This article is courtesy of the Horse Industry Association of Alberta
By Kathleen Winfield
Spring is approaching – are you and your horses ready? There are quite a few tasks you can be doing now so you are ready to get out and enjoy your horses once winter has left us. Our outdoor equestrian activity season can be short so you want to be prepared to get out and take full advantage of the good weather and footing when we get it!
Inspect your tack – now is the time to go over all your horse related tack including saddles, harness, bridles, halters, blankets etc. Insure everything is clean and repairs are completed where required – pay particular attention to straps and buckles making sure there are no tears or signs of excessive wear. Do some “spring cleaning” and organizing in your tack area so that you know where everything is and can find exactly what you want when you want it. Make sure all your grooming supplies and clean and in good working order. For those who clip their horses, now is the time to inventory your clipper blades to determine which ones need sharpening or replacing.
Inspect/service your truck and trailer – insure your truck is current on all servicing as you don’t want to start your season with mechanical issues. Pay particular attention to your trailer – inspect everything including the floor under the mats. Check the tires – they don’t last forever even if you have low mileage on them. Check the entire hitch assembly including the emergency braking system. Insure all the electrical components are working properly including exterior and interior lights and brake lights. Make sure the reflective material on your trailer is all intact – sometimes that material can wear out when exposed to the elements and actually come off your trailer. The more visible your trailer is on the road, the safer you will be.
Horse health – schedule time with your horse health provider to insure vaccinations are up to date, deworming is current, dental is current. If your winter routine has not included frequent handling of your horse, do a thorough inspection of your horse from ears to tail including right down to the skin to see if there are any issues that need to be addressed. There may be tiny creatures hiding under all that winter hair!
Plan your spring cleanup of your horse area – there will be manure management tasks to be completed once the snow departs and thawing begins. You will want to get rid of the many pounds of manure that have accumulated. The average full size horse can deposit 40 to 50 lbs per day – that is a lot of “road apples”! In heavy traffic areas like corrals or pens, you would be surprised how destructive the combination of mud, manure and urine is on horse feet – thrush is always a problem and can rapidly damage hoof structures so that nasty mess needs to go. Prepare your pastures for summer grazing and make sure that the areas your horses will be in are appropriately clean and safe. If your horses have overwintered on your summer pasture then you may want to harrow the manure before the new grass begins to sprout.
Plan your grazing activities – your horse should be gradually exposed to the lush spring grass so make sure you are set up to handle that. Check all your fences and make any repairs required – winter can be hard on fences! Plan for a “sacrifice” field where your horses can be kept safely in an area without the lush grass.
Formulate a plan for spring fitness for you and your horse – if you and your horse have had a leisurely winter, do not expect to just saddle up or harness up and resume the level of activity you did last summer! Both of you will be sore and grouchy if you do not “ease” into your activities. Design a plan on how you will prepare yourself and your horse for your initial spring adventures – gradually increase the level of exercise while enjoying your equine friends. You also need to include a strategy on how to build up muscle strength as well as work on balance and coordination – all elements necessary regardless of what equestrian discipline you pursue.
Identify your summer and fall equine events/competitions – if your equine activities include scheduled events and/or competitions, do your research to determine when those activities are taking place and what condition you and your equines need to be in to enjoy the activities. Armed with this information, you can plan your specific conditioning requirements over the coming months. For serious, demanding competitions you will need to design a program where your horse “peaks” his/her performance level at the right times.
Spring is an exciting time for all of us “horsey” folks – we look forward to all the wonderful equine activities we will share with our horses and, with proper preparation and planning, it should be a wonderful time!
Kathleen Winfield is a EC Driving Coach, CAA Instructor and a Lifelong Horsey Person.