2 older OTTBs: Time to earn their keep

Hey All,
I have 2 pasture puffs that I would like to leg up after about a year of doing not much more than a couple of weekly 20-minute WTC around the fields. One is coming 17, the other 18. One has a sticky stifle and the other one is just a chunky monkey. I’d love to get them started on a schedule so we can hopefully do some mini-events in the 2021 season. Nothing too taxing, just some fun outings.
I’ve brought younger horses back from time off, but have no experience with any as old as these boys.
Does anyone have advice or know of a general schedule to follow to safely get them going again? Please don’t mention hills, as there are none. They are OTTBs, but I don’t want to push it. I want to run and jump today, but I don’t want any injuries so I’m willing to put the time in this winter to help them get in tip-top shape! For now, I’ll just visualize running and jumping :relaxed:

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The fitness that can be built just by walking is amazing. Walk walk walk. Hand walk over poles. Hell, hop on bareback for a couple laps around the field every day. Metaphorically speaking, walk them all over hill n’ dale. When I was legging up my 19 yo WB last year (who also had a sticky stifle), he would start offering to trot after we had spent weeks on walk work building his fitness. I know not every horse is like that, but sometimes they clue you in when they feel good and are ready to step up the intensity.

Assuming the vet gives these guys the all clear to be working again and the sticky stifle can be managed (maybe injecting it since you know which specific area is problematic for him, or adding Adequan/Legend/Pentosan?), go for it!


Agree with the above poster - walk!

30 mins brisk walk a day to start. Then 45. Then an hour. Then 45 mins walk 5 mins trot.

Just be in tune with what they’re telling you. But starting with a lot of walking is the best way to leg them up and not get them hurt.


Do you guys have a rough timeline? How many days or weeks of walking before building up to adding trot sets? How long before adding in some canter? I realize every horse is different, but I’d be curious to know if anyone uses a roughly set schedule? Weekly/monthly/etc.
My guys do live outside 24/7, but only on a few acres of very flat land.

I’ve helped with rehab of a bunch of horses, young and old. My vet liked the following schedule for your general soft tissue injury but skipping the hand walking part:

  • start with 30 min of walk 4-5 times a week and add 5 min each week until you are at 45 to 60 min

  • Drop to 45 min of walk 4-5 times a week and add 5 min of trot each week until you are at 45 min walk and 20-30 min of trot

  • Drop to 30 min of walk and 20 min of trot 4-5 times a week and add 5 min of canter until you are at 30 min walk, 20 min trot and 15 min canter.

Your mileage may vary and you can modify it as needed. Depending on the injury pole work, tight circles and jumping was added back differently for each horse. I do know the above scheudle will get your horses and yourself VERY fit. Good luck bringing them back into work.


This is very helpful. Thank you!

It’s going to feel too slow. It’s not. “Hard to hurt a horse at a walk”. They will thank you for giving them the extra time in legging up!


I see a lot of ponying in my future!