I don’t know about the weather where you are, but it’s finally Spring here! And with warm weather come riding more, or possibly even riding for the first time since before winter for many. As a college student who lives 4 hours away from her horse, I’ve learned that you have to take things slow when riding for the first time in a while, especially if it has been a long while. Here are some of the things I do after a few months between rides.
The first thing to remember is that, if you haven’t been around your horse at all, everything from getting your horse is going to be like new again in most cases. Make sure you are paying attention to your horse, but don’t overreact. The first day you go out make sure you have a lot of time to spare to make things go smoothly. When grooming take your time and maybe even do a more thorough job than is needed, just to give your horse that little extra time to relax and get back in the swing of things.
The most important thing to remember is do not just hop on. My mare taught me the very first time that just getting on is not okay. Even though we had been in that arena for years and never had any problems, she was spooking at just about everything because it had all become unfamiliar again. The first thing I do, as long as no one else is in the arena, is free lunge her. That way she can go everywhere in the arena, buck and run if she feels the need, and I’m safe. If someone else is there I lunge her on BOTH ends of the arena and then hand walk her around the whole thing both ways. If she is still nervous I will then proceed to do more ground work, such as working and showmanship or line driving, until she is relaxed. Only once she is relaxed and listening to me will I then get on.
Now that your riding you still need to take it easy, today just work on the basics. Working on the basics is good as a refresher and its familiar and easy. If you try doing new things right away your not going to get far.
Remember to not ride to long that day, no more than an hour, and to end on a good note. The next day you shouldn’t need to do a lot of the ground work first, but if your horse is looking distressed then go ahead and repeat day one until your horse is back in the swing of things. I suggest not starting anything new for at least a week, just take it easy and go at your horses pace.
Going off of the last tip, after you have spent the money to get that good quality equipment the key to making it last is cleaning it regularly. As someone who owned only a synthetic western saddle for several years, I must admit to not following this tip until the last year or so. My saddle didn’t need the maintenance of a leather saddle, and as I was just riding as a hobby I never bothered cleaning any of my tack or other equipment. I’m forever astounded that my bridle lasted without once having been cleaned or oiled.
To start off with if you have a leather saddle, hopefully you do that synthetic one was awful for many reasons, you need to clean it with saddle soap regularly and oil it as necessary. Normally only once or twice a year but if it has been neglected I would do it after every time you clean it for a while. This applies to your bridle and reins as well.
Properly cleaning your leather equipment is definitely the most important as it can dry out and crack or even break off, and trust me it’s not fun when your stirrup leather falls off while you’re riding, you also have to remember to clean the rest of you equipment as well. Another important thing to make sure is clean is your saddle pad. Your pad goes through a lot of sweat, dirt and hair. It is important to get that off every so often because not only is it uncomfortable for your horse, it could cause some real problems. The way I clean my pads is to take the garden hose to them and rinse them till the water runs clean. I also know of some people who take their pads to the car wash to use the power hose. I also suggest taking your curry comb to your pad in-between washes, especially during shedding season.
Don’t forget about the little things to. If you use polo wraps or other cloth leg protection you can wash those in a washing machine, or if they are neoprene rinse and wash by hand. Do your bit as well, especially if you use the same bit for more than one horse.
As someone who has recently bought a lot of horse equipment, I have come to realize how important it is to buy good quality items the first time around. From cheap splint boots that had to be replaced a few months later, to clippers that just barely accomplished anything, I have found out the hard way that when it comes to horse equipment you really need to know what you’re buying. So here are some tips for buying horse equipment for the first time.
Check out what other people have. See what is working and what isn’t. Ask what they like and what they don’t. You might find out some things about what you were considering to buy that might surprise you.
And going off of asking others advice, see if you can get someone who has worked with horses for a long time to go shopping with you. I really wish I could have done that, it would have saved me some money.
If you have no one to ask do some research online on what the professionals in your discipline use. It will probably be expensive but well worth it. And if you can’t afford exactly what they use, at least you will have a better idea of what to look for in the cheaper products.
And most importantly if you cant afford a good item right now, WAIT! Save up you’re money and buy a better quality item later. It will save you money, time, and be better for your horse.
To the avid showgoer, bathing your horse is a must and a no-brainer. But to the everyday owners who have horses for leisure, bathing might not seem so important. It never used to to me. But after going to Findlay I have come to see just how important it is. Bathing isn’t just to make the horse look nice for a show. Do you just bathe when going to a big event? Hopefully not. This is not to say horses need washed everyday, but they still would enjoy it about once a week.
Of course there are plenty of things to consider. Are wash stalls available where your horse is? Has your horse worked up a sweat? Or is he just a pasture buddy? You also have to take into account what time of the year it is. Your horse probably wont need to be washed as much in the winter. Maybe not at all if you don’t really work him hard or have a warm place to dry him off.
Before I never bathed my mare, even after she worked up a sweat. I would just cool her off, brush her down and put her back into the pasture. I thought nothing of it, but one of my instructors put it to me this way. If you had worked up a sweat like your horse had, wouldn’t you like a bath?
Now if you work you horse everyday during the summer, you don’t need to give them a complete bath every time. But at least rinse that sweat off everyday. You horse will feel much better, and look better too.
I have seen an abundance of people, many of which who should know better, that lead their horse around as if it is their dog. The horse will be trailing behind them at the end of the line, and many times the person is tugging at them to make them go faster. I also see this happen when leading a horse somewhere it does not wish to go where the handler just tugs at the end of the line as if playing tug of war. Both situations are dangerous for you, your horse, and for anyone around you, not to mention time consuming.
So here is the tip – stand next to your horse. It funny how simple a solution it is, but it really works.
If you are leading a horse from five feet ahead, it does not feel the need to catch up and in most cases will actually slow down. Instead walk beside you horse. He will follow more willingly and it is much safer. Because what if he spooks from five feet behind you? Most likely he will either run you over or get away from you. Not to mention the added benefit of having a horse that leads well almost always rides better too.
When it comes to a horse that doesn’t want to go forward and has planted itself there you are taking on much more risk by playing tug of war. Chances are that horse stopped because it is unsure of something it is coming toward. By adding that pressure by pulling on his head you will only succeed in scaring him more. Instead if you horse freezes up merely walk back beside him and ask him to move forward again. It might take a few tries, but it will always be faster, safer, and give you a calmer horse.