Hey Barry, I'm so happy you replied. I am being vague. Let me tell you more.
My boyfriend would be a novice ON a horse, but definitely not around them - he is quite capable of handling both my boys and understands that they are handled easily and naturally and that they both despise a rough hand. His core is relatively strong since he has a somewhat bad back (at age 19!) and must keep good posture or else face the consequences.
My boy's belly has dropped - we have no chiropractor here (I had my jumper seen by one 4 years ago that the local harness racing set flew in from Hollywood!) but the vet says just to watch his back, and the vet will regularly check him. Right now I am only riding him bareback, one because I hate western saddles and find they don't give me enough contact, two because I like the feeling of having loose limber legs after riding in my CC jumping saddle, and three because I'd question the fit of either of his western saddles.
Riding him on tarmac is not an option, besides the busy highway. He had bad feet at one time (a laminitis case) but my expert farrier (whom you can find more about here
has given him the clean bill of health. My vet has also looked at his teeth, and besides usual gelding tartar, he is in good condition.
His temperament is second to none - but he does know one trick. When you ride him, he will circle the ring once or twice, then turn his head to the side and yawn and sigh like he is just completely exhausted. He has done this in the prime of shape and in the worst of shape, the dirty trickster.
Right now I am working him at about 40 minutes, mostly walk, save for 3 laps of the ring both ways at a steady trot :)
Mac, you are playing with the horse's health in old age. If you do it right then fine but at the beginning take it slowly, otherwise you'll break the horse and you'll be upset about that, were it to happen. Just take it steadily and easily. As the horse gets fitter he might need some extra feed but give nothing which will heat him up. Check with the feed store.
I quite intend to do this correctly and consult completely with the opinions of this forum as well as the opinions of my vet and farrier. The last thing I want to do is harm this old boy in any way, as he is my pride & joy. Neither my boyfriend nor I have any intention of getting out of a walk, my real intention is to share such a huge part of my life with him. If he wants to do it at a walk or if he wants to do it at a halt, either is fine with me. There is something about being on a horse that you cannot replicate in any other way that I'd like for him to experience :)