Well, we are at the end of January now and the evenings are starting to get longer. We have been lucky and the weather here in the United Kingdom has been fairly kind. We are expecting some snow, but hopefully, it will not be here for long.
When you are thinking of going out and about with your horse, you really need to make sure that he or she has been working and has some fitness otherwise you can cause some problems like a damaged tendon or sprained ligament, or simply a gall or pulled muscle. We need to think about their bodies and how they work can like us they need to slowly work towards the job you would like them to do.
But, before we get going on how to get your horse fit, you need to think of the things that need checking and sorted so that your horse can get going and work to his or her fullest. If your horse has been off work for over a month and out in the field, you need to give them a thorough check over.
It might be a good idea to bring him in for a little while and get him used to being away from the herd, or if you know a horse is difficult by himself bring two horses in together and it will make the work easier. You can slowly separate them over a period of time and get them used to coming into a stable alone if your routine demands it.
Once you bring the horse in you can check him over for any lumps and bumps. Also, check the condition of his shoes and if possible, get the farrier out and sort out a set of shoes that would be an idea for the work he is going to start to do. Some horses have their hind shoes taken off when they are resting, and some have the whole set off. So, a visit from the farrier is a must once you start on road work.
WITS is an acronym for worming, inoculations, teeth, and shoeing. These are all areas that need checking along with a good physio or chiropractor.
Worming, it is a good idea to make sure that you have wormed your horse before you start to get him fit. If he has been out 24/7, he might be changing his routine and food, so worming before you start is a good idea. It is a good idea now to get a worm check on your horse’s dung and this will help you identify the worm burden, so you are able to understand what is happening in his gut and what type of wormer you may need to use. Checking with your vet can be a good idea if you do not know what to use as there are a lot of different types of worms and you may need to use certain types of wormer at certain times of the year.
There are several different types of worming checks that can be brought at the local saddlers or you can get them from your vet.
Inoculations. It is a good idea to get your annual flu and tetanus injections done before your horse is in full work, then it will not interfere with their work. You need to get your inoculations done within the year of the last injection otherwise you have to start again.
This would mean having the first inoculation, followed by another (the second primary inoculation) 4 – 6 weeks apart and then another (the first booster) at six months. Then you have the (annual booster) at 356 days. Apart from being an extra expense, it is a good idea to give horses a day off after they injections as it is better for them not to sweat for 24 hrs after they have had their inoculation.
These inoculations are also required for most equestrian centers and race courses, and you will not be allowed on site without your horse’s passport and proof of the inoculations.
Teeth. Getting their teeth looked at is a good idea as they have been out and about eating grass for a couple of months. This will also allow you to have an even pain free contact to work with. You should get your horse’s teeth looking at between 9 and 12 months. It is a good idea to talk to your dentist when they come and check to see what they recommend for your horse. Dentists should be on the British Veterinary Dental Association (BVDA) list so that you know they know what they have been through the correct training and apprenticeship.
Shoes. Like I had mentioned above, it is a good idea to get the horse’s shoes done, Farriers take part in an extensive apprenticeship for five years, and can be found at http://www.farrier-reg.gov.uk/find-a-farrier. There is a great saying ‘No foot, no horse’, farriers are a great help in keeping your horse on the road and someone can help you when something isn’t quite right with your horse.
All the above things need checking along with your tack. A horse can change shape when they are out of work and you will need to keep an eye on the areas that the saddle and bridle sit so that you do not get any rubs. A saddler usually likes to check your horse’s saddles at least every six months.
As we have said above it is also a good idea to have a chiropractor or physio, all chiropractors and physios need to be registered with their relevant governing bodies and you need to get your vets permission to have your horses looked at.
Once you have done all of the above you can get going and start to get your horse on the road. I have written a 12-week fitness plan for an all-around horse that can be adapted for either your hunter, eventer, dressage or show jumping horse.
When thinking about what you are going to do with your horse it is a good idea to sit down and work out the different disciplines you are interested in and what you would like to do. It is good to keep your horse’s work varied as they will keep fresh in their minds and enjoy their work. For example, allowing dressage horse to ride out and also have a little jump. Grid work is good for balance and improving the power in muscles. It does depend on each horse as everyone is different. Finding a good routine for you and your horse will keep you both happy.
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