Spring is in the air, and with that comes the challenges of getting our horses back into shape. For Senior Horse owners this can seem to be a daunting task. Are there precautions we should be taking when conditioning older horses?
The answer is yes, however with appropriate care and conditioning there is no reason why a senior horse can't be used for pleasure riding or perhaps even more.
When does a horse become "Senior"?
There is no "magic" age to when a horse becomes a senior as the phrase "you are only as old as you feel" also applies to horses. Some horses slow down in their late teens while others can remain quite active into their 20's. Genetics, diet, previous injuries, and exercise history can all play a role in determining how long a horse is fit for work.
Points to keep in mind:
- Preserve Soundness: It is a good idea to ask your veterinarian to examine your older horse before putting him to work. Your veterinarian will be able to identify problems and make recommendations concerning pain relief and exercise programs.
- Schedule Regular Check-Ups: Scheduling regular check-ups with your veterinarian is advisable for horses in their 20's to help keep an eye on joints, ligaments, tendons, body condition or health concerns that may require you to adjust your conditioning program.
Start out slow and always err on the side of caution. As a guide, do not increase the weekly training distance by more than 5%. 10-15 minute sessions three times a week on a lunge line or under saddle might be a good starting point for your senior horse. The length of these workouts can increase over the next month. After the first month, consider increasing the intensity of the workouts by adding some slow cantering. Including a little hill training will also help his muscles strengthen. Click here to learn more.
TIP: Senior horses can be better prepared for increased work in the spring if they get plenty of safe turnout in the winter so there joints are kept active.
Remember, each horse is different, and you (possibly with the help of your veterinarian) are going to be the best judge of what your horse can and cannot handle.
Routine Care, Diet & Body Condition
- Record your horse's normal TPR measurements (temperature, pulse & respiration) as well as his weight (using a weight tape) and assign him a body condition score. Write everything down and take pictures of your horse from different angles to help you refer to a baseline when assessing your horse's condition in the future. If you compare the starting and current numbers as well as his appearance regularly (the first of every month or so) you will be able to detect subtle differences. Consult with your veterinarian about these shifts as they may be able to help you adjust your horse's workout routine.
- Aging horses (like humans) tend to lose muscle mass as they age. Did you know, as a horse's body ages it becomes more resistant to insulin, a hormone that is responsible for controlling blood sugar (glucose) levels by signaling fat, muscle, and liver cells to take up blood glucose and store it as glycogen? This reduced sensitivity to insulin diminishes the body's ability to metabolize glucose (similar to Type 2 diabetes in humans).
- Be especially cautious in summer months. Older horses are often less able to lose body heat during exercise partly due to the decline in cardiovascular performance and the reduction in sweat gland function. It is recommended to limit exercise on very hot days or to shorten or reduce the intensity of the workout for older horses. But don't worry! Their ability to just stand around sweating in hot weather is similar to younger horses--so just be sure to provide your senior horse with electrolytes and plenty of fresh clean water on those hot days.
- How well the older horse moves and performs depends on how comfortable he is in his joints. Research has shown that older horses tend to have arthritic joints and their cortisol levels don't rise as much after exercise as those of younger horses. This means recovery after a workout takes longer in older equines. It is important to keep your senior horse on a joint supplement such as Manna Pro Rapid Flex™ to help keep your horse comfortable & his joints healthy.
- Be sure to reward your horse after his daily workout for a job well done! Manna Pro Senior Snax® horse treats are specifically formulated for older horses and provide him with a natural source of Glucosamine to support healthy joints, Biotin for strong hooves, and Omega-3 fatty acids for a shiny coat.
Although we should lower our expectations of athletic performance as our horses age, with appropriate care and conditioning older horses can live long happy lives!
Take the very best care of an old friend by providing him with nutrition specifically designed for his golden years.
Senior Weight Accelerator™
Senior Horse Feed Supplement
- High in fat for weight and body condition
- Omega-3's for healthy skin and coat
- Probiotics for proper digestion
Essential Vitamins & Antioxidants for immune support
Senior Snax® Horse Treats
- An easy-to-chew, baked treat
- Contains a natural source of Glucosamine
- Omega-3 fatty acids from Flaxseed for a vibrant coat
CLICK HERE to find a Manna Pro dealer carrying senior horse care products near you!
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