View Full Version : Most effective workout for an older horse? (PICS added)

The Hobbit
Jun. 10, 2011, 12:27 PM
So I just, against my better judgement I'm sure, acquired a new horse. He's a 9 year old Dutch gelding by Freestyle. I went to try him and fell in love despite the fact he's had no formal dressage training (he's mostly done those 4-5 hour epic wilderness trail deals), we were riding in a "field" full of rocks and shrubbery next to a highway, and he hadn't been ridden in at least two weeks. Even still, he was the most balanced, up hill, softest thing I've sat on in awhile. :eek: (Don't get me wrong, my little quarter horse reiner is the steadiest, softest thing ever but he doesn't have the movement or the natural uphill feel of this guy). Plus he was a total love. So anyhow, I have him home where I have an arena and my first ride there was 100X better than my trial ride (I changed his bit from the full cheek waterford type deal she had to a regular eggbutt snaffle (the only other bit I had large enough for the moment). We worked mostly on the trot and a steady contact which he seemed to "get" pretty quickly.

My initial feeling is that he needs to work a bit longer/lower to come forward and stretch to the bit to develop his back a bit more before I ask for a shorter frame but I thought I'd solicit some opinions from those who have maybe been there before. He really needs some conditioning (he wasn't on any grain before as he wasn't working so I am slowly adding that in; I'm hoping the extra protein may help too) so I was thinking maybe some long trotting but I don't want to get him flat and running either (he has so much more suspension than anything I've had and I'm afraid to kill that).

So, anyhow, thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated. :)

Jun. 10, 2011, 02:09 PM
Sounds lovely!

9 isn't what I would call an "older" horse. I thought this thread was going to be about a 19 year old whose condition is declining!

Sounds like you're on the right track. I wouldn't be trying to shorten his frame anytime in the near future - just work on getting him soft in the back on contact, then work on asking for greater impulsion and energy. He'll let you know when you should start asking for collection by his response to spiraling in on circles and in other work.

Jun. 10, 2011, 02:26 PM
Sounds just wonderful-congrat's!!!!

Just a word of caution not to push - remember that he's probably never used these muscles much in the way you are asking, if ever, and he may get sore, so be very alert to any changes in attitude, stride, etc...You don't want to break your new toy or sour his willing attitude. I'd do lots of short trailrides-no Bataan Death Marches like he used to do-in between ringwork... keeping his mind happy as well as his body.

I wouldn't even think of collecting/shortening frame for a very long time. I'd concentrate on conditioning him and getting your cues in-tune. You can do trotwork in sets to condition...maybe try some groundrails, but just pay attention to how he feels-as you said, this is all new to him;)

Take your time and err on the conservative side and enjoy what you'll discover!

Excited for you! PICS PLEASE!

Jun. 10, 2011, 02:42 PM
If he is relatively fit, WTC work obviously is the place to start. You mention shortening the frame, etc, but he must first be seeking that contact in all 3 gaits. Don't push too soon... he really isn't "older". He's even younger than what I would consider optimal age for shortening the frame/asking for collection of any kind, so you aren't behind in anything. Sounds like you have the makings of a great partner.

As far as exercises, focusing on straightness and evenness in the reins would be a great start -- basic school figures on 2 tracks, then introducing some lateral work and more "collected" work... simple things like TOH, TOF...

Jun. 10, 2011, 07:00 PM
As all the others already noted, don't even think about shortening his frame yet - there's no way he's got the appropriate muscles to do so, especially if he's never been worked in such a way. Develop that hind - 'pushing power' - over poles, hills, with lateral work, etc, in a long, loose, forward frame. Then develop the 'carrying power' (abs, neck, topline) via progressive patterns that ask for increased engagement. He can't possibly carry himself without the proper muscling with which to even push forward. Developing the appropriate muscling to ask him to then start to carry himself progressively more, will take months. You won't get him flat/running if you use hills and poles and lateral work (etc), which require enough engagement to prevent such, but don't ask more of him than he can give, physically. Such exercises will work to develop the power and strength necessary (later) in his hind. For now, keep your circles large - 20m, and your circular patterns large and loopy. Smaller circles and circular patterns (when ridden correctly, inside leg to outside rein) require increased engagement and he is not nearly ready for that yet.

Keep in mind a shortened frame, increased engagement, collection - it all has to be developed slowly and progressively via setting up parameters for the horse and encouraging the horse. The rider is merely guiding. Always keep in mind your DRESSAGE TRAINING SCALE :)

Give and Take
Jun. 10, 2011, 09:11 PM
Not sure if you're using a plain snaffle eggbut or a french link, but i've found i get better reach/ push for the contact from a french link type bit.

you can even wrap it in sealtex for a while to encourage a little chewing.

sounds like a ton of fun!

Jun. 12, 2011, 12:39 PM
Hey! Where's the love for the FINDER of this beast? ;)

The Hobbit
Jun. 12, 2011, 09:00 PM
Thank you everyone for the great advice! I really appreciate it. We are having a blast so far ( that being said after a grand total of 5 rides. Lol). :winkgrin: he has quite a ways to go but the improvement so far is promising.

Here is a link to my album of him (sorry the pictures are fuzzy and my position isn't always as great as I'd like it to be, we're working on it). The first photos are from the test ride I had on him last Monday. The rest of the pictures are in chronological order. Right now I have him in just an eggbutt snaffle but thanks for the suggestion about the French link; I think I'll try it!


And FlightCheck, THANK YOU. LOL:D I of course owe you for all this....for better or worse. :winkgrin:

Jun. 12, 2011, 10:04 PM
He is lovely! You look made for each other! He looks very happy, too :yes:

I love how nicely forward you are riding him, and with that nice uphill build and (I really like his) hindquarters and how he uses himself, you're in for some very good stuff!!

I think your position is very nice-balanced, and w/soft hands.

Major congrat's, and keep us posted on your progress--pics, of course!

PS- Love the chest tatt :eek::yes::D

Jun. 12, 2011, 11:06 PM
With your comments about extra food I thought I would be looking at a skinny, out of balance, greenie. Not so!!! He is working correctly and you are riding him really well. Congrats, he is lovely. :)

Jun. 12, 2011, 11:33 PM
He is LOVELY. You both look fab together. Does the prev owner happen to have another one available? lol

BTW Isnt Clovis close to Portales (I think thats the spelling)? My brother is stationed in Portales (sp) for the air force and I think I remember hearing about them going to Clovis for shopping or restaurants or something... lol

The Hobbit
Jun. 12, 2011, 11:53 PM
Thank you all so much! This is the first horse I've ever bought on my own and I was a bit apprehensive. I'm glad others think he has potential too. :D

Lovey, thanks about the tats! They're actually not mine as that's my barn friend, Victoria sitting on them but she'll enjoy the compliment. :)

KrazyTBMare, those pictures are actually in Portales! I live in Clovis and board in Portales because the people that own and run the barn are amazing (even if the area is not with regards to dressage,lol). I too am out here due to the Air Force; my boyfriend is stationed at Cannon.

Jun. 13, 2011, 01:00 AM
Wow! What a beautiful start to a wonderful team! Looks like a match made in heaven. I'm very happy for you and enjoy your new mount.

I suggest poles on the ground for those ('ha ha') older horses that can become stiff; especially in the hocks.

Good luck and have fun!!!

Jun. 13, 2011, 02:24 AM
Love what I saw in the photos too (eta: ie, appears he is not being held in a frame, he is IFV, and it appears he is being encouraged to stretch out and to work long, low, and loose) - he looks like he naturally moves very well and like he is being ridden correctly and forward. Good job! Keep it up and continue progressing and building off what he is offering :)

Jun. 13, 2011, 02:25 AM

Just a fantastic find! Good for you!

Old Fashioned
Jun. 13, 2011, 08:08 AM
9 years is waaaaaaaaaaay too old! Send him over here to Virginia and I'll "retire" him! ;)

Seriously he is a doll.

Jun. 13, 2011, 08:20 AM
You're right, wait with the shorter frame.

First you need to get him nice and loose and over the back by riding in a longer and lower frame. Also do a lot of circles and movements that include bending- circles, shoulder in, serpentine. Do that until you feel he is loose and works over the back, then you can begin to work on getting a shorter and more uphill frame. This may take a while though, It may get boring just doing simple stuff, but it is the best for your horse. Also at first do short sessions of riding, he will most likely get sore, and when you notice that you should go easy on him until he feels better again, then you can step it up some more.

Jun. 13, 2011, 01:43 PM
Really nice looking horse.

In looking at the pictures, do you ever get off his back? It looks like you are sitting the entire time or maybe it is just the pictures.

Consider using rising trot to let his back free up and swing until he has the muscles to support all that you desire to do.

NICE looking horse!

Jun. 13, 2011, 02:32 PM
Really nice looking horse.

In looking at the pictures, do you ever get off his back? It looks like you are sitting the entire time or maybe it is just the pictures.
NICE looking horse!

Why should she get off the back of such lovely horse?!?! ;)

Seriously, the 'up' phase of rising trot don't make good pictures.

The Hobbit
Jun. 13, 2011, 04:32 PM
Thanks again everyone! I'm really excited...excited enough that I am sitting here at work staring at the clock because I'd MUCH rather be at the barn. lol:o Guess that's nothing incredibly new though.

mjhco, to answer your question I don't sit the trot on him yet, he's definitely not there yet. :) I just look incredibly retarded in the "up" position. lol

Jun. 13, 2011, 04:43 PM
Too funny. Next time I visit ill give you a call to come see this lovely boy in person. My brother is stationed at cannon too. He flies the predators.

The Hobbit
Jun. 13, 2011, 04:55 PM
KrazyTBMare, you should! If we're still in this *lovely* town I'd LOVE some riding company. lol

Jun. 13, 2011, 07:41 PM
hah no problem!