Training your older horse can be fun and easy. Mostly he has learnt what you want and performs like a pro! He has self confidence and is happy in his work. But sometimes it is not so easy, he gets tired quicker than your younger one and sometimes is a bit stiff, and still needs to learn a few things. No need to despair, a few minor changes can help.
Older horses often are better at concentrating making it easier to teach them. on the flip side, they also notice subtle signals. It is important to be precise, so he doesn't confuse what you are asking with something else. To help him learn make your first cues a bit exaggerated so that the are perceptible and clear.
Tip 1 - Keep in mind that because older horses ‘know so much’ they often anticipate what you are asking. Be patient and exact. Repeat no more than three times then do something else. This is also a form of reward.
Almost all of us have learnt the saying “Use it or lose it” right? Well this applies in older horses. It is important to exercise at least 4 times per week just maintain fitness. A common myth is older horses need less work, when in fact they need just a bit more as they get older (we are not talking Seniors here).
Tip 2 - Overwork can of course cause fatigue, as can underwork. An indication you horse needs more work (rather than less) is when he tires too quickly. Build up/maintain your training sessions with interval training.
I always recommend cross training programs. Use exercises that work the major muscle groups and also your horses brain. Also include flexibility work, so your horse doesn't develop stiffness with age.
Tip 3 - Every horse has a weak point so recognise this and look for exercises to strengthen the weaknesses. Trot poles in circles are an example of exercises that are easy to perform yet have many benefits.
Maintaining flexibility is essential for healthy horses joints. Utilising active gymnastics exercises and stretches to improve flexibility by helping to relieve tension. Regular movement ‘oils’ the joints.
Tip 4 - Gymnastics exercises are like Yoga for your horse. Incorporating both passive and active forms, before during and after training sessions ‘loosen’ the muscles and joints and improve performance. And of course massage is naturally beneficial for your older steed!
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