Spring Care for Performance Horses
Spring and Summer are the busiest times for show and performance horses. As you head into show season, whatever your riding style, it's important to head into it with your horse, ready for any challenges ahead.
Equine dental health can heavily impact your horse's overall wellness. Each spring, it's good to have your vet out for a dental for your horse. Just like human dental visits, it’s better if they are done regularly to keep maintenance low. When horses get their teeth checked, the vet is looking for sharp edges or grooves that might be causing pain and eating problems.
Vaccines and boosters should be given at least 2-3 weeks before traveling and risking exposure to pathogens and viruses. The stress of traveling and competing can will have an impact on your horse’s immune system. Vaccines can significantly reduce the risk of contracting a severe illness. Consult your veterinarian on recommended vaccinations for your horse, especially if traveling to a new geographic area. Different areas within the United States will have different recommendations based on what is prevalent in the area.
It’s important to get your horses' hooves trimmed every 6-12 weeks. Always keep an eye out for lameness in your horse or evidence of possible abscesses. If your horse has shoes, consider a new set a week before a show to lower the risk of throwing a shoe during a class. Speak with your farrier to determine the best hoof care plan for your horse and their show schedule.
Performance horses work hard and often suffer from body aches (similar to human athletes). While sore muscles are not generally a cause for alarm, you should note any excessive soreness. If you have a more strenuous training session or along day of classes, use liniment and cold hosing to help reduce those body aches before they start.
Joint supplements, chiropractors, acupuncture, and massage are good preventative items to add to your horse’s general care routine. This will help keep your horse in top condition through the show season.
While it’s ideal to keep up on your tack maintenance throughout the year, spring cleaning doesn't just apply to your house. Your tack would also benefit from a nice leather treatment or conditioning. As you clean and condition your tack, check for broken pieces and ensure the equipment still fits your horse well. Many horses will have weight and body changes during training and will need tack fit adjusted as they develop muscle.
Create a training schedule that fits your riding ability, time availability, and competition goals for the year. If you are working with a trainer or instructor, they will have a lot of input and advice for you. It is crucial to set specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic goals. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by setting unattainable goals for yourself and your horse. Don’t forget to include rest days for both of you!