"It's the thought that counts!"

"It's the thought that counts!"
Samantha Harvey & Taylor to Perfect
Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey & The Equestrian Center, LLC Copyright 2017. Articles and/or photographs posted on this site may NOT be reproduced or copied without written permission.


Spring time considerations for all things horse


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 This can be a futuristic tool and a historical reference to help you assess if the horse maintenance program your horse is on is appropriate or needs to be adjusted accordingly.

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 later.
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 horse.


 Have fun,
Sam

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the great advice. It is so very true. I thought my mare was fine in the pasture till I took her out end of April to be shoed before starting a busy schedule in march. She could not stand for the farrier and fought the whole time which is not normal for her. Made me remember those many great words I have gotten from you, to listen to my horse. I took her to Chiro next week and both her hips were locking up and causing her lots of pain. I had her adjusted and new shoes this week went much better. I am excited to say we went out on our first ride for the spring today and she was awesome. We rode up and down several hills and she happily went where I asked her to go. When she is hurting she is nervous and refuses up and down hills. Love taking my little tool box with me that I have accomplished from your clinics and private lessons. I so appreciate you and your great methods you teach us. By the way we are finally getting trailer loading down too. I have followed what you taught me and she is finally trusting me to get right in and be happy in the trailer. Thanks again for all you knowledge and great training ability to show each rider and horse what we need.

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    1. So glad to hear you "listened" to your horse when she was trying to show there was a problem, AND that you had options to clearly communicate with her and help her get to a better spot! Happy Trails

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Sam
www.learnhorses.com