The scent of spring is in the air. The pastures are slowly turning green and flowers are blooming in full colour. The temperature outside is warming up and you can start wearing less clothing as spring is at the doorstep. You may be noticing changes in your horse’s coat. It is normal for him to start losing hair as the weather warms up. Don’t worry he won’t go bald.
With the new season and conditions approaching I am sure you can’t wait to mount your horse and hit the trail. It might be wise to slow down and think about if your horse is prepared and ready to go out on that long spring ride. Just like you after hibernating in the winter not doing as much exercise, perhaps curled up on the couch watching your favourite TV shows. Your horse has had a winter hiatus, too, and will not be used to long rides as he has been couped up in the barn.
Getting your horse all ready for trail ride season may depend on factors such as the horse’s age and being stalled or pastured. If your horse is younger than 5 years old he is probably ready to get out and go for a long ride. He must be mentally prepared for a whole-day ride. If he is not interested you might even cause your horse disfavour and he will not respond to your cues.
If you have an older horse you might want to check with your vet and have a general health check-up performed on your horse. Have your vet check your horse’s lungs, teeth, and heart function. A lameness exam also helps the older horse avoid problems common to their age group. Older horses can start developing arthritis and they become weak. You might also want to check if your horse is harbouring wretched equine parasites from winter and have your vet formulate an equine deworming program that targets parasite problems specific to your horse.
You may need to spend time preparing your horse before you go out for a trail ride. If your horse’s body condition is no good he will not do well. It could be because he could be overweight and has too much weight for him to carry or he could be underweight and does not have sufficient energy to use. Either way you might want to be patient enough to wait for that spring trail ride. Focus on getting your horse in good physical shape in preparation for the new season.
Starting Off Slow
As you prepare your horse’s physical fitness for spring it is also important to consider his mental condition before putting him to work. You will notice by his behaviour that he is in excellent condition. He will be really playful and when you put the saddle on you will find he is ready to charge off and wants to get out amongst the pastures.
Take your horse to an enclosure and allow him to move about. Try to see if he trots around and focuses on you or if he would rather run about. Inside the enclosure try to assess how your horse acts physically and mentally. If you see that he is doing great without attitude problems then riding him would be okay. Otherwise you might need to spend more time tuning him up inside the enclosure or pen. Start off with small rides for short periods of time throughout the day. This will slowly get him ready for full workload.
Taking the First Ride
If you have prepared your horse and are ready to take your first spring ride remember to check how he is coping. If he begins to feel tense as you go along make him concentrate of your cues. Once he goes back to a relaxed state don’t push him too hard. If he slows down his pace but is able to maintain a relaxed state of mind just let it happen. Each time you sense that your horse is becoming tense try to bring back his attention to you. Be aware of your horse’s demeanour and respond accordingly. Make sure you take time to let him cool down and walk around on returning from you ride. Make sure he has lots of water to drink as the temperature is getting warmer.
Remember that your horse’s progress will depend on you. Do not rush him into doing something after he has taken a big break during winter. Get him used to the season’s surroundings and allow him to welcome the new season with ease. Check his health condition and make sure that he is fit both physically and mentally. If you tune him up for spring to help him respond well to your cues and avoid behavioural problems this can definitely improve his performance and increase safety as you go for a ride.