Your horse may be getting up there in years, but that doesn’t mean he has to stop competing. While senior horses do require extra care, many can continue competing into their golden years with careful training and conditioning. Use the strategies below to help keep your aging horse competitive.
Adjust Your Training and Conditioning Approach
As your horse ages, his physical performance will naturally decline. You’ll need to adjust your training and conditioning to reflect these changes. There’s no one formula or recommendation that can help you do this; instead, you’ll need to consider your horse’s age, his past performance history and his current fitness level.
When preparing your horse for a competition or working to increase his fitness, always make gradual progress. The Horse recommends that you not increase your horse’s training distance by more than 5% per week. When training, keep a detailed record of your workout durations and intensities so you can maintain consistency. It’s also important to track your horse’s overall attitude and performance during each workout, as well as how well he recovers afterward.
Implement Proper Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs
Warm-ups and cool-downs are important for all horses, but they’re even more important for aging horses. A warm-up can help to loosen up your horse, leaving him less likely to be injured during the workout. An older horse that is beginning to experience arthritis and general stiffness will greatly benefit from a long warm-up, and will be better able to perform during training.
Conversely, a cool-down is important in helping to prevent stiffness, especially if a horse will go back into a stall after a workout. Long cool-down periods can aid in recovery, leaving your horse more comfortable the next day.
Foster a Happy, Engaged Attitude
If your horse has been schooling in the same discipline for years, it’s easy for him to become ring sour or unfocused when training and competing in his latter years. You may need to rethink your training schedule based on your horse’s attitude. Some horses may benefit most from a day or two of schooling per week with trail rides in between to help maintain fitness. Don’t be afraid to get creative when finding a routine that not only keeps your horse progressing, but also keeps him happy.
Keep Your Horse Moving
Movement is key not only in keeping your horse fit, but also in keeping him sound and comfortable. Start by maximizing your horse’s time in turnout if possible. Next, work to ensure that your horse spends plenty of time at the walk each day. Hand walking, lunging, long lining and even putting your horse on a hot walker or treadmill can all help to facilitate this movement.
Keep in mind that your older horse will be more sensitive to extreme weather and temperatures. While keeping him moving is beneficial, never do so if you might jeopardize his health because of the weather.
Support Your Horse’s Recovery
To help support your horse’s recovery after a workout or competition, add Un-Lock to his daily feed. This advanced muscle formula helps your horse to maintain his top speed longer and helps to reduce cramping. It also reduces muscle fatigue, speeds recovery, so your older horse will be better able to cope with the physical demands of training and competing.
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