Is it really here? Hold on, let’s check—the crocuses and daffodils are up, we’ve turned the clocks ahead and I’ve seen robins searching for worms. It must be true—spring has arrived! Aside from rejoicing at the thought of longer days and warmer weather, spring is a busy time of year, especially if you haven’t been training through the winter. Let’s whip you and your horse into shape—it’s time to start spring training.
Doctor, doctor tell me the news
Determining the amount of spring prep needed depends on the age of your horse, whether or not they were ridden or turned out over the winter and their post-winter weight. If your horse is getting up in years and has been off for the winter, it’s a good idea to book a vet check-up. Make sure vaccines are up-to-date and that worming is done.
With spring comes nasty bugs so protect your horse against them with the proper medications, and get fly sheets, spray and masks ready for when the time comes. Your vet may also have suggestions for how to adjust your feeding regimen for the warmer, more active months ahead.
Spring is also a great time to pamper your horse a little bit. Judges don’t want to see a dull, dusty, hairy mess in the show ring. Consider giving him a bath or a clip before you head out to the first show. Condition his mane and tail until shiny. Also give his whiskers and fetlocks a good trim. If your horse decided to rub the dock of his tail due to dry skin over the winter, keep conditioning and brushing to make it look neat again and to prevent further dry skin.
Around the barn, there is plenty of work to be done as well. To start it’s a good idea to clean and pack away blankets to save space. Cleaning them now will save you time and keep them ready to use as soon as the cold weather returns come fall.
Tack should be oiled and cleaned as well. Leather tends to dry out in cold winter weather, so polishing it will keep it soft, safe and comfortable for you and your horse. Oiled tack looks better to the judges too.
Get that show bod back
Horses who haven’t worked over the winter will be very fresh during their first few rides, especially if you take them outside and the weather is still a bit cold. Lunging can be a good idea to let them run out some of the freshness so they don’t buck and play with you on board.
Start off slow and build up. Don’t head out to a 3 ft. course of jumps if you haven’t ridden since December. Take a quiet walk, then do a few laps at the trot and canter. Your horse’s stiff legs will thank you for letting them warm up slowly. Thirty minutes of flat work a few times a week should do the trick. Small circles and poles on the ground will help to strengthen your horse’s muscles and get him in shape for the jumps. Other great schooling exercises are figure eights and serpentines.
This goes for you too
Lose your stirrups and practice that two-point! You are most likely out of shape as well! Once you can do an hour or so on the flat without either of you breaking a sweat, start to hit the jumps.
If you notice that your mount is sweating quite a bit during these first few rides, slow it down. He could be very out of shape and you don’t want to risk an injury that could keep him out of the show ring for the whole season.
You don’t want to be the laughing stock of the class the first time out. Make sure to tune up those lead changes, half halts and other maneuvers that can get rusty without practice. Also, make sure you aren’t setting yourself up for failure by entering a very challenging class right off the bat. Most likely you both need a warm up after a few months off.
It has probably been a while since your horse has been in the ring with a lot of other horses. School them at home a few times with plenty of other horses. This will prevent a stressful situation from happening in the show ring. The same goes for jumping a course – the first time your mount has been over a course should be in the practice ring!
Remember to have fun! If you are too serious it takes all the joy out of competing. To prevent lengthy spring training, GET A CLEARSPAN INDOOR ARENA AND RIDE ALL YEAR ROUND!!
Spring is a very busy time for a lot of people. What is the first thing you like to do before you get back in the saddle again?