The old saying “No hoof , no horse” is just as true now as it has ever been. If you haven’t been riding for a while it’s easy to let those regular farrier visits slip by. Now is a perfect time to put hoof care back on your schedule. Also, since spring is typically wet you should take care to prevent fungal and bacterial issues such as thrush and whiteline disease that can thrive in wet environments. Limit grazing of lush spring grass and keep hay in front of your mounts to prevent any potential founder issues.
Since biting insects are the vectors for many equine diseases, spring is the perfect time to schedule any annual vaccinations and vet checks before any nasty biters wake from their winter’s slumber. Check with your veterinarian to determine what vaccines should be administered for your area.
Dental care is paramount and may be on the list of services provided by your vet or by an equine dental specialist. Regardless, proper dental care will keep your horse healthy. As equine teeth grow continuously and the grinding motion from feeding may not be even, it’s important that any uneven wear be smoothed.
Eliminate any lurking parasites now to ensure that your mount has the best in health and stamina for those early rides. There are a multitude of products on the market for this purpose, so check with your vet for the best rotation schedule for your particular circumstances.
The lengthening days of spring are not only bringing forth flowers they are also what is causing your horse to shed its winter coat. Get rid of any mud and crud that has accumulated over the winter with good curry comb and some elbow grease. You’ll benefit from the exercise and the horse will enjoy the massage.
Hopefully you cleaned your tack before you put it away for the winter. If not remember that leather will dry if left in the sun and will mold if kept in a damp area. Both of these issues can seriously degrade the leather’s strength so give every item of tack a thorough going over. Saddle soap and a toothbrush will work wonders for removing any grime remaining from last season’s outings and a light coat of a good leather moisturizer will return a bit of life to the leather.
Once you’ve cleaned your tack make sure that it still fits your horse. Now it the time to make any cinch or pad adjustments, not at the trailhead while your riding buddies wait. We’re not the only creatures that change shape over the fall and winter holidays so don’t be surprised if your horse or mule has gained some weight as well. If your mount has lost weight you might want to mention that to your veterinarian.
Now that your horse is clean, healthy, and ready to go, start off slowly. Just as you wouldn’t do well going straight from the couch to a marathon, neither will your horse. Start a spring conditioning program before heading out on more difficult rides. Proceed slowly and add time, mileage, and trail difficulty as you go.
If you’ve not ridden in a while, you and your mount may need a few refresher lessons before you hit the trails in earnest. Make sure that your horses “brakes” work by practicing your one rein stops at home before you need them on the trail.
With your horse fit, cleaned, and conditioned and your tack ready to go you’ll be ready to embark on another wonderful spring, summer, and fall riding season. If getting to your favorite riding areas require a haul to the trailhead this is also the best time of the year to have your trailer and tow vehicle checked out as well. Here are few handy links to help you learn more about safe towing and trailer checks.
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