He belongs to the best educated and strongest horses!
Even a 26-year-old horse does not have to be regarded as old.
Just because a horse is a little long in the tooth, doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready for retirement
Just like people, horses can be senior athletes:
On the picture you see the 19-years-old horse called Maestro, and I have many students with horses between 20 and 30 years old!
Highly educated seniors: the Professors
Highly educated older horses are called “Professors“. These very experienced horses have a lot of education to pass on to the rider: all exercises from circle to piaffe, the corresponding aids, you can learn artificial balance, you can develop an independant seat and many more.
Here you see me with the 16 year old horse called Mantra. Mantra is very good in teaching young children to ride correctly and to feel the end result of dressage: artificial balance.
And Mantra is not just a very good horse….. he is magnificent, he is a master of the school, he is wise and he is completely confident and safe.
It´s the best what a young rider can get: a school master to learn. How some of us wish we had had that kind of opportunity at the age of 8,9,10,11….. and even now at age 30-40-50!
Nowadays we also see combinations of unexperienced ‘green’ horses with novice and ‘green’ riders. Therefore the education of rider and horse often lasts much longer as before. It can also be accompanied with problems, because a younger horse might get confused and upset at a new rider’s mistakes.
Reasons why we see novice riders and young horses are:
- ancient times and the traditions of the past are unreachable for most riders
- people wants to buy a young horse so their child can grow up with him
- people think the older horse is used-up
But an older horse is always the better match for a novice rider, because he is wise, confident and patient. And he has an excellent understanding of the movements required and is sympathetic to the learning rider’s mistakes. He is even willing to offer correct responses for relatively correct aids.
So seniors are not used-up, they have a lot to offer! And with straightness training, the rider and his senior can continue to have many successful rides together.
As I said before, I have many students with horses between 20 and 30 years old and many of those seniors are still being ridden!
If you keep your educated horse in shape and exercise him regularly, you’ll have many more productive years together than if you let him get overweight and lose muscle mass.
On the picture above you see Maestro, the 24-year-old stallion of Claudia Wolters. He is a very good school horse for riders who want to learn all exercises in walk, trot and canter.
Uneducated equine seniors
In the Netherlands we have a saying “Rest Rust”. A non-used bit gets rusty, so does a horse… As with people, exercise can increase the health and well-being of an aged horse.
If you would like to have your senior back on track, have your horse checked by a veterinarian first to determine his limits. If your vet gives the OK, keep your horse’s mind and body going with straightness training.
Straightness training will be perfect for the equine senior and the exercises can be very beneficial. The horse will feel better and loosening up after a couple of sessions. It stretches his muscles and strengthens his body.
And remember: 25 is the new 15, when it comes to seniors that do straightness training!
17 Tips to keep your equine senior fit and happy
With proper care, nutrition and straightness training, senior horses can thrive well into their 20s and beyond, live longer and have more productive lives. Use these tips to help keep your Golden Oldie fit and happy and young at heart:
- Before work, give your horse a daily check: Is he awake and alert? Is he eating/drinking/behaving like normal? Does he have any skin issues that need attention? If so: Keep him moving!
- Start with some simple work in hand, stretch his muscles and see what your horse can handle. Some seniors have good and bad days so adjust to it.
- Perhaps he has some arthritis and needs a longer period of time to warm up, to help his joints loosen up so he can move freely without pain during exercise. It’s much like how humans age: our joints might be sore in the morning as we start the day, but once we get moving, we will feel better.
- With exercises you can strengthen his body and limbs, but don’t ask for too much! Your senior horse with his heart of gold may give you all that you ask for and more, so be careful.
- For the “Professor” it’s important not to assume that your horse can handle a strict training program. Be careful with your Golden Oldie! Start with work in hand and see what your horse can handle while doing lateral work. Mount him and start your routine, but listen to your horse and be flexible in your approach.
- A reduced exercise schedule is the best way to keep the not so eduated senior equine athlete going! Start with circles in hand to stretch the body muscles, and a little bit shoulder-in and haunches-in in hand to improve the hind legs. If he’s doing well you can mount him if you like.
- It’s a good idea to add more walking breaks.
- Do less speed work and more interval work with your equine senior.
- Do not work your senior on hot and humid days.
- An older horse will dehydrate faster than a younger horse, therefore, it’s important, expecially on summer days, to check the gum color, and look at moisture levels in the mouth.
- Keep his nutrition balanced! The digestive system of a senior become less efficient, and his ability to absorb essential nutrients decreases. Choose good pasture grass supplemented with high-quality hay that is easy to chew and digest. It could be necessary to add complete feeds designed for the senior horse.
- Keep his teeth balanced! Seniors need dental exams at least once a year.
- Keep his hooves balanced! The senior still needs trimming every six to eight weeks.
- Keep his social life balanced! As a herd animal every horse will benefit mentally from living in the company of other horses. So don’t forget to meet you senior’s social and natural needs.
- It would be wonderful if your senior could live outdoors with his friends. Sometimes a waterproof but breathable horse rug will help keep your senior warm and dry against bad weather.
- Take one day at a time and try to have fun every day!
- And last but not least: Give him lots of love and extra pats and praise for everything that makes him so special!!
Good luck with your senior!
Do you have a senior horse partner?
Please tell me all about him/her and leave a comment!
If you have another tip to keep our equine seniors fit and happy let me know!