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  1. #1

    Default Giving a middle aged horse a significant period of time off???

    My gelding is 16. He is perfectly healthy (knock on wood), and is currently in work 2-3 days per week with turnout 6-8 hours a day weather permitting. I have had a change in circumstances, and I will have to take a long hiatus from riding -- like a year.

    Currently, my guy is at a full-service boarding facility, and is ridden a day or two a week by the trainer when I am not able to get out myself to ride.

    I have a friend who has a small back-yard barn, and I am thinking of moving him there to save some money and to get him more time outside. I can't see paying training board prices for a horse that I am not going to ride for an extended period of time. He would have great care, and more turnout (like 24/7 absent horrendous weather).

    I am worried that at his age a year off will be detrimental to him from a health standpoint. But, I don't know what other option I have right now. Leasing is definitely not an option. My thought is that once I am again able to ride, I will send him away for 30 or 60 days of refreshing and then start to ride again. My other option would be to sell him -- which I can't bear to even think about.

    What do you all think?



  2. #2
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    I think that it will be fine. Honestly. When I went to college, my teenage ex- broodmare OTTB got most of a year off, four times over. Then she got a full year off while I did Americorps. It in no way kept her from being a useful riding horse afterward. In fact, she didn't even start eventing until then.



  3. #3
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    As long as he has lots of turnout, he should be fine. Limited turnout would be very bad. He needs to move.

    However, know that when you do go back to work with him, you won't have the same horse and it may take longer than you expect to get him strong again. It takes older horses longer to rebuild their muscles than a younger horse with time off. If you were actively showing or riding a lot, and wanted to go immediately back to where you left off, you may want to leave him in work. If you don't care taking a few (maybe 6) months to recondition him, I'm sure he'll appreciate the time off.



  4. #4
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    Yup, health-wise the extended turnout time will keep him moving enough most likely. He'll lose some muscle tone, just bring him back slowly at first when you do ride again.

    Make sure to keep up with farrier and vet services.

    This will probably be a nice boost for his mental health too.

    Hope all is well with you.
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!
    ...Belefonte



  5. #5
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    It depends on the horse and the new situation.

    I got a 20 year old that had won over 100,000 team penning and the owner wanted to retire him from competition to a life of leisure, 24/7 turnout and light riding, no more every day training and long weekends competing.
    He was to be a companion to my old horse.

    Guess what, he was fine for the first three months and then started to get antsy and wanting to do more.
    He was clearly becoming unhappy with being idle, so he is now helping a kid have fun, being ridden and playing with someone spending hours a day doing fun stuff with him.
    The facebook pictures with "his" kid are hilarious, drinking from a bottle and learning tricks and so happy he beams, the world back upright for him.
    Regular work and training is clearly his thing.

    Many horses do thrive being partial or total pasture ornaments for a while.
    Maybe yours will too.
    Why not try it, if that fits your life now best?



  6. #6
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    IME for a horse in its teens in good show shape if you give it a year off you will never get the horse back to the point of where it would have been had you not given it a year off. Use it or lose it as they say, and it will be much harder to get the muscle mass back and to regain the flexibility in the joints after a year of standing around in the pasture for a teenage horse than a younger one. Does your trainer have any other clients that want a 1 year lease? (Personally I would never lease out a horse unless it was with someone who was with a trainer I knew and trusted.)



  7. #7
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    Your horse will do just fine with 12 months down time. Once you are ready to start regular riding visit with someone to design a fitness program that addresses your riding goals and how to get your horse there.

    FTR, the now 16 year old eventing horse Courageous Comet was taken out of work for a year beginning in the fall of 2010 and he is competing at Rolex this week.



  8. #8
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    Mar. 31, 2004
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    My horse is 14 now and just coming back to work after 18 months off (I had a baby). He is noticeably weak/unbalanced at the canter but he always struggled with that. I'm also out of shape so can't help him a ton.

    Everything else though is FANTASTIC. His trot work is better than ever and he is sound as he's ever been. He seems to have "forgotten" his bad habit of curling his neck and evading the bridle. He is still gaining fitness so rides are short but he is enjoying working.

    I had apprehension about him being turned out for a year or more but 24/7 turnout (unless weather or bugs were bad) was great for him physically and mentally.

    Good luck!



  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Renae View Post
    IME for a horse in its teens in good show shape if you give it a year off you will never get the horse back to the point of where it would have been had you not given it a year off. Use it or lose it as they say, and it will be much harder to get the muscle mass back and to regain the flexibility in the joints after a year of standing around in the pasture for a teenage horse than a younger one. Does your trainer have any other clients that want a 1 year lease? (Personally I would never lease out a horse unless it was with someone who was with a trainer I knew and trusted.)
    Really? How much experience have you had? Are you aware that moving around a nice pasture on 24/7 turnout limbers the joints much more than a horse in "good show shape" who is standing in a stall for a significant portion of time each and every day? It's true that a laid up horse will lose some muscle mass, and will build it back up at different rates, but that's a conditioning issue, not a "if you let your horse at 80% dwindle down to 30%, it's physically impossible to get back to 80%". That just doesn't make sense. There are plenty of "aged athletics" of all species competing at the top of their games.....look at all the marathon runners out there who started running in their 70's. It's all about careful conditioning....the OP herself, after a year off riding, is not going to be able to just jump back into it either, so she and her horse can condition together.

    There are polo ponies and hunt horses at the top of their game who are turned out for half the year and then brought slowly back into shape for the season, of ALL ages, who do just fine. Nevermind the race horses (arguably the fittest equine athletes out there) who are laid up for months at a time and return to racing without an issue.

    Plenty of horses who are laid up for six months to a year who come back just fine. Someone already mentioned there's a horse at Rolex this year who had 2010 off.

    TONS of horses lead a life of leisure while their owners go to college.

    15 is really not that old for a well-cared for horse. OP, your horse will be FINE. My horse had basically two years off (while he was 12 and 13) with just the occasional walk around the property...I was busy in college and just didn't have the time. He's back in action now at 15 and we picked up right where we left off (better, actually, since he's a horse who enjoys work and was thrilled) with just a few months of conditioning, and are continuing to move up and advance.



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Renae View Post
    IME for a horse in its teens in good show shape if you give it a year off you will never get the horse back to the point of where it would have been had you not given it a year off. Use it or lose it as they say, and it will be much harder to get the muscle mass back and to regain the flexibility in the joints after a year of standing around in the pasture for a teenage horse than a younger one. Does your trainer have any other clients that want a 1 year lease? (Personally I would never lease out a horse unless it was with someone who was with a trainer I knew and trusted.)
    I wholeheartedly disagree on your statement for a horse who would be turned out to pasture. I even disagree for a horse that is not turned out on pasture. 'Use it or lose it' may apply to a horse in their mid to late twenties but teens is a bit young to be having those concerns.

    OP, turn your horse out and let him have a nice break for a while. Unless he is a difficult ride, I doubt that he would even need to go back to a trainer except maybe for a week or two to get the beans out and that would just be to address your comfort level. Horses do not forget all they know in a year off if they were well trained to begin with.



  11. #11
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    I also agree on the 24/7 turnout. Horses don't tend to stand in their pasture most of the time. They move around and keeping the joints in use is key with older horses. Besides most horses enjoy being out. Unless you have someone who will lease the horse under the watchful eye of your trainer, I think your plan to move to backyard boarding for a year is a sound one.
    Where Norwegian Fjords Rule
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  12. #12
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    Goforagallop and sketcher please use your reading comprehension skills. My first statement was if the horse is in show shape. If the horse is in average-weekend warrior shape you are not going to notice as much of a difference. I am speaking from my experiences of owners taking teenage horses out of training for the winter and putting them back in training in the spring and wanting to know why they aren't right back where they left off or their horse doesn't look as good as so and so's horse who is the same age. If you have had different experiences great, but that has been my experience.



  13. #13
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    No problem at all!

    My guy went out of work when he was 15, he's had 5 years off and he's just coming back into work now at age 20.

    He looks great, is happy as can be and hasn't forgotten a thing.



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Renae View Post
    Goforagallop and sketcher please use your reading comprehension skills. My first statement was if the horse is in show shape. If the horse is in average-weekend warrior shape you are not going to notice as much of a difference. I am speaking from my experiences of owners taking teenage horses out of training for the winter and putting them back in training in the spring and wanting to know why they aren't right back where they left off or their horse doesn't look as good as so and so's horse who is the same age. If you have had different experiences great, but that has been my experience.
    Of course they won't be "right back where they left off" immediately, but to say that they can't easily work back up to where they are just makes no sense. Like any athlete, if you take a break you need to work back up to it.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Renae View Post
    Goforagallop and sketcher please use your reading comprehension skills. My first statement was if the horse is in show shape. If the horse is in average-weekend warrior shape you are not going to notice as much of a difference. I am speaking from my experiences of owners taking teenage horses out of training for the winter and putting them back in training in the spring and wanting to know why they aren't right back where they left off or their horse doesn't look as good as so and so's horse who is the same age. If you have had different experiences great, but that has been my experience.
    I did use my reading comprehension skills, sweetheart, and I still stand right by my post. You mentioned "show shape" and then I brought up equine athletes who are often fit way above and beyond the average hunter/english pleasure show horse.....hunt horses, polo ponies, and racehorses. And in all of those industries, it is pretty standard to give those horses pretty significant chunks of time off, on a regular basis. And all return to competing.

    And obviously:
    Quote Originally Posted by Kate66 View Post
    Of course they won't be "right back where they left off" immediately, but to say that they can't easily work back up to where they are just makes no sense. Like any athlete, if you take a break you need to work back up to it.
    But you stated that they'd NEVER return to their previous condition. Which just doesn't make sense, from a medical/physical standpoint. There's no reason taking any period of time off condemns any individual of any species to a life of sub-standard fitness.



  16. #16
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    My Morgan is 16 and was being ridden several times a week, and I got pregnant. We moved to a backyard place with a good sized turnout with a nice run in for him.
    The vet remarked how great he looks. He's a lunatic, actually. He is just FULL of himself, bucking and playing and running and has really flourished. He's a trail horse now, and he's a little jiggly and will need about 3 months of conditioning before he's back up to 2 hour trail rides, but he's fine.

    I think if they are turnout out and have room to play they are fine.



  17. #17
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    I have done it several times with several horses, as a result of injury or life changes. Most recently all my horses got the year off when I was pregnant and moving halfway across the country. They were fine. The old guy was BETTER...a lingering mystery lameness resolved after a year of Dr. Green.

    You do have to take it slow and steady when you start riding again. My 7 year old I just got back on and did whatever. The oldster needed a careful reconditioning program. But it worked and in 3 months he was where we left off.



  18. #18
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    I bought a 24 (?) year old, lg pony for my son that had been sitting in a field for 3 years. The family's daughter had "out grown" him.

    When I had to retire my hunt horse, I started hunting this guy. We had had him about 6-8 months prior to the other horse's retirement and he started out hunting 1 time a week for 2 hours.

    4 years later said pony is a rocking hunt pony that hunts 2-3 times a week. The hunts last anywhere between 2 hours and 4 1/2 hours (Although we had a longer day than that once this past season. He earned a week off for that hard day.). W, T, C and G and jumping 3-3'6" fences. There have been days when I wished he was less fit than he is because I was tired, but he was still ready to rock n roll.

    I had always heard that it was easier to get a horse to return to fitness after an extended break if they had been fit prior to time off.

    IMO, you have to choose the lesser of the evils in this situation.
    a. continue training board
    b. lease him out
    c. let him sit on the back 40

    Wishing you the best.



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