Training our older horses physically is a subject dear to heart. Think there’s so many great side effects from keeping doing regular exercise adressing the postural muscles and to keep stiffness at bay.
Helping the horse becoming better at being a horse in this sense means helping your horse enjoy the rest of his life more. Being able to have a proper lie down and/or to play with your friends are both super valid reasons to train.
Here on picture is Najagg in his 20-ties. Apart from training being enrichment for his mind I also focus a lot on the physical aspects of training as well. Keeping a strong top line and activate postural muscles.
Loosing muscle mass and flexibility is apart of ageing and from my point of view the most important reason to not retire our older horse friends. Yes we should adapt the exercises to fit but I think us positive reinforcement trainers often are very good at keeping up with the mental stimulation aspect of training but need to work more on the physical side of it.
And while I am very passionate about letting our horses out and have accsess to as much movements as possible. It is often not enough and does not replaces physical training.
They do different things. Here on picture is my warm blood Koppar. Here 18 years old recovering from an tendon injury. It can be challenging when our older horses gets injured and take a loooong time to heal but I strongly believe as a reward based trainer we have so many tools and skills to adress this long term by our way of shaping and breaking down components in smaller pieces.
And we have excellent tools and are used to working with the environment as a recourse when we plan and structure our sessions.
Targets are really one of my favorite way of talking. To show our horses where in space we want to place them to help them is beyond useful. Here we working with a nose target and adressing neck stiffnesses and stetching the topline.
In this sense targets offer precision.
Mats are SUPER for stability. But remeber to start easy and gradually build this up. It is so much harder than we might think if this new to your horse. And this holds true to all ages of horses but more so of course for our older ones. I´m working on a halt course at the moment and I will expand a bit deeper on this in future blog posts and podcasts as the course builds. But I already have a lot of resources up on my social medias so have a look.
Here is where we started with Boye: kind of narrow :)
Im a big fan of carrot stetches, I do however do them a little bit different than how they are usally done. I dont think the traditional way of luring is so helpful for creating good food taking skills for the horse and its is easy to do to much to early. I am talking about all this in my latest podcast episode so if you want to hear more about it: have listen. I do describe a usual setup with my older guys.
Press the link below to listen to episode on Spotify...but you´ll find it in most podcast readers.