Article Source: Pony Club News
Author: Emma Ford
Brought to you by Shapley’s Grooming Products, the Official Grooming Products Sponsor of Pony Club
It might feel like 80% of riding is horse care and only 20% is actually riding. However, the time you spend with your horses before and after riding is paramount to keep them in top-notch condition. And in the long run, all this attentive care means you’ll have more healthy time together.
Taking care of your horse before riding isn’t just about looking clean and tidy, although you should always take pride in how you present yourself to the outside world. Here is a checklist for pre-riding care.
Think about feeding time. You shouldn’t ride a horse right after he has had grain. Always plan ahead so the horse has had at least an hour to digest. If you aren’t in control of feed time, make sure you know the barn’s routine so you can either ask for your horse not to be fed, or get permission to feed him earlier.
Organize your equipment and grooming tools before you put the horse on cross-ties. Leaving the horse cross-tied for too long because you are running back and forth from the tack room is unfair to him and also to other people who may need to use the grooming area as well.
Your hands are valuable grooming tools. Run your hands all over your horse before you start brushing. This allows you to pick up on any subtle changes, cuts or irritation that might not be visible to the eye. Double-check areas such as elbows, legs and those out-of-sight places. At certain times of year, you may observe bot eggs on your horse’s legs and coat, which should be removed to prevent the horse from ingesting them; scratches and dry skin are also common due to the cycle of wet/dry conditions if your horse lives out. Taking note of these problems early can help prevent full blown infections from occurring.
If using a tail detangler, apply this first so it has time to dry before combing out the tail at the end of the grooming session.
As you pick feet, take note of how your horse’s shoes are fitting. Are clinches risen, or is the shoe slightly sprung? Are quarter or toe clips fitting correctly?
When grooming, pay attention to areas that are going to be covered by tack and boots. Using witch hazel as a final wipe down in these particular areas helps to toughen the skin as well as clean off small dirt particles, thereby reducing the risk of irritation. Check the corners of the mouth for dry skin and apply Vaseline if needed to help soften it.
Do the girth up slowly. How would you like someone cinching up your belt quickly around your stomach?
Consider leg protection carefully when dealing with any type of leg irritation. Polos are more breathable than boots, and useful for cuts needing to be kept clean or skin that is slightly irritated. Applying some form of cream protectant such as Desitin to irritated skin prior to riding can be beneficial to help soften scabs and prevent the area from getting wet.
When tacking up in hot, humid weather, apply the boots last to keep your horse’s tendons from heating up. You want to keep legs as cool as possible.
If fly spray is needed, apply liberally and brush into the coat to be most effective. Avoid the areas under tack to prevent irritations.
Once ready to ride, walk the horse to the mounting area, tighten your girth and then pull each front leg forward to help remove any girth pinching. This is also a nice stretch for the horse. To do this correctly, always support the horse’s leg and lift in an upward motion. Do not force the leg. There should be no resistance; just lift up and out toward you as you stand in front of the horse’s chest. Place the leg down gently so that it doesn’t slam back to the ground.
You’ve had a great ride and now it’s time to take care of your horse again. Post-ride care is just as important as the pre-ride care, if not more so. Your goal should be to put your horse back in his stall or field clean, happy and relaxed, with his temperature, pulse and respiration (TPR) at resting state.
If it’s been a hard workout, it is your job to bring your horse back to the barn sufficiently cooled out. You might want to get off your horse, loosen his noseband and girth and hand-walk him until his breathing is back to normal.
Once back to the barn, remove the tack and if possible, allow your horse a few minutes in his stall for a drink and bathroom break. In the winter you will need to throw on a cooler to keep the large muscle groups from getting cold too fast. This helps prevent sore and stiff muscles the following day.
Whether to cold hose, bucket wash or give a hot towel rubdown all depends on how sweaty your horse has gotten, and your personal horsekeeping situation. In the summer months, hosing your horse off daily helps to reduce internal temperature as well as remove sweat. Adding liniment to a wash after a hard workout can be beneficial for the horse’s muscles.
Be aware that daily shampooing strips a horse’s coat of its natural oils, so save the shampoo baths for shows and special occasions.
White markings—or horses—require regular touch-ups to stay sparkling. I like to use specialty products, such as whitening shampoo or dry shampoo, on a daily basis to keep grays and white areas free from stains
Always towel dry legs and heads (including the ears!) after washing. The longer the coat stays wet and warm, the quicker fungus grows to cause irritated skin. If at all possible, hand-graze your horse to dry in the sun—it’s a great healer for most skin conditions.
In colder weather I use witch hazel on a towel and rub down any sweaty areas.
Be sure to check your horse for new irritations, or knocks and cuts after being ridden.
Knowing your horse is back to resting TPR is essential. In hot weather you don’t want him heating back up, and in cold weather you don’t want to overblanket and have him get sweaty, which can then lead to getting chilled.
Ensure his veins are flat and not
“popping” when you put him in his stall, or you can take his rectal temperature as a quick and easy way to confirm he is back to normal.
After you have taken care of your horse, remember to clean up after yourself in the barn too. Put your tack and grooming tools away properly, and leave the grooming area neat and tidy. Taking good care of your horse before and after riding demonstrates your horse management skills and knowledge. It also feels good to know that you’ve left your equine partner healthy and happy, waiting for your next ride.