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17 Tips To Keep Your Senior Horse Fit & Happy

how-to-keep-your-senior-goingWith proper care, nutrition and Straightness Training, senior horses can thrive well into their 20s and beyond, live longer and have more productive lives.

Use these tips to help keep your ‘Golden Oldie’ fit and happy and young at heart:

Tip #1: If you have a uneducated senior horse that hasn’t done much work, but if you would like to have your senior back on track, have your horse checked by a veterinarian or other specialist first to determine his limits. If your vet gives the OK, keep your horse’s mind and body going with Straightness Training, but always work your senior within the limits of his age, conditioning and conformation.

Tip #2: For the highly educated “Professor” it’s important not to assume that your horse can handle a strict training program. Be careful with your Golden Oldie!

Tip #3: Before work, give your horse a daily check: Is he awake and alert? Is he eating/drinking/behaving like normal? Does he have any skin issues that need attention? If so: Keep him moving!

LongeingTip #4: Start with some simple groundwork, work in hand or longeing, stretch his muscles and see what your horse can handle. Some seniors have good and bad days so adjust to it. Perhaps he has some arthritis and needs a longer period of time to warm up, to help his joints loosen up so he can move freely without pain during exercise. It’s much like how humans age: our joints might be sore in the morning as we start the day, but once we get moving, we will feel better.

Tip #5: With exercises you can strengthen his body and limbs, but don’t ask for too much! Your senior horse with his heart of gold may give you all that you ask for and more, so be careful. Start with work in hand and see what your horse can handle while doing lateral work. Mount him and start your routine, but listen to your horse and be flexible in your approach.

Tip #6: A reduced exercise schedule is the best way to keep the not so eduated senior equine athlete going! Start with circles in hand to stretch the body muscles, and a little bit shoulder-in and haunches-in in hand to improve the hind legs. If he’s doing well you can mount him if you like.

Tip #7: It’s a good idea to add more walking breaks. Use also a long walking break at the end to cool the horse down to make sure the heart rate has recovered, the body temperature has returned to normal, and the whole body has returned to a relaxed state.

Tip #8: Do less speed work and more interval work with your equine senior.

IMG_2484Tip #9: Do not work your senior on hot and humid days, as older horses are less efficient at regulating their body temperature. 

Tip #10: An older horse will dehydrate faster than a younger horse, therefore, it’s important, expecially on summer days, to check the gum color, and look at moisture levels in the mouth.

Tip #11: Keep his nutrition balanced! The digestive system of a senior become less efficient, and his ability to absorb essential nutrients decreases. Choose good pasture grass supplemented with high-quality hay that is easy to chew and digest. It could be necessary to add complete feeds designed for the senior horse.

Tip #12: Keep his teeth balanced! Seniors need dental exams at least once a year.

Tip #13: Keep his hooves balanced! The senior still needs trimming every six to eight weeks.

Senior horseTip #14: Keep his social life balanced! As a herd animal every horse will benefit mentally from living in the company of other horses. So don’t forget to meet you senior’s social and natural needs.

Tip #15: It would be wonderful if your senior could live outdoors with his friends. Sometimes a waterproof but breathable horse rug will help keep your senior warm and dry against bad weather.

Tip #16:  Take one day at a time, but make sure to provide regular, consistent work rather than random or weekend sessions, as inconsistent exercise can lead to discomfort and injury.Older horse takes longer to return from time off, consider keeping your horse as active as possible year-round. So don’t stop training your horse for a month (or more) because rebuilding the muscle, flexibility, and stamina takes more and more time as the years go by.

Tip #17: And last but not least: Give him lots of love and extra pats and praise for everything that makes him so special!!

Tip #18: Become a Straightness Trainer!

If you’d like to get started with Straightness Training to keep your senior going, then join my free training.

Join My Free Training

Jump on over to my free training were you get a three-step process for implementing Straightness Training in your training sessions right now.

Watch two videos and download your free eBook which will help you put the information into action right away:

13 thoughts on “17 Tips To Keep Your Senior Horse Fit & Happy

Comment author said

By paola vallotto on 22 February 2013 at 14:21

I have my 27 years old bwp named Junior, I completely agree with you! the only thing is that he like shorter lessons then before. He is so elastic, and in his mind he is 10 years old. Very interesting your wbsite and the fb page too


Comment author said

By melanie on 21 May 2013 at 20:43

I have taken lessons but I work alone now. The last lessons that I took left me feeling like I was pushed down in the school yard and the bully stole my lunch money. I couldn’t master the rein techneque she was trying to teach me and at the end of the sessions my horse did not know how to stop or go no matter what I did with my hands of body. He was numb to the aids and confused. ( this was in the spring before the show) I started working with the Jane savoie book and started being able to ride him again. start over and relearn what we had before. I was very upset and thought after a life of riding and trying this is all I have. I felt like quitting.
My dream was to train and ride my fjords ( and thoroughbreds) compeat and enjoy horsemanship. My fjord quarterhorse cross gelding I have been working with for a few years and have found him to be very dificult to teach to canter properly. I showed him last summer and was getting 6, 7, and a few 8s and on the canter 4 and 5 he will not stay off his forhand he will pull and race and he as soon as i ask for canter seems to hollow his back put his head up and want to run threw my hands. So we do transitions till he is soft then it seems to be fine till he gets at all distracted then he does it all again. I have put this note in after I have read the older horse cause I would love to teach him how to do a nice canter. I would of done really well at the show if I would of had the canter I was giving the posh galls and warmbloods a run for their ribbon till the wheels fell off in the canter. ( know the win is not the be all and end all but it makes a person feel good and success is nice.)I know this is a long winded note but can you give me a pointer or two Pleas.


Comment author said

By Valerie on 29 July 2013 at 05:37

My mare Toi is 17 years old this year. I have had her since she was 5, shown her in hunter pleasure and training level dressage when she was younger. Lately I have taken up just riding her in local parades because I haven’t been riding much due my increasing weight, and she has had a couple of foals. I noticed this summer when doing some light lunging that she is very off-balance and almost lame. On riding she was very ‘off’ (my added weight exaggerates the issue) and after walking her for 20 minutes or so in circles she seemed to loosen up. Because of her being ‘off’ I only taken her in a couple of parades this summer, which is 98% walking with a bit of jogging. I recently rode her in the hay field for an hour or so at a walk, and after a good bit, she trotted and even had a little canter. Still not smooth, definitely with some hesitation in her gaits. After careful inspection, she must have pulled her left hamstring at some point and it hasn’t healed properly. She walks with almost a ‘stringhalt’ step in that leg. When the farrier trims her hoof she has a hard time flexing it up (you know how the farrier likes to hike the leg up over their hip?) and becomes tense and resistant. This is not my mare’s nature, she is very honest, willing and calm. When her leg is manipulated she has trouble extending it forward, offers much resistance and becomes uncomfortable. She has developed a ‘hunter’s bump’ and several nodules on her lumbar spine. Her nuchial ligament has fallen just before her withers and her spine alignment has fallen behind her withers. She has no muscling on her topline to speak of, not surprising considering her age and her condition. She is healthy otherwise (I had her fully vetted last December), she lives outdoors 24-7 in a large grass field with many other horses (very natural setting). I have seen her cantering in the field and she always chooses the right lead. I am hoping that straighness training will help her with her strength and muscling, to help her be more comfortable. She is not in any pain, only discomfort is when I ride her and I don’t ride her much, and never at more than just a walk. I will have the vet out to assess the muscle and movement issues shortly. I would welcome any other suggestions you may have for her. I have so far found the information on the website to be easy to follow and hope that it will help her. Thank you!


Comment author said

By Margarette on 16 August 2015 at 13:50

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Comment author said

By Jeannine on 16 August 2015 at 17:55

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Comment author said

By rj palano on 25 August 2015 at 17:06

An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend
who had been conducting a little homework on this.

And he in fact bought me dinner simply because I found
it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this….
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Comment author said

By Daniela on 16 September 2015 at 13:45

My Senior Quarter Horse will be 25 next February and used to be a competition Reining horse on amateur level in Germany.
I am deeply convinced that he would be shocked, if somebody told him, he is a Senior, as you can neither judge from his outward appearance nor from his will to perform work.
He is not taking part in competitions anymore, but he still likes to show off and do work just as he used to, when still active.

He receives excellent care from a wonderful Pro-team of farrier, vet, dentist, osteopathic specialist and is in a perfect state of health. Being on the pasture for at least half a day in pasture season and living in a large paddock box off-season, he has 3 to 4 “work days” a week and a play day.

Your advise is excellent, wish all the Senior horse owners many many more years!


Comment author said

By Tweet Gainsboroough-Waring on 16 September 2015 at 19:03


I have the pleasure of working a 20 yr old TB mare (owned by a child who can only get to ride once a week) Since I have started with ST this little mare has become calmer and not so rushed in her paces, Her musculature has improved and overall she has become more responsive and less one sided which is great,

When she started out with me her paces were very “confined” Now she is moving from behind and working through her shoulder producing a longer and less clipped stride , added to which she is clearly happier and more relaxed.


Comment author said

By Karin on 18 September 2015 at 08:42

I have experience from two seniors, one that I lost a few years ago at 26, and one remaining of 23. I would like to stress the point 5, listen to your horse, and yourself. If you are your horse’s friend, he will tell you when he has had enough, but because he is also your friend it may be very subtle and easy to miss. Trust your gut feeling! Do not keep him hanging on beyond his comfort because you fear your own grief, let him go when he lets you know it is time. Easier said than done…


Comment author said

By Irene E on 17 November 2015 at 13:43

I have had two horses that reaches 27 years. I would like to emphesise listen to your horse and keep them going allyear around. I could feel how much ability my North-swedish (NSv) horse lost after a 10 day rest.
I also wish to introduce the principle that bodybuilders have, not to work the same muscles two days in a row. For working with horses, this in a lot of cases (especially older horses)carries over to just working them every other day, maximum. This way i could keep building my NSv untill the cancer set in that forced me to let her leave. My other oldie is belived to have been a TB and probably had a competition history that left her rather worn down. I buildt her up during several years untill her joint halted the work. She still also reached 27 years with this every other day principle, giving time to recover.


Comment author said

By Reagan Holman on 15 January 2016 at 22:20

i have a 34 year old senior named sonny. despite his age he is always active, the leader of his “herd” and thinks he is 20 years younger. We recently started straightness training and now he is more balanced and round. He is a quarter horse/paint and enjoys rolling, bossing other horses around and eating haha


Comment author said

By Richie on 22 January 2016 at 23:57

I’m in skool during the week I want to go hunting but I can only ride my pony weekends I have 27 days until I need my horse for what should I do


Comment author said

By Anita Thieme on 3 April 2016 at 14:16

My Senior likes to learn trick and play, like picking up something an she like to “face book” that is walking free with me throug the stable and have a chat with horses that she do not know (she goes out with an other mare in the paddock or field)


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