It can be quite a challenge for an older horse to get the body up and running – especially if the wheather is damp and still quite cold. The older the horse is the less flexible he will be. Therefore, a good warm up of the horses´muscles before entering the arena can be very valuable. Here are 5 exercises that can help your ederly horse.
Prepare the horse for the exercises
Make sure your older horse is placed in a comfortable part of the stable. The surface must be solid, and alle four legs has to be placed firmly on the ground. When you begin the exercises it is important that you notice any resistance the horse might show. Usually this happens when the horse has reached its own limit of the exercise, so you have to pay attention. After every exercise you should loosen your grip carefully so that the joints will not suffer any pain.
1. The exercise for the hip
The first exercise is to help make the hip more flexible. Stand in front of the horse, and grab the fetlock joint on the hind leg, the same way as when you clean out the hoof. With the other hand you hold on to the shin of the horse and lift the leg. The leg should then reach an ankle of 90 degrees through the hock. Then, pull the leg further up to and out towards yourself. Hold this position for approximately 20 seconds.
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2. Practise with the hind legs
The next exercise begins where the last one ended. Now, you have to move both your hands down to the fetlock joint. Pull the leg bag into the same position as if the horse was kicking – as horizontal as possible. Hold like this for about 20 seconds and put down the leg slowly. Repeat both the hip-exercise and this one on both sides of the horse.
3. Good movement of the shoulder
Next in line are the shoulders of your horse. Place yourself in front of the horse, and grab the lower part of the canon on the front leg. Then lift the leg towards yourself. The leg should be slightly bended and your aim is to have the stretchy part in the shoulder instead of the leg itself. To do so, you can hold on with one hand around the upper part of the horse’s leg. When you have been stretching the shoulder for 20 seconds you have to wait a short while before putting down the leg.
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4. Exercise for the front legs
In connection with the previous shoulder exercise you can try to let the horse stretch the knee and fetlock joint. Hold with both hands around the fetlock joint. Do not stretch more than the horse still finds it natural and comfortable. Repeat the shoulder and front leg exercise on the other side of the horse.
5. How to help the neck be more flexible
Try to see if you can make the horse stretch its neck downward to its own hip. To do so you can stand at the hip and allure the horse with treats in as many seconds as possible. But remember to actually give the horse the treat at some point during the exercise, so that the horse is motivated for next time. You can vary the task by placing the treat in different areas near the hip.
All these exercises are useful before hacking out, and before letting the horse back on the field. You can also use them when stretching out the horse after training.
This article was originally published in October 2020 and has since been revised and edited.