Getting my horse fit on the trail
My twenty one year old mare, Grasshopper, is a healthy, strong and awesome horse, but on a long trial ride...up hills and such...she can get pretty winded and feels like she is really struggling. I haven't had her out on long rides and really pushed her much. So, she just may need conditioning....her lunges stretched out and all.
Does anyone have any thoughts or advise or perspectives which will help me in dealing with her? I worry about my horses and don't want to expect of them what is no longer possible. Can twenty one year olds still be brought back up to good conditioning? I know all horses are different, but maybe someone knows what I should watch for.
She is free-grazing now with grain 3 or 4 times a week. I know with people exercise...there needs to be a balance of food and exercise, but even poeple at a certain age don't re-build and re-energize quite the same...as young bucks. Or do they? :? :lol:
If you look at my photos she is the appy with the white patch on the rump...quite red most of her body.
I never had an old horse so I might not be the best advice.... but i just went on a ten day trail ride and my horse is nooo trial horse, So I had alot of training for him...
but I do agree with food balancing out their diet, doing large trials I think that they can always use the extra energy allowing that they are quiet enough..
but I started with small ride's and gradually got longer and he did seem to handel them alot better.. and was really well prepared for that ten day ride I just came home from..
not sure if thats any help..
anywaysss :D :D
It's just a matter on conditioning her, just may take a little more time than a younger horse that will get fitter quicker. Just take her out of fairly short rides to start with, with varying terrain and keep it at a brisk walk to whole way. Do that for 2 weeks, then gradually increase the length of the ride over the course of a month. Start introducing some short bursts or trotting up small inclines to get her heart rate up a couple of times each ride.
Its like asking a fat kid who sits on its butt and eats in front of the TV all day to suddenly go and walk 10km. Kid is going to get super puffed out. Then a few weeks of gradually increasing exercise, and the said kid will do a better job of the same walk the next time.
I always worried about my mare. She is 20 but she doesnt act like it. She is an arab. I guess I am real sensitive about if I ride her to much she will get older faster. I know its rediculous but thats just the way I feel. I know tho this year she seems to be a little weaker in the knees. It could just be me and I only took her out once on the account of weather and work but like I said, I dont want to hurt her. I know she is strong and healthy and it could just a flook. Anyhow, I agree with kayty. Work up to it gradually. And feed accordingly. Especially with older horses. My horse is a hard keeper so I really have to watch excersise and feeding. Have fun trail riding. Wish I could go with. Looks like you live out west. What fun!!
mbender, you'll actually be doing your mare a favour by gently riding her a few days a week, than if you just leave her out in the paddock. Constant movement keeps a horse's joints lubricated and in a healthier state.
I agree with Kayty on the conditioning. In regards to riding an older horse it can add years to their lives. Just keep an eye on her, give her some extra hay if she starts losing condition and take it easy at first.
Look up Heneke Body Condition Score Chart and try to keep her between 4 and 5. Good luck and have fun.
Oh I know. I actually want to lunge her to bring her back muscles back up. Well and just excersise. Just waiting for this weather to stop and get in some decent stuff. Does anyone ever feel like I do. About being sensitive to their horses feelings??? I am laughing at myself right now but thats just the way I am. Weird? I think back to the way it used to be....Back in 19.......... when the cowboys rode their horses no matter what. In any weather.
I don't ride a ton when it's rainy, but I finally gave up waiting for non windy days last week.
I would be careful with lunging a lot if I were you. I've found nice walks are great to help get an older horse some exercise. On the plus side they can graze too!
I have a 30 yr old mare and I get her out and about by walking. Not in the rain, but I try to get her out a couple times a week. She's completely unrideable and at times can actually be a little dangerous to walk next too due to arthritis. But I can honestly say that I've added a couple of really good years on to her life by making she got regular light exercise.
Neither of your horses sound like they're in her category, so I'd ride them as usual and just keep an eye out for stiffness/etc.
Thanks to all...
Thanks for all the advise. Yes, the gradual conditioning sounds like solid advise. She was a herd/range horse for about 5 years before I bought her, so I think she figuered she was retired at 15. :D Surprise!
But she is awesome. Very sensitive to everything around her. Always checking behind every tree and over every hill for prey. And then she will be always looking back at me....kinda like, "what's this guy doing on me? I'm supposed be back at home looking after the others". Ya, right, she just wants to come and go as she pleases, like she grew used to.
But everyone is surprised at her age, thinking she is far younger, because how good and alert she looks.
Another thing she seems to do alot is stumble. Like she is too bored to lift her feet...or too preoccupied with getting home...to concentrate on what we're doing. But like some have shared...I think it takes some consistent riding to get her back up to paying attention.
But yes, I am quite the worry-wart when it comes to my horses. I really try to feel and identify with what they're feeling or going through. I can get annoyed though, like, "wake up, girl ! Watch where you'e going!"
Yeah, the old-timers were pretty rough and tumble, weren't they. Us too...as kids...but thank God, those horses put up with us. Riding bareback...backwards...no halter...just jump on and go! Ha! Sad part is...I'm still trying to ride like that! Well, not quite.
Thing is, I left it for 35 years and just got back to it, so lots of lost time to make up. I'm trying! :D But for the most part...it's been like "riding a bike" just back on and right where I left off...except with a lot more sensitivity and wisdom for the occasion. Never loved it so much now though.
Yes, the country here is awesome. Up north...Caynader! Kamloops BC. Finally got into the perfect trail riding area.
My mare is 25 and I've been bringing her back from complete obese pasture-puff-ness since I got her at age 23. She's doing extremely well. Its taken her about two years to really recover but that's because we were starting with absolutely nothing.
I'd say that, unless your mare has some sort of arthritis or anything that might hinder her ability to be athletic, you should be able to get her in shape with a little work.
The thing that's really seemed to work with my girl is being worked at all three gaits everyday or every other day. I'll get her breathing hard (which is hard nowadays! hahaha) then let her rest and work her until she's breathing hard again, then I let her rest, then I ride at all gaits for thirty minutes or so, then cool her out. Also, in the beginning she could barely trot more than a few steps without breathing hard so we did a bunch of walking and a little trotting. Then, we gradually worked our way up. So if your mare can't barely handle walking, don't push her to canter becuase that'll do more harm than good, imo. Generally, I do a lot of free-lunging with her since I'm not a huge fan of the lunge line and how much torque and stuff that puts on her joints (especially at her age). She's also one of those horses that neeeeeds the extra exercise before I ride because, even though she's fine if I just hop up there, she has a harder time focusing when she hasn't gotten her sillies out. So I probably free lunge her for longer than you would need to with your mare, but free lunging is great. It's helped Lacey figure out how to balance herself and how to not trip over everything by just getting her to move around without having to think about a rider.
Good luck! Hopefully I gave you something to work with. Yay for fit older mares! :D
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