The grass is growing, the weather has been getting warmer (although as I publish this on the last day of March, I’m watching snow fall outside…) and the competition season is lurching into full swing even though it feels like we have only just escaped the dark nights and muddy fields of winter. Here are four tasks to do this month to prepare for the summer season.
Spruce up your paddocks
Particularly if your field has been in use over winter, it more than likely needs a bit of attention to ensure you get the most from your grazing over the summer months.
Jonathon Cox, managing director of Suregrow Fertilizer Ltd, says: “It’s time to harrow. Harrowing basically combs the paddock, helping to level hoof divots and mole hills as well as pulling out dead grass and aerating the ground to increase new growth.
“It is best to start weed control early, spray and chop them. Follow this up with a suitable fertiliser to thicken the sward of grass and help stop the weeds coming back.”
Dig out the weigh-tape
Equines naturally lose weight over winter, before regaining it come the spring, but modern-day care regimes often mean horses maintain their weight all year-round, so it’s important to check your horse’s weight before the spring grass really takes hold. Weight can be monitored using weigh tapes, weigh bridges or body condition scoring.
Emmeline Hannelly, welfare education manager at the British Horse Society explains: “Overweight and obese horses are worryingly becoming the norm. Horses carrying too much fat are at an increased risk of detrimental health issues such as equine metabolic syndrome and laminitis.
“Both conditions can be difficult to manage so prevention is key to help safeguard your horse’s welfare. Monitoring your horse’s weight and getting hands-on to fat score at least every two weeks can help identify any weight increase and ensure appropriate action is promptly taken to review the horse’s diet, management and exercise. When we see our horse’s daily, subtle changes can often be missed so taking photos regularly can be a big help”.
Formulate a fitness plan — then stick to it
It’s sometimes hard to find the time, or daylight hours, to ride as much as we’d like to over winter, but now’s the time to get your horses fit so you can make the most of the summer.
Create a fitness plan to gradually build up your and your horse’s fitness levels, keeping in mind your goals for the summer. Find out how to formulate a fitness plan here.
Join a riding club
A riding club can be a great source of horsey friends, clinics, shows and motivation. Emily Clemett, who is a member of Solihull Riding Club, explained: “Spring is a great time to join a club as the outdoor competition season is just beginning and there’s lots going on to prepare. There’s lots of training and teams to be a part of at various levels in a variety of disciplines so there’s something for everyone.
“So far I’ve competed for the show-jumping and combined training teams, next up is eventing! It’s been a great way to meet new people and I’ve had fantastic training through the club which has improved my riding massively. There are lots of championships so clubs give you something to aim for, I’d really recommend joining your local club to kick start the season!”
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