We’ve had quite the ups and downs this year so far, and I’m optimistic that spring is here or just around the corner. The horses are all very energetic and the warmer days make for more comfortable riding.
Speaking of more riding, I’m sure many of you who have taken a break from riding for the winter are eyeballing your horses and wondering how he/she will behave once saddled up again. Well, let’s take a quick look at some tips to make your first ride as safe as possible.
1) Make sure you are limbered up (a couple weeks of walking or stretching before riding again is always a good idea). And, make sure your tack is in good shape. Dry rot, pests, and other horsemen (if you share space) can sometimes make your tack unuseable after sitting dormant for a couple months. Do a good once over, and repair or replace anything questionable.
2) Vet check! Make sure your horse’s teeth haven’t developed any sharp points during the months of munching on hay by having a vet check, and posssibly float, your horse’s teeth. Young horses need their teeth floated either every six months or at least every year; as well as older horses to watch for waves and points. Middle-aged horses can usually get by with once per year. Also, get your shots, coggins, and any other vet concerns taken care of before saddling and riding.
3) Dry lot. Keeping your horse off of feed and hay for a few hours, or even overnight, is NOT cruel. In fact, if you have been somewhat sedentary for a while and were going to start an exercise program, would you want to start on a full gut? No way! So, dry lot your horse overnight if you’re going to ride in the morning, or for several hours before your workout if later in the day.
4) It also helps to tie your horse for an hour or two prior to riding, saddled or unsaddled. It gets them thinking about who is the boss and that they are meant to obey. This is not cruel, just setting the right mind-set.
5) Lunging or jipping your horse. Whether you have a young horse that needs to burn off a little excess energy or an older horse that needs its joints warmed up a bit – work your horse out before riding (or even before saddling). If they have a buck or two in them – let them get it out before you mount up. And in my experience, if a horse does hump up under saddle while jipping, I quickly bring him to a stop and send him the other way. A horse will not start something that you do not allow (with or without rider). A good rule of thumb for any number of undesireable behaviors.
6) Start small. I always advise starting out in a roundpen or small lot. Less space usually means less antics. Once your horse seems warmed up and relaxed, move into the bigger arena or pen. After a couple days of this, more or less as only you know your horse, then you can strike out for more country.
Safety should ALWAYS be your first priority. I have a silly saying – but it is really the truth if you know horses:
If you are safe and your horse is happy – you have the perfect combination. You need both, because if one is compromised – you risk a lot.
I hope its a great 2011 so far, and I look forward to seeing you here, in lessons, or on the trail. God bless!