ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Preparing You And Your Horse For Spring

Updated on January 29, 2013

Spring Is Coming.

For many horse people, winter is a time when they don't ride much, or at all. Not everyone has access to an indoor arena and in northern climates it can be impossible to safely ride for several months of the year.

Then spring comes and the temptation is great to throw on a saddle and head right out onto the trails. This is a temptation that needs to be resisted. Injuries for both horse and rider can result from going straight from inactivity to riding regularly.

Here are some tips to enjoy spring without saddle soreness or worse.


Keep Yourself Active

Just because you can't ride, doesn't mean you should let yourself turn into a couch potato. Looking after your horse will help, but exercising regularly will keep you in good shape.

Light cardio combined with core exercises such as crunches, reverse crunches and back strengthening work such as the 'superman' (lie flat on your stomach, arms in front of you, and then slightly lift your legs and arms) will help keep the muscles you only use for riding in trim and reduce the aches and pains when you come back.

Schedule Your Horse's 'Physical'

It's a good idea to schedule your horse's annual vaccinations for the spring. The optimum time for many vaccinations is one month before mosquitos become active.

While the vet is there, have him give your horse a quick once over to check for anything you might not have noticed while not working the animal regularly. This will help its overall health and make sure that you know about anything that might need extra attention.

This is also a good time to do your horse's annual Coggins test.

Take Things Steady

If you haven't been to the gym for a while, you know how it feels - and you don't want your horse to feel that way. Generally, a horse that has been laid off for more than three weeks needs to be re-conditioned and may need some re-training to remind him of things he forgot.

Start by walking, then reintroduce trot. Generally, it takes a month for a horse to be fit enough to canter and jump again, but you need to pay attention to your horse. If he starts puffing, stop. If he starts acting up he may be telling you he's tired, and consider backing off. If his canter is unbalanced and 'rough', he may not be ready to canter yet. Speed work such as barrels or cross country should come in at six to eight weeks.

Check their legs after every ride for the first few weeks.

Bringing a horse back into work too quickly can cause muscle and back soreness and even tendon injuries (which can put your horse out of action for the entire summer). Taking a bit of time is more than worthwhile.

Watch Out For 'Freshness'

Some horses, when they have been off, get rather, shall we say, enthusiastic when they come back into work. You may know your horse well enough to know if they are likely to, say, buck you off the first time you get back on.

If this is the first winter layoff - assume your horse is likely to do something stupid. Lunge or ground drive them first so they can get the silly out before you get back on them. Keep the circles big, though...tight circles are hard on any horse, let alone an unfit one. You could also chase the horse around a round pen or small paddock.

Change Feed Slowly

Spring inevitably means a change in the food your horse is eating. Your horse may have been eating hay in a dry lot or sacrifice area all winter. If it was on grass, then the grass was not particularly good.

Founder is most common in spring, when the grass reaches its highest nutritional value. Horses that were on pasture all winter generally do pretty well, but if you had your horse in the lot or if the ground was completely covered by snow, then introduce grass slowly. This is particularly important if you have a pony or draft horse/draft cross - the kind that get fat at the drop of a hat.

If you are adding performance feed or grain, that too should be added slowly. All feed changes should be made gradually.

Check Your Tack

If your saddle and bridle have been sitting all winter, then they will need a full inspection before being returned to service. Do this a week or so before you plan on resuming riding so that if you do need to replace anything you have time to do so.

Give your tack a thorough cleaning and oiling (it helps, if you have time, to oil it regularly through the winter so it does not dry out). Replace any straps that are broken or look as if they might break. Thoroughly wash saddle blankets and make sure they are not worn...a hole in a saddle blanket can result in a saddle sore as the tack rubs through it.

Also, make sure your fly masks and fly sheets are clean and ready well before the insects start to show up.

Inspect Your Trailer

If you haul at all, now is the time to check and inspect your trailer. You can do this yourself or have a specialist shop check it.

First, check the trailer floor is in good condition. Remove all of the mats. A wood floor can be tested by sticking a pocket knife firmly in and twisting slightly, from both above and below. If the wood crumbles, then the floor may need to be able to replaced. Aluminum floors need to be inspected for corrosion, pitting and fractures along welds. Take the opportunity to clean floors and mats thoroughly.

Inspect the underside of the trailer and get any rust or corrosion repaired by an expert. Aluminum welds should, again, be inspected for cracks. Look at the suspension system.

Inspect the hitch and safety chains. Make sure the coupler has not worn so that it is loose on the ball.

Hitch up the trailer and check all of the lights.

Finally, a trailer that has been stored for a while may develop dry rot in the tires, so inspect the tires carefully. Check the pressure.

Finally, wheel bearings and brakes should be inspected annually, and brakes should be serviced and cleaned once a year. This is the time to do it.

Spring Cleaning

Now is a good time to inspect and clean your barn, stalls and, if you have one, arena. Before turning your horse out, thoroughly inspect the pasture or paddock for hazards and check the fencing. This includes testing electric fencing properly.

Check all gates (I recommend keeping pasture gates padlocked on both the opening and hinge end to prevent both theft and gates being left open by strangers). Make sure they swing easily.

Thoroughly clean all water troughs and any fixed waterers. Clean the barn thoroughly. Test fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems.

Check your feed room for moldy and expired food, expired meds and supplements and anything else that is best thrown away. You probably also have bad bales of hay that need to be removed. If you have marginal hay, offer it to a neighbor who has cattle or goats - they will cheerfully chow down on stuff horses will refuse. Sweep out your hay storage area as best you can.

Clean and disinfect grooming equipment. Clean rugs thoroughly and once done with them for the season place them in sealed plastic bags or proper rug storage bags or bins.

Your horse will also appreciate a spring cleaning too - don't forget to get out the shedder and tackle that winter coat. Be sure to stand upwind so you don't end up more fuzzy than they are.

Consider inspecting the roof of your barn too, and this is definitely a good time to clear leaves and debris out of your gutters.

Check your first aid kit, both human and equine, and replenish any supplies that have gotten low. Replace expired medicines.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Flickr 6 years ago

      Very interesting and good tips and reminders.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)