By Jeremy Olshan
When they leave the police force or their teaching jobs after years of service, these lucky professionals spend their golden years at a sprawling retirement community with grand vistas, stimulating activities, and opportunities for new friendships and love affairs.
The hundred or so residents of Mill Creek Farm in Alachua, Fla., also happen to be horses.
Like cubicle drones, “they worked hard, stuck in small stalls, rarely — if ever — getting out into the nice green country,” says Peter Gregory, 83, who along with his wife Mary opened the “retirement home for horses” three decades ago. “The mounted police officers get to retire with a nice pension, but the horses they ride just get kicked out, they’re deemed useless, and sent to the slaughterhouse.”
Since this lack of equine retirement planning is no fault of their own, the Gregorys decided someone needed to provide them a 401(hay). “Here they get to live like horses – free to roam, run and talk to each other – all the things most horses never get to do when they’re being worked or ridden day in and day out,” he says. “Here they can pursue life the way Mother Nature wanted them to.”
It’s the desire to pursue his own dreams of freedom that led him and his wife to sell their Pompano Beach hotel in 1980 and open the horse farm. Humans imagining an ideal retirement could learn a thing or two from the horses, he says. “But from my point of view this isn’t my retirement – I’m not fond of the idea of not sitting idly around. Doing this – keeping active — has added years to my life – and I hope it to do it for years longer.”
Only the two-legged work on the farm, and despite his age and aching back and joints, Gregory and his wife have only one other paid employee – the farm depends on volunteers and contributions.
They make sure the horses – which, on average, spend their final eight years at the farm – get great healthcare and a daily smorgasbord on which to slowly graze over 12 hours.
Despite working from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. each day, Gregory says “I feel free – just like the horses here – except unlike them, I’ll retire when I die.”