Many people know the saying “rest rusts”, but you only notice this when you have actually sat still for a while or when you literally are unable to move. The older we get, the more we will suffer from this. When you ask older, fit and sprightly people what they actually do, the answer is often: “Eating healthy and walking.” Exercise becomes more difficult, but you can keep moving, as long as you don’t just stop.
Horses can experience this even more than us humans. Exercise is a big part of horse life. You can compare them with nomads who moved from one place to another and never stayed in the same place for long. Movement is therefore key for horses.Keep challenging older horses
When we notice that an older horse is finding it more difficult to move, we want to make it as easy as possible for him. By adjusting everything and ensuring that the horse has to make less effort, we can actually cause more decay in, for example, the muscles.
To support those muscles, it is important that we continue to challenge the horse and keep it moving. Of course, the animal no longer has to run a Grand Prix test, but walking up and down a hill, stepping over tree trunks, being able to run with friends in the meadow, is important. This way you support the body and they also stay mentally healthy.
Adjust nutrition slightly
In addition to the fact that the horse physically changes as it ages, something changes on the inside of the horse’s body as well. Not only because the teeth are getting worse, but also because nutrients are less easily absorbed and processed in the body. Older horses therefore need different management and different nutrition than younger horses. At least, if you see them start to fall in and have trouble keeping their weight.
Older horses need high-quality feed, which should be easy to digest and somewhat higher in protein. In this way we ensure that the body receives sufficient nutrients so that all processes continue to run and the body does not fall into severe decay.
What to do with an retired horse?
Keep your horse moving. This is good for the blood circulation, the muscles and the joints. The more they stand still, the stiffer they are and the more difficult movement will become. For example, look at the difference between an older horse that takes its first steps after a night in the stable and an older horse that is outside 24/7 (with shelter options). Free movement is the most important thing, nice long walks. Groundwork exercises can also help keep the body flexible.
If you want to keep your horse moving, you can challenge it mentally. See how the horse reacts when you step over logs or put them in the pasture or paddock. Make a hill in the paddock or meadow, so that the muscles are addressed. Challenge your horse to stretch by, for example, placing herb plants next to the paddock or meadow or by hanging certain branches, like willow, high.
Conclusion: rest rusts
Movement is important for the physical and mental health of the horse. Ensuring that your retired horse can only stand warm in his stall will eventually ensure that he can no longer move comfortably. Try to challenge yourself and your senior. After all, daily movement is and remains the best 😊.