Caring for Our Senior Horses
We all love our older horses who you can always rely on. Whether they’ve had months off or they’re ridden regularly, they are the horse we all look forward to riding as they are steady day after day. I know my 20 year old is my first choice for going out to the mountains, entering the dressage ring, or for anything else I could possibly want to do! Although body work and proper workout techniques are beneficial for keeping horses healthy and sound throughout their life, as they begin to age it is important to recognize when ole faithful might need a little more maintenance to keep them performing at their best. Albertan winters can also be harder on older horses (who are we kidding, our winters are hard on everyone) as the drastic changes in weather can affect joints. When senior horse’s arthritic joints are combined with decreased movement in the cold, this will make your horse even more stiff. It would be lovely if we could all go down to Florida and spend the coldest months down in the sunshine, but for most of us that’s not very realistic. So a good program to get your Steady Eddie back into shape is important! Before jumping right into training for competition season with our senior horses, it is critical to make sure there are no underlying issues that could make it challenging for them to compete at the same level as the year before. Arthritis can be a factor for older horses, so that is something we should always be watching for and taking the extra steps to keep them as comfortable as possible. Senior horses can benefit from body work as it increases blood flow, which helps arthritis and prevent injuries. Your equine massage therapist will be able to let you know if there is any soreness or soft tissue issues that may not be obvious. In between appointments, they will give you some stretches and exercises to work on each time you ride, improving flexibility and blood flow to reduce soreness between rides. Let’s keep our senior horses feeling their best so we can enjoy them longer. Next month we will look into exercise programs on how to get and keep them in shape for the show season!