittany; R: Westyn on Gramps.

L: Gramps, Katie, Wyatt and Brittany; R: Westyn on Gramps. 

“He didn’t precisely fit the bill because of his age, but he intrigued me,” says Katie. “Between Brittany and me, we have seven horses, but none are kids’ horses.” 

After meeting Gramps, they completed the adoption, loaded him into their trailer and drove him home. Four months later, Katie confirms that Gramps is “a very good boy.” 

“He’s a cute little pony and is more of a pet than anything,” Katie reports. “He’s been so nice to have. He settled in well and is incredibly kind. We have no regrets.” 

Gramps’ Story 

Libby Hanon met Gramps the moment he arrived at ETAC, a rainy May day in 2023. 

“He was very congenial—and stole my heart in that moment,” Libby says. “He got so close to me it was hard to take his photo. And he was vocal and would whinny or nicker every time I came into the barn.” 

Gramps had been his previous owner’s horse since childhood. But when circumstances changed, his owner could no longer provide the same level of care Gramps had enjoyed most of his life. She made the difficult decision to relinquish their longtime friend to ETAC so he could receive the care needed to thrive in a new home.


As Gramps aged, he’d begun to lose weight and came to ETAC significantly underweight. Missing most of his teeth, Gramps also had Cushing’s disease, a common malady in older equines. 

Over the course of two weeks, the ETAC team embarked on a tough pathway-planning discussion for Gramps, including analyzing a range of potential outcomes. 

“He had lived a full, long life,” says Libby, mentioning that Gramps’ former owner understood euthanasia was a potential outcome when she relinquished him. “We were concerned about his comfort and quality of life. What it came down to was Gramps showed us he wanted to move forward. He showed us his personality and desire to be with people. He had more ‘kids’ to raise.” 

Tom Persechino, Senior Director of ETAC, recalls several signs that indicated Gramps’ potential. After taking Gramps for a walk, the team soaked his grain, and Gramps devoured his food. 

“He had a huge will to live,” says Tom. “We see horses with layered issues in our work all the time, but in Gramps’ case, we were able to determine that his age was not causing other issues or disease.”

Gramps eating in his stable

Led by their veterinarian, Dr. Charlotte Kin, and careful diagnostics, ETAC staff also sought feedback from Gramps’ day-to-day caregivers and volunteers who watched him closely to gauge his quality of life. 

Gramps was placed on a refeeding diet to carefully manage his weight gain, and the team minimized his exercise when they could. Still, Gramps was known to chase the feeding ATV. Dr. Kin pleased with his progress, and he was good with children. 

“He was a total babysitter—a great kids’ horse, basically bomb-proof, so we added that to his profile,” says Libby. “He loved being in the center of everything.” 

Brittany with her children on horses (left), Gramps' pasture (right)

L: Brittany with her daughters, Westyn and Wyatt, on Gramps and Moonie; R: A view to Gramps’ new pasture. 

“Through his progress, his vitality, he was saying, ‘I got this,’” Libby adds. “When he met his adopters, he pulled out all the stops.” 

Gramps Settles In 

On their Missouri farm, Katie’s family gave Gramps time to settle in—and now he has created a new job for himself! “When veterinary clients pull into our driveway, which his paddock overlooks, Gramps meanders up for petting,” she says. “He’s our greeter, always nickering at people.” 

Gramps also gained another 150 lb. on his buffet of senior feed and mashed pellets. “He’s spunky, full of life, and loves to eat,” says Katie, who notes that it costs more to feed Gramps than their other seven horses combined, but “we love Gramps, and that’s what he needs to have a successful life.” 

Katie with her niece riding Gramps

Katie with her niece and Gramps. 

It’s no surprise that Gramps guards his food while eating, even from the family’s dogs and barn cats who may wander in and out of his paddock. 

“He likes other animals, but not when he’s eating,” says Katie. “We don’t turn him out with our other horses because of his eating schedule, but he has access to them over the five-acre pasture fence and stall doors.” 

“He’s patient and gentle with the girls,” adds Katie, who is expecting twin boys in December. With Westyn, he trots on a lunge line, and the pair took a lead line class together. “We keep expectations of him reasonable as well.”  

Westyn riding Gramps

Lessons Learned

Katie advises horse lovers wanting to adopt to go through a reputable organization.

Gramps grazing

“I was impressed, as both a horse owner and an equine veterinarian, how thoroughly the ASPCA vetted Gramps and kept good records. They wanted to give him the best start possible and did a good job matching him with the best possible scenario.” 

Gramps’ story also illustrates how all adoptable horses should be considered with open minds and without biases that can rob them—and potential owners—of happy futures.

From left: Donna, Katie’s mother, with Westyn on Gramps; Brittany with Wyatt on Moonie

From left: Donna, Katie’s mother, with Westyn on Gramps; Brittany with Wyatt on Moonie 

“So many would-be adopters want to take in an at-risk horse,” says Libby, who follows up with ETAC adopters regularly. “They give them love, and when horses find their person, like Gramps did, they come alive.”   

Gramps in his pasture

Feeling inspired and ready to adopt a horse of your own? Visit to browse hundreds of adoptable horses nationwide by breed, gender or discipline.