Are you ready to get out of the house and go ride? As the temperatures rise and we desire to go on a long ride with our horse, there are few things we should do first....
Always check your horse's weight coming out of winter. Blankets and long haired coats can easily hide weight loss. A good rule of thumb is the ability to feel, but not see your horse's ribs, so check your horse carefully. If you haven't had the farrier, dentist or chiropractor out to see your horse since last fall now is a good time for overall general health checkups. This will ensure your horse is ready for riding season. You also want to be sure you check the fit of your saddle. Weight loss and uneven muscle tone can cause your once perfect fitting saddle to no longer fit so perfectly. In some cases padding will alleviate the problem, but if the saddle is too small nothing will fix that problem other than a new wider/larger fitting saddle. Work with a professional saddle fitter in your area so your horse is ready to ride pain free.
Just like our horses, rider health is important too. If you have a sore back, or joint pain now is the time to get some help before spending long hours in the saddle. Getting your own personal health checkup, visit your massage therapist or chiropractor to ensure you are healthy to start riding will go a long way to prevent injury once riding season begins.
Most horses are off during the winter months. During that time they have lost muscle tone and fitness. Before you head out for a two or four hour ride, help your horse get in shape to prevent injury. It's better to start slow and steady then go run for the roses and injure your horse where she will be out of commission for six weeks or more. Develop a program to get your horse in shape. You can start with hand walking down the road. Start with ten minutes, then after several days increase to 20 minutes and build up your riding time over a four to six week program. Always start slow, then build in speed. You can alternate with slow, speed, slow. Watch your horse, listen and look for signs of fatigue and stress. You don't want to overdo too quickly. The goal is to meet the "edge" where beyond the edge causes injury and too little is not enough. Now is also a great time brush up on your groundwork skills together.
We riders need to get in shape for riding season too. Riding is not a passive sport as we all know. It takes core strength and muscle building. Some non-horse related exercise programs that will help you get and stay fit for riding are Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, just to name a few. These programs work on building your core strength, balance, and overall cardio health. Even doing one class once a week will help improve your fitness and keep you fit. You can also get a balance ball and balance on it while watching TV. Walking is another great way to get into shape. Twenty minutes is a day is all you need. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalators. Getting up and moving around will help keep your body and joints fit for riding. Just like your horse, start slow and build up your ride time. Watch your own body for signs of fatigue and do not push beyond your edge. You don't want to injure yourself before riding season hits.
Photo Credit: Louise Page
Kim Baker is a respected equine specialist, standing out in her field because she works with the whole horse (mind, body, & spirit) as an individual, developing customized solutions for horse and rider. Kim offers clinics, workshops and retreats in foundation training, trail training, problem solving, energy healing and more. www.kbnaturalhorsemanship.com