By Amanda Berry, Head of Equine Operations
Spring is in the air, long hazy days are on their way and it’s time to think about the coming season. Now is the time to give your tack a thorough overall and ensure that it is free from wear and tear. Check for any potential weak spots and give your leather work a good oiling before the riding season begins.
If your equine has been on a winter break, think about your workload and commence your fitness programme slowly to ensure that your horse has a safe transition back into work. Introduce exercise slowly and take into account your horse’s weight, age, health and soundness. Gradually getting your horse fit is key to keeping him sound. Pop him on the lunge and begin some groundwork before jumping straight back on board. It doesn’t matter how fit your horse was before having a lay-off, if your horse has had up to three months of down time, his fitness level will have fundamentally gone. Ensure that you do plenty of walking and hacking initially to build up his muscle and strength, before asking for more.
Preparing for Turnout
Hopefully the ground has started to dry out and you can think about getting those paddocks ship shape. Harrowing can help with the removal of dead grass and vegetation allowing the healthy new grass to thrive. It will also help to level uneven ground before rolling.
When the ground has dried out enough to withstand the weight of the towing vehicle rolling can be performed to give a nice flat finish. This will allow the grass to knit together and form even growth. Now is the time to think about eradicating any weeds and poisonous plants; however we do recommend obtaining expert advice as specific compounds may need licensed application. Grass needs nutrients for growth and will benefit from fertilization, be sure to choose a suitable fertiliser that has a balance of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Be careful not to use too much and risk the production of too rich a pasture, which can lead to the onset of laminitis. The application of lime will help to bring back the PH balance of the soil with the added benefits of providing additional trace elements and minerals.
If you are lucky enough to share your pasture with cattle or sheep who are not selective grazers they will eat off all of the rough stuff that our fuzzy equine friends leave behind. The patter of a sheep’s cloven hoof will help to pat down the pot holes caused by a horse hoof. Cross grazing can also help immensely with controlling the amount of available grass during the summer months and prevent your equine friend from over grazing and becoming too fat.
Spring is the ideal time to check that all of your fencing is in good repair and deal with any damage, lose or broken posts. If you are intending using electric fencing then check that your transformer is still functioning, the battery may need replacing.
It may be an opportune time to think about your equine’s health and think about giving him an MOT; ensuring that your vaccinations are up to date and have his annual teeth check. Hoof care is a must and it may be worth having him newly shod in order to start that all important fitness programme. Finally ensure that you are following a strategic worming programme and chose a wormer that is effective against tapeworm.
Stock up on Products
There is a wealth of products out there for all occasions, from shampoos to fly sprays, hoof dressings to feed supplements (to aid movement, digestion, temperament) the list goes on. Now is the time to stock pile all of your show essentials. HAPPA have teamed up with Carr Day Martin and stock lots of their products in The Fussy Filly. An equine First Aid Kit is also an essential item to keep in your tack room and to travel with.
Good to Go
Fit horses are healthy horses, once your horse is in peak condition and is match fit to follow your chosen discipline, be it a happy hacker or a serious competition horse, then now is the time to enjoy your equine to the full. Horse owners benefit from light nights; having more time to commit to your four legged friend. Horses are such fun and can help with relaxation, there is nothing like coming home from a day at work and spending quality time with your best friend. The enjoyment of a nice little hack or intense schooling session is so satisfying and rewarding.
One more thing to consider now that your horse has reached its peak fitness and you are preparing to box up and get out and about. Don’t forget to give your Trailer/ Horsebox a good overall to ensure the safety of both humans and equine.
Finally, now that you are prepared and ready for an exciting action packed summer we wish you and your equine a successful and safe season. If you are up for a spot of dressage then why not join in the HAPPA Dressage League. Ideal for beginners or nervous riders, based at grassroots level. Everybody welcome, entries can be done online at www.happa.org.uk