Conditioning horses is a popular topic this time of year. As the weather gets nicer for riding, many equestrians face the challenge of reconditioning horses who might have lost a step over the winter. For senior horse owners and riders, this task can prove more daunting than for riders with younger horses. It’s no secret that older horses take longer to get in shape than their youthful counterparts, and unfortunately, they might not be able to reach the same level of fitness they could in their younger days simply due to their increasing age.

Over the years, I’ve conditioned a lot of older horses. I’m used to starting slow, seeing how they handle work, and slowly moving forward until they gain the condition they need, be it for participating in riding lessons or simply hacking around the field.

Even though it’s taken longer than it used to, Dorado is finally nearing the good athletic condition we’ve been working towards.

Photo: Adam Spradling

But this year I experienced a conditioning conundrum with my now 17-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred, Dorado. No, he’s not really a senior horse, but our experience this spring gave me the first real sign that he’s not as young as he used to be.

When I brought then 13-year-old Dorado home on March 1, 2009, he wasn’t in any sort of athletic condition whatsoever.