Ask an Expert

Conditioning an Older Horse

Determine the best plan for getting your older horse in shape this spring.

Question

How should I condition my older horse so that he's fit enough to attend trail rides and clinics this summer? He is 18 years old and has only been lightly ridden once a week during the winter. 

For the answer to this question, we sought the advice of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Answer

Older horses can be conditioned as well as younger horses. They just take more time. A complete physical exam is a good place to start to be sure there are no underlying problems. I would start by riding your horse twice a week for a few weeks then progress to riding four times a week if he is responding well.

It usually takes two rides a week to maintain condition and four rides per week to increase condition.

There are three ways to increase the difficulty of your rides:

  1. Increase the time.
  2. Increase the speed.
  3. Increase the challenge with terrain and footing.

You should only change one parameter at a time after you have increased the frequency of your rides.

Join the AAEP this month as Dr. Lyn Simmelink answers questions for Ask the Vet concerning conditioning your horse in preparation for the trail, show ring and more.

-- Dr. Carolyn Simmelink, the American Association of Equine Practitioners

*AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.