It was one of the snowiest and most brutal winters on records here in the Midwest. Ice, wind, snow, and then more ice.
When winter finally came to an end, it left us to deal with flooding, mud, and general cleanup. While none of these conditions are conducive to a good riding environment, it does provide an opportunity to start preparing for the spring and summer months ahead. In fact, this is the perfect time to start “Spring Cleaning” which will allow you to spend a lot more time with your horse in the later weeks ahead.
To maximize your time in the saddle in the coming months, we’ve compiled a checklist of 7 things you can do to prepare for summer riding.
1). Inspect & Clean your Leather Tack
Your safety and the safety of your horse depends largely on your tack. Check your leather products from top to bottom looking for signs of mold, excessive wear, and excessive dirt.
Reminder: Flip your saddle over and inspect it carefully, even taking it apart to ensure everything is in tip-top shape. It may look shiny and sparkly from the outside, but breakage and wear can be a hidden and dangerous surprise for both you and your horse. Doing this now will save you time and money, and perhaps even save your life.
2). Inspect & Clean your Saddle Pads
Saddle pads that are excessively dirty and worn can cause injury or painful sores for your horse. In addition, it can have a negative impact on how your saddle fits and stays in place. Dirt and dried sweat can build-up and harden, making the saddle pad slip and slide. Check with the manufacturer of your saddle pad(s) for specific cleaning instructions. If it’s beyond cleaning, consider replacing it for your safety and the well-being of your horse as you prepare for summer riding.
3). Check for Equipment for Proper Fit
Has your horse lost or gained weight during the winter months? Do the nylon/cotton halters that have been exposed to rain, sun, snow and everything in between still fit and clasp correctly? Now is the time to check to ensure these items are safe to use.
The halters we use to turn our horses out hang on a fence and are subjected to extreme heat, rain, snow, and cold temps throughout the year. They tend to not only fade but shrink as well. We end up replacing our halters every few years as a result.
Don’t forget to check your fly masks and sheets to ensure they still fit and function as well. We always use this time to run them through the washing machine and inspect for tears. If they’re ripped or no longer fasten securely, we replace them.
4). Scrub & Disinfect
We try hard to keep things clean and disinfected all year at our barn, however, when there are times that it’s -50ºF outside, the process of scrubbing buckets is delayed in lieu of warmer temperatures! When spring arrives, this is what we suggest doing:
Water buckets: Use a soft scrub brush and a little bleach and scrub the inside & outside of your water buckets. Make sure you rinse them thoroughly and let them sit in the sun until they’re dry.
Water troughs: Get a long-handled soft brush and a little bleach and scrub them, again rinsing thoroughly. Troughs are, in our experience, the toughest things to keep clean from algae and pesky and dangerous mosquito larvae. We try to scrub ours thoroughly every other week in the summer months. Keeping the mosquito & fly population down is our goal. We do whatever we can to keep our buckets and troughs filled with cool, clean water.
Feed pans & troughs: If the pans are not attached to your stalls, follow the same procedures you do with your water buckets. If they are attached, use a pail of warm soapy water and a sponge and scrub. Follow with a bucket of plain warm water and rinse thoroughly, then dry with an old towel.
Stalls: Once a year, we completely strip the bedding out and spray with a product called Tektrol. This is used by veterinary clinics and hospitals to disinfect. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to apply safely. This product does a great job of killing lurking viruses and bacteria.
5). Reduce the Risk of Allergies
Spring & summer are prime months for allergies, and I’m not just talking about our human allergies. Horses can have or develop allergies as well. Every spring, summer, and fall, we do our best to take ad old rag or towel and dust our metal stall fronts. Taking a broom and knocking down spider webs can also reduce the amount of dust in your barn and arena which is beneficial for you and your horse.
If your horse has allergies OR you suspect he/she may, consult your veterinarian for possible medications that can provide relief.
6). Complete a Horse Health Check
Spring is when our Vet comes out and does shots, worms our horses, and checks their teeth. There can be a lot of concerning equine-related viruses making their rounds and even though we are not a boarding or show facility, we make sure our horses are always up-to-date on their shots.
In addition, we have our horses’ teeth checked to make sure no dentistry work needs to be done. This is imperative as you prepare for summer riding. We also review nutrition/feed, overall horse health questions at our spring visit.
7). Finally…check your helmets and boots!
Cracked or broken helmets offer no protection and are not safe so toss them out and replace them as needed. The same philosophy applies to your boots; if they are cracked or the sole is loose, it’s time to replace them.
Reminder: Your time with your horse is just as important to him/her as it is to you. It’s hard to spend quality time with your horse if either of you is injured, so safety first!
These are just a few things you can do to get off to a safe, healthy start as you prepare for summer riding. Spending extra time doing these things now will allow you to have more time in the saddle in the months ahead. After all, that’s what this all about – more time with your horse!
Featured Photo by Oksana Kurochkina on Unsplash