With 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!
Tip #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.
Tip #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.
Tip #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!
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