Hi - we have a horse that we have put some weight on. But now we need to stregnthen his legs to help account for his new weight. Any recommendations on what we can work on him with (i.e., lunging, riding at a slow pace with a lighter weight, etc.). He does not seem lame but does seem a little stiff in the knees at times. No swelling or heat in the legs or the feet.
I am thinking we will need to build him back slowly over all of this winter before we will get him where he needs to be.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! He was was a couple hundred pounds underweight when we got him.
Exercise is great for a horse's health in so many ways. Just start slow, paying attention to how hard he's working, and build up slowly.
If you have horses that can do it, ponying is preferable to lunging, IMO, but not every horse or person can handle it. If you have a large enough pen, free lunging is an option. It can be done in a square pen, just takes training.
I can't imagine that regaining a healthy amount of weight would put undue stress on the legs if it didn't happen too fast. There also might be underlying issues causing stiffness. Might talk to the vet about that.
If the vet okays riding, start small and build up as with any conditioning program.
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You didn't mention the age of the horse but I am assuming it is mature 5+ years. Lot's of miles but start slow and work up to distance plus some of this needs to be fast pace to build up his cardio. Horses are tougher than you think. With increased activity he may require more protein in his diet. Keeping a horse saddled several hours a day will help build stamina.
We are not sure how old he is but the vet believes 17/19 years old. We tried to increase the weight slowly, however, he moved quickly once he got the nutrition back in his system. So, he may have gained faster which was not intentional.
I do plan to have the vet out, however, he does not appear to be in any pain and with no heat or swelling, I was trying to see if there was something I could try before calling them. I, in no way would ever have any of my animals suffer; I just did not want to incur the additional expense if I could look at something at home.
If he's not sore, I'd go ahead and start riding.
Thehorse.com has some excellent articles on conditioning safely.
ETA You might also look at the articles on stretching. It can be very good for horses.
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Ride him gently - just walking and increasing the length of time gradually as he begins to loosen up. He may have some arthritis in his knees that could make him prone to stumbling so dont be tempted to allow him to 'slop along'
Lunging in a tight circle is likely to put more strain on his joints but if he knows how to lunge you can work him on a much bigger circle by moving around with him while staying in the same shoulder position to him
Leading him off another horse would be great if he will do that
trot trot trot trot. back back back back. those are some keys to a halter horse build. you can lunge in a deep sand arena or round pen or even pony them if u are not wanting to ride.
17-19 is a senior horse. Don't expect it to act or look like it once did. Start working on you a horse to move to and let this one slow down.
^^^ That's what I was thinking. If he's in his upper teens then a little stiffness probably has nothing to do with recent weight gain and more to do with age & arthritis. If he's not on a joint supplement, I'd strongly suggest adding one.
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