How to get a horse back into shape? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 04-20-2012, 12:35 AM Thread Starter
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Location: Canada
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How to get a horse back into shape?

I'm going to be riding a 20-something years old mare. Problem is, she hasn't been ridden in a very long time (probably only gets ridden a few times a year). How should I go about getting her back into shape? I am not planning on doing much with her, but enough to do 1-2 hour trail rides every couple days.
Or is she fine to do this without any exercising (for lack of a better word)? Sorry if these are stupid questions, I've only ridden lesson horses who get worked regularly, so I am totally clueless, lol.
They (the people who own the horse) don't have a roundpen or a lunge line, so I'm kind of limited, unless I buy one of my own.

(Don't worry, I'm not paying to ride this horse. The owner feels bad he can't ride her, and offered me to ride her fo free. So I thought, why not? My barn is 1 hour away, and so I can only get out there once a week. Extra practice for me!)

Any ideas? :)
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post #2 of 7 Old 04-20-2012, 06:53 AM
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Trot sets! This will not only,help with the heart to become stronger but also the horse,will get more muscle. Since she hasnt been,ridden in a long time start with 2min trots and 3 sets(walk,trot,walk,trot,walk,trot and walk) and after those 2 mins walk 3 mins inbetween. After u finish those sets, walk 30 to 45 mins after. Do this for 2 weeks and then each week (if u want to) increase the trot by one min every week. This has worked wonderful with my 16yr paint, 24 yr arab, and for my comp horses!
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post #3 of 7 Old 04-20-2012, 09:25 AM
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I have a similar situation so I am glad you posted! BTW welcome to the forum.

My girl hasn't been ridden in like 4 years before I got her and she has heaves. So, I have to work with her in between episodes.

Good luck with your project. Would like to see some photos too.

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.
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post #4 of 7 Old 04-20-2012, 10:25 AM
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The first stage in building fitness and conditioning in your horse is the walking stage. You should spend at least the first 4 - 6 weeks only walking your horse. Since you have a 20 plus year old horse that has not been kept on a regular exercise program I would say do the full 6 weeks of walking only before adding any trot sets.

This stage is going to be especially important for your horse since she is older than 20 years old and hasn't been kept in a regular exercise program.

The walking stage can be done on the trails and in the fields. You could start with 20 minutes/day gradually building up the time to around 1 1/2 hours/day by 4 weeks and about 2 hours/day by about 6 weeks.

The second stage of fitness and conditioning is the muscling up stage, this is the stage that you would begin to add some short trot sets in to your walking. You could also begin some simple easy schooling exercises, like walking large circles and large serpentines, if you plan on doing any schooling with your horse.

You can then gradually add in longer/more frequent trot sets and begin some short cantering sets. Remember to add the length and frequency of the trot and canter sets gradually over time. You can also gradually add more time spent schooling if you choose to school your horse.

To get a horse fully fit and conditioned, it will take around 12 weeks of 6 days/week of riding the program that I mentioned above. Once a horse is fit and conditioned, their fitness and conditioning can be maintained on around 4 - 5 days/week of riding.

You mentioned that you don't have a longe line or a round pen, I wouldn't recommend any longing or working in the round pen with a 20 plus year old horse anyway.

I would also recommend, if it hasn't already been done, to have the vet come out and give your horse a check up to make sure she is going into her fitness/conditioning program healthy. Also, be sure her deworming, teeth, shots, and farrier care (feet trimmed and shod if needed) are all up to date.

Good luck with your horse and have fun!
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post #5 of 7 Old 04-21-2012, 02:01 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much everyone! Your input was very helpful. :)

I'll be sure to gradually work her way up from walking, to trot sets, and eventually, to canter sets. I'll also go over this with the owners, and see if they've had a vet check her out recently, to make sure she's healthy. (Well, as healthy as an unworked 20+ yr old mare can be ;).)
I'm so excited to start this regimen! Haha. I might post some before & after photos in a few months, so you can see how she's getting along. She only lives 5 minutes down the road, so I have plenty of time to work with her. :)
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post #6 of 7 Old 04-21-2012, 11:20 AM
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I would like to add to this and ask if anyone thinks my weight might be too much for my horse? I am 5'9" and weigh a bit over 220. I am trying to lose but...well after 40! LOL

my mare is 16hh and weighs in at about 1150 lbs

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.
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post #7 of 7 Old 04-21-2012, 04:15 PM
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Trail rides will in the long run get your horse into shape much more then some people think. If you continually ride on trails every day your horse will begin to so muscle. Now if you just want to start a work out routine with her. Start for the first week just lots and LOTS of trotting. Make the first couple days 10 minutes of walking and about 10 to 15 minutes of trotting, then after you've done that for a few days go on to 10 minutes of walking and to 20 minutes of trotting. Also if you have hills, hills are AWESOME for building butt muscle. After you've built her up some muscle in the first week introduce loping/cantering in there. By this time you should be figuring out your own routine with her. Sometimes its harder to get muscle on an older horse so that's why I said so much trotting. Because above any other gait trotting usually builds the most muscle, and prompts stamina as well as endurance.
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