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Rebuilding muscle in an aged (25 y.o) horse

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  • Rebuilding muscle in an aged (25 y.o) horse

    Hi all
    My boy lost a significant amount of weight (over 100#) due to various reasons, but is happily putting it back on. However, when he lost the weight, he lost some of his muscle in his hind quarters.

    I was wondering if folks have had any success with older horses regaining muscle after they have lost it for whatever reason. I know the adage "trotting builds muscle, cantering builds wind" so have been slowly working him on trot sets in hand and on the lunge (will start him back u/s in the spring). I also will confer with my vet later this month but wanted to see if others could share their lessons learned, thank you!!!
    Appy Trails,
    Kathy, Cadet & CCS Silinde
    member VADANoVA www.vadanova.org

  • #2
    Light work, what are you feeding to increase his weight? He might never look beefy after this, but with the correct diet and exercise you should see some muscle development.


    • Original Poster

      whbar, thanks. He is on feeding as per coordinated with vet, Triple Crown Senior, chopped alfalfa forage and 24x7 access to grass (run in shelter) plus heated auto waterer. His calorie intake is fine (he is gaining his weight back thankfully), he is on the best supplement package (platinum performance, cocasoya, etc), his blood work is now super (was not when he was losing & in bad situation), he is on good turnout so activity is good, plus he is lightly worked 3-4 days a week for about 15-20 minutes. I am indeed building him back slowly,
      Appy Trails,
      Kathy, Cadet & CCS Silinde
      member VADANoVA www.vadanova.org


      • #4
        I'm bringing back my 17 yr old guy into light work. He's been retired for 5 years and lost a lot of weight in the summer due to various reasons. He's been moved to a new barn and has re-gained all his weight, but is still sorely lacking in muscle. Because of this, his saddle doesn't fit properly so we're starting off super slow, plus he has some soundness issues so all he's going to be doing is walking/trotting.

        I spent a month handwalking him along the property 3-4 times a week in just halter. Now I'm handwalking him in the arena but he's wearing bridle, surcingle, and very long side reins. The side reins are primarily for extra control but I've found he's willingly and happily flexing into them as we walk around. They're long, so he's in a fairly long and low frame, but is lifting up through his back and - I hope - starting to build muscle. Maybe some side reins would help? Just make sure they're comfortable enough for him so he's not being forced into too much too soon. Though it sounds like you're approaching this very conscientiously!

        Just for curiosity's sake, how long are you handwalking at a time and how long before you're going to start him under saddle again? I'm handwalking 10-15 minutes 3-4x/week and doing a slow build up to 30 minutes at a time before I put him under saddle. We're aiming for under saddle walking around February. Longing is out for my guy as it puts too much stress on his bad leg...and he acts like a loon for the first few minutes and always worries me he's going to hurt himself.

        Also, I was thinking about putting him on a lysine supplement to help but haven't decided if it'll be worth it or not.


        • Original Poster

          OTV, I lunge or long line him for 15-20 minutes, pretty much walk trot (more trot each week), with a few canter circles each time. Have also been walking and trotting over 2 sets of 2 raised cavelleti (lowest setting) to encourage flexing for those steps. Then hand walking him 5-10 minutes. He lost the muscle mostly in his HQs, which are still pretty substantial since he is 1/2 QH, but not where they were. Thankfully he is nice and sound. He only has to go on the bit when he is long lined, mostly it has been on a 20+m circle on a long lunge-line. He will go under saddle 1st nice day of March. I decided to hold off to give him some time, plus the weather is *supposed* to be yucky, plus this is my busy time at work, so it works out.

          I think the Lysine in his Platinum Performance is plenty so we are set there, but a good thought.
          Appy Trails,
          Kathy, Cadet & CCS Silinde
          member VADANoVA www.vadanova.org


          • #6
            I've been bringing my 27-yr old back to work after a 3+ month break, first due to a bad case of scratches causing lameness in front foot, then colic surgery. Obviously after surgery he'd lost quite a bit of weight, but has regained it with good hay and a bit of Senior feed. By the time he was cleared to go back to his pasture, I started ponying him on short walks, building up from 20 to 60 min over a 3-wk period (2-3 times a week). Then he got to trot a little bit while ponied, or lunged at walk/trot for 15 min until he was allowed to be ridden again (90 days post surgery). Since I've started riding him again, we go for long trail walks, 45-60 min, with some trot work, and occasionally a short canter, 2-3 times/week, weather and footing permitting, and if not, 15-20 min lunging, or arena work at the 3 gaits. I don't even think cantering is necessary at this point, I prefer the longer walks, especially uphill, to build up his muscles again. Re-conditioning a senior horse should take its time and I am not in a hurry. I am actually a bit more concerned about him gaining too much weight, as he is a very easy keeper - gotta love the Arabs!
            "Another member of the Barefoot Eventers Clique"


            • #7
              Trail rides at the walk on varying terrain if you have trail access. Lots of downward transitions working correctly. When I was trying to build my gelding back up, we set simple, short goals like "5 trot to walk transitions"...."5 walk to halt transitions" really working on a good square halt. And walking/trotting poles helped too...but my favorite would have to be long trail rides...and you can even work the transitions while trail riding And sounds like your feed is wonderful...I was going to suggest alfalfa.


              • #8
                Sounds like you are on the right track with everything, it just takes some time!


                • #9
                  I think when you start him under saddle again, I would get out of the arena and walk alot up and down and all around. As his stamina improves, I would start adding a little bit of trotting and see how it goes...


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks all, once he gets back under tack I will do those routes. I also do some trick training with him, which while mostly mental vs physical, keeps him happy and fresh.
                    Appy Trails,
                    Kathy, Cadet & CCS Silinde
                    member VADANoVA www.vadanova.org