Bringing an old horse back into work

Grumpy Herbert

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My old mare has had quite a lengthy time off, not due to injury or anything, but because I lost my riding "mojo" after an operation and because we lived somewhere where hacking out was impossible - I am a confirmed happy hacker. After a move to the other end of the country, we both have a new lease of life and I've decided to bring her back into light work ie gentle hacks out. She's been checked over by the vet who has given us the green light, so now I need to figure out what's the best way to get her fitness levels and muscle tone back up. My thoughts are: lungeing every couple of days without tack for a couple of weeks, then lungeing with tack for a week or two, then putting a lightweight rider on board to see how she copes. I've already lunged her a couple of times and she seemed to really enjoy that.

Any suggestions or recommendations on fittening regimes for OAPs would be much appreciated.
 

Red-1

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It depends a lot on your horse. A sharp horse may need lungeing for the rider's safety, but with an older horse I would be cautious of all that lungeing as the constant circling is heavy on their joints.

I guess you have to lunge as much as you need to, to feel safe, but for me with an older horse once I felt safe I would hop on and have a wander around the school, that's enough for the first day. Then build it up from there, increasing the time on board. I would also perhaps go for in hand walks to explore the area if you are up for that.

In hand walking on hills will build muscle but without the wear and tear on old joints of lungeing.

I had a horse that had been off for 3 years, and we had one lunge, the next day a bit of a lunge and a wander round the school, built it up with in hand walks, small hacks, and just built it up slowly.

It will stand you in good stead that you horse was not injured, and has been turned out. Just enjoy the time. Your horse is the best guide as to what to do next, so listen and be easy.
 
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Roasted Chestnuts

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I wouldn't lunge an old horse, not good for their joint. Just get on and do gentle hacks and schooling sessions building up the trot work and time then adding canter.

She won't break and is more likely to have a hooly and hurt something on the lunge.

I've an oldie I'm fittening and other than about four schooling sessions he's getting fittened by hacking, just take it slow :)
 

Meowy Catkin

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I agree with BB - I wouldn't lunge. I would walk in-hand and then after a few walks like that, do a short route ridden. I would also stick to walk only for a few weeks and then introduce trot slowly, then introduce canter slowly. Think an old school fittening programme with straight line work.
 

Grumpy Herbert

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Thanks for your replies folks! She's been great on the lunge, not silly at all, but I think you're right - she won't break and maybe it's best just to hop back on board and get on with it. We have fantastic hacking now, with plenty of gentle hills to wander up, so that'll be a big help. I've had her since she was 3, so I know her fairly well (!), she's a tough old boot, so maybe I'm being a bit over-cautious. Will play it by ear and let her dictate the pace - certainly no canters for quite some time, if at all!!
 

deb_l222

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If you're happy, I would just start riding again. If she's been turned out then she will still have plenty of muscle, just not the ridden (top line muscle).

The reason I say this is after having my lad on box rest for oodles of months and then being allowed to ride again. Vet just said 'crack on' but take it steady at first and build up slowly, which we've done and he's been fine.

To be honest, he's been more shattered since he's been allowed back in the field!!
 

madmav

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Walking up and down those hills will be wonderful for both of you. You'll be cantering all around them before summer ends, I bet. Sounds lovely. Enjoy it.
 

Grumpy Herbert

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Woo-hoo! I did it! I got back on board my wonderful little horse and it was like she'd never had a day off. She pottered round the school good as gold, and then we took a wander round a little copse of trees at our yard. I had the biggest grin on my face, I can tell you. Thanks for your encouragement peeps, it certainly helped me make the decision to get back on board and get on with it!
 

ElleSkywalker

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Well it was 3 years ago now but was awesome, I remember being cheerfully skitterbounced down the road (Gingerfaces fave pace, its very special, exactly as it sounds) and being so happy as had forgotten how much fun the skitterbounce was & having the hugest smile :D

I stuck to walking for a few weeks, then walk & trot only for about 3 months before cantering. Worked really well and she is now fitter than ever, which I put down to the over caution at begining :D
 

joulsey

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Just out of curiousity, when fittening the OAPs, how often and for how long a week should you ride them to build up the fitness?
 

OWLIE185

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Absolutely no lunging!
Fit knee boots just in case your horse has a stumble. (Wear a crash hat and a back protector).
Jump on and go for a nice gentle plod keeping in a walk. Increase the distance gradually but keep in walk for the first few months so that your horse is gradually introduced back in to work and their is little chance of damaging the muscles ligaments and tendons.
 
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