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Bringing back a horse and his rider...

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  • Bringing back a horse and his rider...

    So - for the last 6 years I haven't been riding regularly. Maybe for a few months here or there but then between school/americorps/3 assorted temporary jobs I slacked off and went back to square one. I didn't have the money to compete and I was lucky to be able to support my horse along the way even if he wasn't being shown or ridden regularly. Fast forward to this spring and I've found my first well-paying "real" job. The doors have reopened when it comes to riding (timewise!) and showing (financially!) and I'd like to bring my guy and I back to work safely and properly. He's getting older so I feel like I shouldn't waste any time.

    He's a 17 year old QH - big boy and quite sturdy. He's never had any major health issues and has been completely sound for most of the time I've had him - a few superficial pasture injuries and some shoulder soreness at 5 years old which have not resurfaced. He's starting to hold less weight but other than that no signs of aging.

    I'm 25 and feel pretty out of shape - but I think most of the riding skills will come back as I spend more time in the saddle. I'm working on losing a few pounds and my core strength definitely needs some work.

    I'm more worried about my horse - I think I'll come along , but he is getting older and I've never put an older horse back into work. I'll start easy - W-T-C is no problem right now and I'd feel comfortable doing some small fences in a few weeks, though it won't be much as I don't have access to any jumps for the time being. After I feel that we're both in reasonable shape and I'm able to get my hands on a trailer, I'll start taking some lessons again.

    My ultimate goal would be to do some LL eventing in the next year or so - but he's got a lifetime home with me so if that doesn't work out, no problem. Does anyone know of any books/links/etc or have any tips for two out of shape partners wanting to get back into the sport??

    This board can be crazy at times but I've found the eventers to be a pretty strong "family" and support system - thanks for any help you can throw my way!

  • #2
    I did the same exact thing not to long ago!

    I found that the most helpful thing for me was joining a gym. If you can work out with a personal trainer that's better bc they know how to push you without causing long term damage (or at least a good one should know how to do this!) Going to the gym was great b/c I was able to get my muscles working again without having to put added stress on my horse and was able to get fit quicker.

    For my horse I just started simple. Started with a lot of flatwork to get everything working and stronger, trotting around the field, then started doing simple gymnastics, etc. If i felt my horse start to tire I stopped and took him on a loooong walk (20/30 mins) to stretch the muscles out and prevent them from cramping up. Also sore-no-more was my friend and I'd put it on key areas (legs, saddle area- saddle did fit but I just felt like since he hadn't had a saddle on for a while it couldn't hurt)

    After he got some fitness going and I felt like his tendons/ligaments were strong enough I pushed him past his tiring point (only briefly- it's the push after the muscles' start to tire that they become stronger- but not past the point that you strain/pull something- and why the personal trainer's work well- push but not to far!) After I felt that he was fit enough to ride for an hour+ (this took a ~ 2 months? Honestly i forgot how long it took!) I started working with a trainer and that's where I am now- though on my 3rd horse b/c I was going through a bunch of "free" horses and various issues cropped up (long term soundness- of body and MIND! haha) But the one I've got now is great!

    As for books to read? This one sounds interesting. And any of the ones with gymnastic exercises would be good to start getting the jumping muscles back. And of course any flat work ones help, Basically anything that you pick up and like what it says should work in the book department

    Hope this helps and good luck getting back!!!
    Last edited by besum1; May. 2, 2011, 12:27 AM. Reason: b/c i suck at typing and had to fix the really bad typos!
    proud owner of a very pretty but completely useless horse (and one useful horse!)

    Horse Thoughts


    • Original Poster

      Thanks for the support and tips! The gym is a great idea and the town I'm moving to has a great rec center that is really affordable - lots of different classes and I'm going to give some of those a shot. I think something like pilates would really help with my flexibility and core strength. Too bad I can't find an equestrian buddy/trainer to whip me AND my horse back into shape!!

      As far as the big pony goes - at 17, do you guys feel that I need to treat him much differently than any other horse coming back into work? Like I said before he's had very few issues in the past - but I'll probably be switching him to senior feed and putting him on some preventative joint supplements before I get too far into this venture.

      Thanks again for the advice! I'll try to keep this updated as we make progress...


      • #4
        I'll toss a couple of thoughts from my experience both with an older horse and dealing with a full time job. For background, I am older rider, starting out in my 40s and only riding for 5 years. I have plans to run LL eventing.

        I rescued a horse who was 17 at the time. Neither of us figured we'd event, but after watching a XC show I was hooked. MY trainer and I worked on my horse, first to get her weight back, then her muscles. It took almost a year, but other then managing some minor ringbone arthritis she was doing quite well. I've read comments here about horses runing LL at mid twenties so it is not so much age as health. WHat I found with my mare was that she needed more time to warm up, but not over do it. Also more time to cool down and sore-no-more to ease the stress. She fell last year and it was the cue to retire, but she still does HP and dressage at 22 like she was a filly (when she wakes up on her good side that is).

        In the first 4 years of my learning I had the joy of working from home and being 15 minutes from the boarding barn. Last year I had to change jobs and now I work full time from an office. Oddly, I now own my own place so the horses are right there when I am ready to ride. That is the issue. The mental stress of working full time and commuting can takes its toll on any riding schedule and the basic desire to ride. I have to get through a full day, drive home and some days it is just not there to then ride. Force a schedule that gets you in the saddle or doing something with your horse so you begin to get into that routine. Don't take the office home and try to ride, that sucks for both of you, and understand that pace of learning will be slower. I've taken on a new project and accept we may not get to event for a year, till we both are ready to go out on course.

        I wish you the best, congratulations on gainful employment, and happy riding.


        • #5
          I just brought an 11 yr old quarter horse back into work after a 2 1/2 yr retirement. My trainer had me work him on the ground for 3 consecutive days to get him back into the "work mentality". (He's had bucking issues in the past which I can now state were directly related to saddle fit)! I started very slow, with just light lunging and gradually worked him back up. I've also heard that long hand walks are a great way to bring both horse and rider back into fitness!


          • #6
            I have had 3 kids, basically taking a year off with each, and getting myself back in shape at the same time as the horse works really well! I am also lucky to have a dependable sweet horse like you. My horse is 18 now and I am bringing him and me back into work yet again. Third time! Here's what I have learned.

            Go slow. Have short pleasant rides when just starting back.
            My horses gets fit faster than me. gym is good
            My brain remembers what to do even though the muscle is weak.
            Set a goal! Plan to do that event and figure out what you need to do to get yourself there.

            Have fun!
            where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?


            • #7
              Pilates should be awesome! I never got to take any classes (strange work schedule) but I know when I did Yoga my riding improved greatly!

              Each horse is different- and it also depends on how long he's been "resting" or what kind of life he had in his early years. A joint supplement and switching to senior feed definitely won't hurt him and it's always a good idea to be Pro-active instead of Re-active, after he's already lost weight and is stiff. The chronicle had a How to Feed your horse series on their website that might be helpful if you have any feed questions.

              just listen to your horse and if possible do some body work for him as the work load increases. A very easy method that I've had amazing success with is the Masterson Method- which is very easy to do at home. He has a DVD that teaches you some of the basic movements that just helps keep things "unlocked". He also teaches various classes (2 day intro classes-advanced level 5 day) around the world and if that interested you it could be something you could do on the side later

              Good luck to you and the Young Old Man!
              proud owner of a very pretty but completely useless horse (and one useful horse!)

              Horse Thoughts


              • Original Poster

                Well - the post above me is a spammer, must have just added some exclamation points to my last post!

                Thanks again for all of the support and advice!

                Besum- funny you mention the Masterson Method, I know Jim very well and though he's never worked on this guy, maybe I'll drag him down to get a little attention from Jim and a little training for myself.