As a Phat Cat (sounds like “fat cat”, but it’s way more cool!) fitness will, of course, be my least favorite topic covered in the Senior series. Cushing’s disease is intellectually interesting (especially since cats rarely suffer from it), and nutrition holds a special place in my stomach, um, I mean heart. However, my humans sneak exercise into my life to help my physique stay panther-like.  The humans say exercise is a key component to a long, happy life. So, let’s discuss exercise and your Super Senior.

How are you doing?

Step one will be a good exam by one of my amazing Docs. As horses (and humans and cats) age, they collect injuries.  Some of these are big, some are small, but they all add up over time.  Also, you see your horse every day.  You may not notice a slow change somewhere.  A fresh set of eyes will help you come up with the ideal plan for your Super Senior.  

A little help from my friends

Your horse may start every ride stiff, there may even be a little limping going on. Let’s be honest, you don’t leap out of bed in the morning as quickly as you used to either! The exam my Docs just performed may highlight areas that could use a little pharmaceutical assistance to get things back on the right track. Joint injections are the most common help Super Seniors appreciate. A little arthritis can stiffen up a joint to the point where movement becomes painful. My Docs put a little bit of steroid to fight off inflammation, and hyaluronic acid as a lubricant into these joints, and miracles happen.  Horses who were having trouble moving can go back to a comfortable life as a performance horse.  Some horses simply get systemic anti-inflammatories, like Bute, to help them stay comfortable.

A whole lot of a little

The exam and the help from joint injections or anti-inflammatories is all to help you design the best exercise program for your Super Senior.  Seniors need to do a whole lot of fitness work. I remember when I was a kitten; it seemed I could stay in shape just by getting up in the morning.  Now, should I want to be fit, I would have to do a lot more work! This is one of the many joys of growing older.  Our horses suffer the same fate. Fitness programs should be designed to be low impact, but long duration. Trail riding works great for this purpose. There’s nothing like a good walk and jog up and down hills to get you fit without realizing it.

Words of warning here: Seniors don’t take prolonged vacations well.  Letting your senior get soft will make it really hard to get them back fit.

Listen to what they’re saying

The most important thing to remember about any fitness work is to check in with your horse. If you are adding a new skill, try it 4-5 times or for about 3-5 minutes the first day, then quit. If your horse is really sore the next day, don’t drill harder on that new skill. Skip a day then go back. Plan on slowly increasing the workload. With Seniors, it’s important to watch for aggravations of old injuries, the appearance of new swelling, and explore any reluctance to perform a well established task.  

Ok I survived this little chat about fitness. Want to know even more? Come to our Super Senior Seminar TOMORROW April 19th, 2017 at 6:30pm at the Clinic! If you come early, I might even let you take a selfie with me for your Facebook wall.