How to start getting a senior horse back into shape? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 09-26-2011, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2010
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How to start getting a senior horse back into shape?

Hey guys! I just wanted everyone's opinions on the best way to get a horse back into shape. My horse is a 21 year old Appendix QH who hasn't been ridden regularly since at least April. I'm planning on getting back in the saddle and getting him and I back into shape, but I'm just wondering where I should start.

He knows everything pretty well. I ride english and would like to work toward some jumping lessons at our new barn. I've never jumped before (but my horse has once or twice), although I've ridden for many years and have a good seat, etc. Any exercises you guys might recommend to get us safely to the level of fitness that would be required for an out of shape 21-year-old horse to be ready to jump?

Also, I understand that jumping can be more stressful on an older horse, so I am willing to take every precaution necessary to keep him sound and comfortable. I've been assured by the woman that I will take lessons from in the future that we can start slow and with a lot of ground work (I'm assuming poles and cavaletti). I will not jump if it causes my horse pain, obviously.

Sooo, any suggestions, tips, exercises, what to work on first, etc?

PS. Thanks in advance :)
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post #2 of 3 Old 09-26-2011, 07:51 PM
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With Lacey (she's 26 so her fitness is even slower coming back), I do a lot of walking over varying terrain. My favorite thing to do with her is go for a 45 minute trail ride that's very hilly, just at a walk. Once that becomes easy for her (aka no serious out of breath-ness, she doesn't need to take a break, she can keep a steady pace up a hill etc), I move her up to walking 75% of the time and trotting the other 25%. Then, once that's not a big deal, walking become 65%, trotting 25% and cantering 10%, etc. Once we're to the third stage and doing that 2 or three times a week, she's usually game to canter a lot more than that. Long trail rides are my best friend.

I alternate workouts with her too. I ride twice a week (all gaits), use her in walking lessons for kids 2-3 times a week, and I lunge her (all gaits) usually once or twice a week. That way she doesn't sour or anything.

Another thing that I find beneficial is riding on concrete/asphalt/gravel. I keep her to a walk on the concrete and asphalt and only go faster on the gravel once her feet are tough enough, but I've found that her legs seem much stronger. The hard surface helps build her bone mass and strengthens the tendons and such in her legs (which would be great for you since you want to jump).

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.
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post #3 of 3 Old 09-26-2011, 10:39 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Queensland, Australia.
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A while ago I brought an older horse back into work for his owner. It was very fun to see him progress in fitness and learn at the same time (He hadn't done much in his life - basically sit in a paddock).

We began slowly, it started with a basic walk in a flat arena. I allowed him to have soft contact with the reins, I didn't ask him to go on the bit. Just relax. We walked over the occasional ground poll but nothing hard or which made him even sweat. As he began to adjust to this I'd take him out, on more challenging grounds. We started out with a paddock which had the rare small hill and later on we were traveling out on trails - going over hilly grounds. Enjoying ourselves. At first the rides were short but with time his fitness grew, so did the length of the ride.

After doing this until I felt he was ready, I introduced some trot and later on canter. I slowly eased him into this, he had quite a while off and rushing him could have resulted in him being injured. Now - possibly 12 months later? He is happily jumping small show jumping rounds with a young girl as a confidence builder.

Time, patience and listening to the horses limits is all it takes.

Sir Success. Eventer.
2000 - 2013,
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