Hi There,

I have three horses, two of which are of the older variety (18 and 22 years old). I have been busy starting a new career, so all my beasties have been pasture potatoes for the past few years, with a hack out in the field every now and again. Now that my job is more predictable, I am hoping to get them (and me!)back into shape. My App/Oldenburg mare is my former show horse (jumpers), and is a bit feisty to say the least. My Thoroughbred has always been a pleasure/trail horse due to an old stifle injury that makes lunging a no-go for her. I am planning on "re-starting" them both with some in hand work/pole work, and progressing to under saddle work. Any advice on how to gently restart older horses back into work? Don't want to do too much too soon, but want to be heading in the right direction towards them both being in better shape and me enjoying some hacking out on the trails.

Thanks for any advice!

PS. The two pictures are back when each was in work a few years ago. Pikaboo is the snowflake dun (18 yrs old) and Rainbow is the chestnut (21 yrs old)

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Good, you are re-starting at the beginning. 

As for riding it may be a good idea to start at the walk and do lots of walking.  If you have hills around you this will help put conditioning on your horses even just at a walk.  Also review everything at the walk, turns on the forehand, turns on the hindquarters, leg yielding, etc., just to remind the horse that she is a trained riding horse.  You know your horses best, just do not plan on a lot of trotting until you and your mares are content that they have regained some of their muscles.  Work on the three speeds of the walk to remind them that you control the speed of the gait.  An occassional trot is okay, just be patient and wait to really work at the trot until several weeks of mostly walking.  There will be a lot of rebuilding of muscles during these weeks of walking and this is a SLOW process, so be patient!

Be sure to keep an eye on saddle fit during this process.  What used to fit them may no longer fit them.  It may be a good idea to invest in a shimmable pad until their backs and shoulders get their muscles back and you can see which saddle may be best for them now that they are older.


My advice to give to you is start slow!!

Start with ground work, and work you're way up. It truly takes months to start horses right and slow when they've been sitting for years especailly at that age. As sad as this is to say many people rush horses into training when those horses are sent off to trainers for "1 month professional" training under saddle.

At the age your horses are at I would do 3-4 days a week for the first two-three weeks, then move up work to 4-6 days a week after that.

Week 1: 30min ground work with 5min troting.

Week 2: 30min ground work with 10min troting

Week 3: 30min ground work with 15-20min troting

Week 4: 20 min ground work, and back walking (do lots of hill work at the walk if possible)

Week 5: 20 min ground work with 5-8min troting

Week 6: 15min ground work with 10-15min troting and go from there.

At this stage, change things up and do bending ect, no matter the speed.


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