Spring has sprung! The days are getting longer, the evenings lighter and most horse riders are looking forward to having more time to ride in the open air. But, as the daffodils bloom and the sun shines brighter, what should equestrians bear in mind to ensure that they get the best out of this sensational season?
Get his back checked, his teeth seen by a qualified equine dentist and his feet shod by your farrier. Ask the farrier to check your horse’s frogs too. A wet spring can lead to thrush and this will need treating as soon as possible. Call in your vet if you are planning a busy spring campaign. He will be able to check your horse’s limbs, eyes, heart and lungs and assess him at various paces. Also check with your vet that all your horse’s inoculations are up to date.
Send off your horse’s droppings for a worm count analysis and plan a worming programme accordingly. Most owners worm in the spring and autumn for roundworms and tapeworms.
Check your insurance policy and make sure that everything is up to date, especially if you are planning a competitive campaign.
Book some lessons with your regular trainer or a qualified instructor. You and your horse may both be rusty after a winter break.
Ditch your horse’s heavy turnout rugs when the weather warms up. However, keep one nearby in case the nights are cold. It seems to be all too common these days to rug a horse all year round, but, as temperatures rise, a thick rug worn during the day can make him sweat and feel uncomfortable. Therefore, ensure that you choose a rug according to the conditions.
Before you throw those turnout rugs in the cupboard, ensure that they are washed and repaired if necessary so that they are ready for action again in the autumn. At the same time, check your tack for any signs of wear and tear. Old and frayed items may need to be replaced.
Ask a qualified saddle fitter to check that the saddle you were using last season still fits. Your horse’s shape may have changed quite considerably over the winter and what fitted well previously may now pinch and be uncomfortable.
If your horse has had a quiet winter with little exercise, bring him back into work slowly, beginning with 20 minutes of hacking at walk before progressing on to trot by about week four. Doing too much too soon can lead to pulled muscles or worse.
If your horse spends more time turned out in the spring, ensure that as the quality of the grass improves, he is not over indulging. An excess of spring grass has long been linked to cases of laminitis. Consider purchasing a muzzle if you aren’t able to restrict his grazing in other ways. If, by contrast, you increase the hours that he is stabled as you up his workload, make sure that he isn’t spending too long in his box and becoming bored.
Consult a feed helpline to see how best to feed him for his spring campaign.
As the grass grows, so, too, will the plants that will do him no good if he eats them.
If you are considering competing in a few weeks, maybe a programme of visits to the gym or swimming pool will help to increase your success rate in the saddle.
Use the early spring to put together a well thought out competitive campaign, which will see your horse run at an ideal number of competitions with proper rest breaks in between. Your trainer will be able to advise you with this and ensure that you are not tempted to over work your horse.