How to Lunge your older Horse? | Healthy Training
by Babette Teschen
The owners of older horses often ask if they can work according to the lunging course. The question cannot be answered definitively as distance diagnosis is impossible to do and silly to try to do.
This section should however give you a helping hand in deciding. Do, however, consult your vet or other specialist as well.
The most important thing is, however, to tune in to your horse and try to observe accurately whether this lunging course work is too demanding for it.
Those who rest, rust
Do you know the saying: “Those who rest, rust?” It applies to horses too. Therefore it is basically a good thing to work out an appropriate movement and occupation programme for older animals too. Just as it does older people a lot of good to do gymnastics and gentle forms of sport such as nordic walking, so it does older horses good to do gymnastics in a careful, well controlled and sensible way.
Lungeing, however, seems to many people not to be particularly well suited to working with older horses as the pressure on old bones on the lunge is often too great.
But this is exactly what is not the case when working according to this particular lunging course!
Lunging according to this lunging course is very different from other forms of lunging. It is not about pace, but about doing sensible gymnastic work according to the basic biomechanics of the horse’s body.
Dear Babette! I would like to thank you once again for your great dedication to our Lunging Course. As a vet I am particularly impressed with your knowledge of the underlying biomechanics and for your just and fair way of dealing with horses. All the ideas that you have gathered together from your own experience were also interesting for us riders of horses with extra paces. You do not only understand our particular problems, but can also offer really concrete help for getting horseswith special paces to work properly with their backs. My hope is that your Lunging Course will be read more by vets too, as I am convinced that many sorts of lameness could be better explained with the help ofbiomechanical considerations and convalescent horses more successfully brought back to health again. So do continue your wonderful work for the sake of all horses. Lea Schudel, DVM
All the exercises are aimed at enabling the horse to learn to move correctly in a well balanced manner so that it can move on a curve loosely and calmly. Many of the exercises in the course can be profitably worked at a walk and the first trotting exercises are also deliberately done rather slowly. As this improves the joints it can also be good for older and stiffer horses.
In the following photos you can see, for example, two pictures of me working with my mare Inka, who has sadly since died:
Inka was 24 years old in these pictures.
If you work your old horse according to this lunging course you will stretch your horse’s muscles and improve its movement. Stretched muscles are the basic preparation for easy movement that both improves the joints and looks good too.
In my eyes it is never too late for a horse to learn how to follow a curve in a healthy position. Thus far, I think that lunging according to the lunging course is basically sensible and suitable for older horses too.
Putting the emphasis on diffferent goals
The challenges and ideal goals for an old horse are different to those for a young one.
It is best to do most of the lunging work at a walk and to concentrate particularly on making the muscles loosen up and stretch. The length of the sessions should of course match the horse’s fitness and state of health.
Accept that the horse may not activate its hindquarters a lot or be able to take up weight on its inner hind leg when Stepping Over. What is important is how well your horse feels, not how correctly it does the exercises.
And do not forget the psychological effect!
It is often overlooked how steeply older horses can go downhill when they are shunted into a siding. And not only physically, but also mentally! For this reason the improving lunging according to this lunging course is a wonderful new task for the horse. The horse gets your full attention again and its spirits will improve like anything as a result.