This is the Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey Remote Horse Coach's official blog. She shares her horse training approaches and strategies regarding horse behavior, proactive horsemanship, empowering equine partnerships, the rider's mental approach, and confidence-building in equestrians.
Sam also offers Horsemanship clinics worldwide, Horse webinars, online horse courses, Equine Retreats, Group Coaching Videos, Daily Training posts, & Individual Remote Horse Coaching.
It has been a long, snowy, wet winter and thankfully it
looks like spring may be nearing soon! As the upcoming riding season approaches
there are a variety of factors to consider when preparing you and your horse
for safe, fun and fulfilling rides in the near future.
Life can get “busy” and sometimes folks lose track of when
they did what with their horse. I
suggest keeping a simple calendar that marks any veterinary work, farrier care,
vaccinations/worming schedule, changes in feed, work/training program, etc.
This can be a futuristic tool and a historical reference to help you assess if
the horse maintenance program your horse is on is appropriate or needs to be
All horses handle the transition from a tough winter to
spring differently. Whether you’ve owned
your horse a short time or for years, attempt to assess both his
mental/emotional state and physical condition without any preconceived ideas. Make
no assumptions that he’ll require the same care as the previous year.
After a long winter, I suggest folks take pictures of the
horse, from each side, the front and the rear.
Use it as a “reference” or starting point to assess hay belly vs. muscle
tone and general overall condition.
Though you may have been feeding a lot of hay, it does not mean your
horse’s nutritional requirements are being met. Depending on his age, overall
health and changes in lifestyle/exercise regime, the horse’s dietary needs may
have to be adjusted according to the season and riding frequency.
Especially with older horses, have the vet do an annual overall
assessment in the spring for any changes in his health; addressing things like possible
dental issues which can affect their entire nervous system, the ability to
easily chew/break-down food, and how comfortable he is with a properly fitted
bit can contribute to his well-being.
Having a quality chiropractor adjust/check your horse can
help address any possible lasting physical compensation he may be carrying if
he had any pasture accidents due to ice or snow. Though they appear to be
strong animals, it actually takes very little for them to become physically
misaligned. Other parts of their body begin to compensate and this can lead to
a variety of physical issues and often pain.
With the farrier be sure to take measurements of each hoof,
and pictures, (along with dates) to help assess hoof growth and condition
influenced by weather, moisture and dietary changes. Be aware drastic changes in
weather from super wet to hot and dry often lead to “sudden” lameness caused by
things like abscesses.
Reassessing what tack you are using, why you’re using it
(and no, just because “it” came with the horse does not mean it is
appropriate,) and if you know how to fit and use it properly. Be sure to check all of the stitching, buckles
and look for any cracks in the leather. Launder
any pads, material cinches, etc. but be aware to the skin sensitivities many horses
have towards most mainstream detergents.
You may need someone to help you assess if your tack fits
your horse’s current physical state- especially your saddle- which may require some
adjustments from the beginning of the riding season and onward depending on
muscle changes or gain during the spring and summer.
Many folks each spring call me with horses that have sudden
“behavioral” issues; I’ve often found they are experiencing an immense amount
of pain due to a multitude of factors. Notice if as you begin to spend more
time with your horse any odd changes in his attitude and behavior. Mark on your
calendar if your horse is becoming more fidgety, antsy, and unenthusiastic about
being caught, tacked or ridden. Rather than ignoring the changes, slow down and
play detective. Assess for pain and the quality of the rides. The horse only has
so many polite ways of telling you there is a problem, before they resort to
more drastic measures.
If your riding abilities/experience leave you feeling unsure
about getting back in the saddle this spring, look for opportunities to work
with the support of a professional giving you lessons or having you AND your
horse participate in a training program.
If you hear that little voice in your head (yes, it is
self-preservation), please listen. Even
if you’re unsure as to what is causing your insecurity, ask for help sooner than
Whether you are fairly new to horses or have ridden all your
life, I believe it is an ongoing learning experience. Irrelevant of whether you’re a competitive or
pleasure rider, there is always opportunity to refine you and your horse’s communication,
and his willingness to participate when ridden in a soft and quiet manner,
which can then lead to the ideal ride and partnership.
Asking for help or finding an appropriate professional can
be a bit overwhelming. If you find
someone as a potential instructor/trainer, be sure to audit them working with a
horse AND teaching a lesson to make sure their teaching approach and mannerisms
will be a good fit for you and your horse. And just because one person likes a particular
trainer, does not mean it’ll be a good match for you.
If you’re planning on hauling your horse anywhere, be sure
to have a thorough inspection of both your tow vehicle and horse trailer.
Checking electrical/wiring, tires (including the spare tire), brakes,
floorboards, rust, possible wasp nests, etc. all can prevent unwanted
trailering “adventures.” I always suggest keeping an emergency equine vet kit,
human first aid kit, unexpired fire extinguisher, 5 gallon water jug and
bucket, electrolytes, spare halter and lead rope, jack/tire iron, and road
flares in the trailer.
By proactively checking all contributing factors such as the
horse’s health, mental and emotional state, tack and equipment, tow
vehicle/trailer condition, and asking for help when necessary, you will save
time, money and effort and can have more stress-free opportunities enjoying your