Archive | March, 2013

Gearing up for Spring

4 Mar

Its lighter later, your horse is full of energy, and its finally getting warmer. Its time for more riding! However, we tend to overlook the details when it comes to gearing back up for competition season, or for some of us, just friendlier riding conditions and more saddle time.

Remember SAFETY! And not just in that you don’t just hop on your horse after 2 or 3 months off and go. Make sure your tack isn’t weather cracked. Spring is the perfect time to give everything a thorough inspection as you clean it. Make sure your horse’s feet are trimmed. One of the biggest bummers of spring time is mud season, and mud season softens the hooves, making them more prone to thrush and peeling. As shedding comes to an end, sterilize your brushes. A lot of horses tend to get bacterial skin issues as spring approaches, and even throughout spring, and you don’t want that stuff hanging out on your grooming supplies. A bleach solution is a great tool to have around for spraying down hoof picks if your horse is having a bout of thrush. This is also a good time of year to think about upgrading helmets or protective vests as you will be riding more often and anything outdated is less likely to protect you to its fullest potential.

Many of us hit the gym during the winter or are lucky enough to keep our horses going a bit, but we must also remember that although we may be raring to go, our horses are most likely out of shape. Clipping during the spring is a good idea, as it prevents overheating and overlooking any skin problems hiding under thick coats. As your horse goes back into work, its important to remember to start slow. Its never a good idea to try to pick up where you left off last fall if you haven’t been consistently working your horse over the winter. It will leave your horse sore and you feeling dissatisfied. After a few solid days of lunging and ground work, I always recommend lots of walking as you get your horse back in work under saddle. I try to keep it around a 70/30 split (walking-trotting) over a half-hour session for horses who have sat for a good part of winter. Really take the time to feel your horses body from the saddle as he is working for any tension or stiffness. Spend a week increasing your trot intervals until you are able to ride a solid 45 minutes, 20 of which would be at walk, and the rest for trot work (this can and should include some transitions), before re-introducing the canter. Revisit the importance of straightness and moving off of leg pressure at the walk, including gentle leg-yielding, circles, and transitions. Building up slowly will help prevent lameness and sourness in your horse.

I hope everyone has had a great winter, and I am sure we are all equally excited about welcoming spring back!