Bringing the newly senior (17) horse back into work
I have inherited my daughter's 17 year old OTTB gelding. She never really got along with him and he is the horse of my dreams so I'm not unhappy about it. I am also a 50-someting out of shape re-rider.
I moved this horse of my dreams to a barn where I can work with him a couple of days ago. He hasn't worked at all since last July, 10 months. He is totally out of shape. I'm starting out with 15 - 20 minutes of lunging in side reins, start out pretty loose to moderate tension only.
What conditioning/strengthening programs have others used with slightly senior horses? Gunar does not have any soundness issues and was in great athletic shape about a year and a half ago, when my daughter stopped riding him. He was living out with a run in for the last year. Now he is in at night and out in a paddock with a friend during the day. He does play halter tag and rear "like a wild stallion" with his friend.
I was thinking about adding 10 - 15 minutes of walking under saddle a couple of times a week, but I'm really interested in hearing how others have brought the older horse back into work.
"The captive bolt is not a proper tool for slaughter of equids they regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck fully aware they are being vivisected." Dr Friedlander DVM & frmr Chief USDA Insp
We were in a related situation this winter, but slightly different. My 17YO Thoroughbred had 5 months off from riding while we waited for a saddle and worked on some physical issues, and we did a lot of hand walking to get him back into work- it was also good exercise for me Dirt, pavement, grass- I tried to make sure he walked on a variety of surfaces.
I longed him with two lines instead of one, which was more of an active workout than side rein work for a horse like him, since we incorporated some long line work into the mix.
When we got the saddle, we rode at a walk on the trails as frequently as possible. I slowly introduced hills and lateral work, as well as trotting.
Enjoy it- he sounds like a fun horse! And 17 is a spring chicken for some horses- my old man Alibar was happily showing at schooling dressage shows at the age of 28.
My coming 18 year old certainly has not felt remotely senior as I've brought him back after several months off with a soft tissue injury.
I have more experience with post-injury rehab than plain old time off, but we never start with lunging -- this can be hard on their joints!
We always start with walking (under saddle in this case, no need for hand walking). Walk, walk, walk.
Start with firm footing, not soft. Build up walking, add in terrain and some softer footing.
When you are walking 30 minutes a day, add trotting, in small increments. Keep on with terrain and varied footing, gradually.
When you can trot for 10 minutes in 2 or 3 minute "chunks," add cantering.
Add trot poles to gain strength.
I would think you'd be ready to go into real work in a month or 6 weeks or so if he was fit before.
If you must lunge, no side reins, 10 min max to start.
Treat him like a 3-4 yr old to start ie he only works 3 - 4 days a week & 30 - 40 min each session.
As you're both out of shape, I'd start with hand walking & then continue this as part of your/his routine.
(note I'm assuming that he is a "broke" horse who is safe to walk everywhere, off property is obviously rather more interesting).