Spring = Grass, Flowers, Sun and... Mud!

  Happy spring everyone!

  Depending on where you live, it could feel like spring is here to stay whereas for other places it feels like it won't be here for a while. Where I live, the snow is just starting to melt and we are starting to see the grass. The sidewalks are starting to be flooded with water as it travels to the drains and the ground isn't able to hold up under our feet.

  For horse people, they can have a love-hate relationship with spring. Spring means that the show season is fast approaching (or has already started), but it also means that the horses will be shedding. It means that the warmer days are coming where you can bathe your horses, but it means that your clean horses may roll in the mud.

  When spring comes around, mud can become a big problem around the stable. Horses are more prone to mud fever and to losing their shoes if the mud is deep enough. Depending on your situation, there are different things you can do.

  If you own the property that your horses are living on, making sure that the ground drains well will be a big help. It'll allow you to deal with the problem at its source. If the ground is slightly angled towards a draining system or if it is composed of materials that drain better than others, you'll be ahead of the game. Adding a few inches of crushed gravel can help with draining the extra water. The water will fall through the gravel where the soil is and will give the soil more time to absorb the water before it will be noticed on the gravel's surface.

  If you don't own the property or if you don't feel comfortable suggesting to the owner to improve their footing, there are still a few things you can do to deal with the mud.

  Keep your horse clean. It sounds simple, but it's true. If you make sure that your horse is properly groomed, it will make a big difference. Make sure to focus your attention on your horse's belly as well as his legs (especially around the pastern). Your horse will also be standing is more damp conditions than normal so be sure to clean their hooves well to prevent infections.

  Mud fever is "a painful skin inflammation caused by a nasty microorganism that thrives on damp horse coats" so making sure that your horses are dry is important as well. Keeping your horse's coat short will also prevent a large buildup of mud from gathering on your horse. If you would like to know more about mud fever and how to manage your horse's health in muddy conditions, you can click here.

  Also, mud is not good for your leather equipment. Make sure that you clean your boots and tack after using them. The mud will dry out your leather and make it crack more easily than if they were clean because the mud will soak up all of the oils in the leather. So make sure to protect, clean and condition your boots and tack to prevent that from happening.

  You might also want to always have a pair of rubber boots handy. That way, you can use those to go get your horse out of a muddy field and not have to worry about destroying them. They are made for wet and muddy conditions. Once you are done with them, all you have to do is rinse them off with a hose.

  I hope you are all enjoying the early days of spring and that the mud around your stable won't be such a big problem this year. Thank you for reading Pure Horse Sense and have a good weekend.

  Until next time, happy riding!

'Round and 'Round

  This time of year, our horses seem to be the most fresh. They haven't been worked as much through the winter so they are always excited to get back to work. For many of us, lunging our horses may be needed to help get rid of some of that excess energy.

  It seems though that some of us have difficulty with lunging effectively. So if you are one of those people or you would like to just refresh your mind, keep reading.

  Lunging is a great way to drain some of your horse's energy, to give him exercise, to teach him how to bend on a circle, to check his soundness or even to improve your communication with him. 

  Here is a list of the things you will need in order to lunge:

  • A halter or bridle

  • A lunge line

  • A pair of gloves

  Here is a list of the things many riders may want to use while lunging:

  • A lunge whip

  • A surcingle or saddle

  • Side reins

  • Polos or boots

  Here is a list of things you want to avoid while lunging:

  • Wearing spurs on your feet

  • The reins on your horse's bridle are not tied up and are moving all over the place

  • The stirrups on your saddle are not secured and are knocking against your horse's belly

  • The lunge line is dragging on the floor

  • The lunge line is wrapped around your hand

  • You are walking around with your horse instead of being in the centre of the circle

  Now that we have gotten all of that our of the way, you can now learn the basics of lunging. First you must understand how to control your horse without being next to him. 

  Horses work through pressure and release. Pressure can come from the way you speak or the way you move. 

  Horses also have what is called a drive line. This drive line can be found around the shoulder of your horse. If you increase the pressure behind the shoulder, your horse will increase his speed. If you increase the pressure in front of the shoulder, your horse will decrease his speed. When you keep yourself in line with the shoulder and you are not putting any pressure on your horse, he will stay at the same speed. This is why we make a triangle with ourselves. That way, it is much easier for us to give clear direction with our horses about what we want them to do.

  Please be careful about how much pressure you use on your horse. Some horses are more sensitive than others and they will give you a bigger reaction. Make sure to not always put pressure on your horse either. Horses learn through release. So, if you keep putting pressure on your horse and he never gets release, he will learn to ignore that pressure which in turn means that you need to put more on him in order to get a reaction.

  When you are lunging your horse, make sure that you are not travelling with him. Keep yourself in line with his shoulder and take little steps as you follow him around. If you start to see a slack in your lunge line, that is a sign that either you are moving towards your horse or he is moving towards you. Try to correct this as quickly as possible. If you do have problems with travelling with your horse, try lunging in a round pen. That way, you will be encouraged to stay in the centre of the ring. 

  When you have decided to stop or to change directions, release the pressure behind his shoulder and start walking towards the outer edge of the circle to cut him off his path. You shouldn't have to walk too far before he starts to stop. Once you have moved yourself in front of his drive line, you are already putting pressure on him to slow down.

  I hope that this blog post on lunging was helpful to all of you. As I have talked about pressure and release quite a bit in this post, I will be writing next week's post about it and how we can use it to our advantage. I think it's really important that we all understand the concept of pressure and release as it is the way horses communicate to each other and how we should be communicating with them. With that said, that may mean that there will be more than one post on pressure and release in the future.

  I hope you are all having a great day and are enjoying your weekend. Until next week, I wish you all the best with your horses and that you don't get too dizzy while you are lunging them. Take it a little bit at a time and have fun.

Wrap Me Up!

  Two week's ago, I wrote about our horses shedding as we are getting very close to that time of year once again. To stay on the theme of spring, this week's post is going to be about blankets.

  For most of us, the winter blankets should be put away and the other blankets are taken out. There are so many blankets to choose from and sometimes it is hard to know which ones we should be using. Hopefully, the information I will give you below will help you decide a little easier.

-Coolers-

  Coolers are helpful when you want to cool down your horse after a good ride. Since it is still a little chilly outside, you want your horse to cool down without freezing and getting sick because he was sweating. That's why you would put a cooler on your horse after your ride. A cooler allows air to circulate under the blanket to cool your horse down without him getting cold. All you need to do to use a cooler properly is to take off your horse's tack, put on the cooler and walk him around. Once his breathing has come back down to normal and his body temperature is the same throughout his body, take off the cooler and brush him down.

-Fly Sheets-

  A fly sheet does pretty much what its name implies; it helps keep flies off of your horse. Sometimes a horse can be very sensitive to flies, especially if they have a cut. A fly sheet allows you to minimise the amount of flies that land on your horse. That way, he can still go out into the paddock or stand in a stall without always having to fuss with those irritating bugs. 

-Waterproof Turnout Blankets-

  This is another obvious one. A waterproof turnout blanket allows you to let your horse out in a paddock while it is raining. (It's really just a rain jacket for horses!) It will keep your horse dry while still enjoying the outdoors. It also gives him a little extra protection from problems like rain rot.

-Stable Blankets-

  A stable blanket is really made for the horses who are off to a competition early the next morning. The blanket allows the horse to stay clean all night so that there is less things to worry about the next morning. (To keep the legs clean throughout the night, they will usually put on stable bandages and then change them to shipping bandages before they load the horse into the trailer too.) Stable blankets are typically more padded than most blankets and should really only be used for overnight purposes as your horse can get too hot if he has it on all day.

  I hope you now know more about the different types of blankets and what they are used for. Remember to only use them for their purposes and nothing more. The really isn't a reason to be putting on a blanket on your horse if it is sunny outside unless there are a lot of flies or you just finished a good workout. 

  I also have heard about people putting on waterproof turnout blankets on their horses in the morning. But by the afternoon, it wasn't raining any more and the horses still had their blankets on. When the owners came back in the evening, they found out that their horses were hot all day because of the blankets and were too tired to be ridden. If you are not able to be around your horse all day, try to make arrangements with the stable's staff to take off or put on a blanket on your horse when it is needed. That way your horse will always be comfortable.

  Thank you for reading my blog. I apologise for the post being a little bit longer than the usual ones. Hopefully this information was useful to you. I wish you all a great rest of the weekend. Another blog post will be up next week as usual and a few more "Equine News" posts as well. Take care!

Spring is in the Air

  We have now welcomed March with open arms. Glad that the worst of winter is behind us and that spring is just around the corner. But with spring means rain, warmer weather and... shedding. This is the time of year where our horses transform from our fluffy equine teddy bears to our beautiful horses with their shiny coats. Now to get from point A to point B, it takes a bit of time. Their hair sticks to everything and it seems like they haven't shed of a single hair the next day we see them. So be patient, all the heavy winter hair will disappear soon enough.

  So what can we do to help our horse shed off his winter coat? Well, spending some extra time grooming is a great idea. Take out that curry comb and the shedding blade and get to work. Sure you may end up looking like Bigfoot, but your horse will be thankful.

  I don't understand why people will decide to use clippers to get rid of their horse's winter coat. Sure it's a lot less messy and you will get done a lot faster, but it will affect your horse a lot more than you realise. How would you like it if you were wearing your big winter coat outside all winter and when it starts to get a little warmer, you decide go out the next day wearing a tee shirt? It would be such a dramatic difference and you would be cold. Even though it's too hot to wear a winter coat, it's not hot enough to wear just a tee shirt. Instead, you have to wear a lighter jacket or a sweater and wait for the weather to warm up a little bit more. So why would you do that to your horse?

  When you clip all of this winter coat off in one shot, it's as if you are making him wear that tee shirt. It's going too much of a shock for him and chances are he might get sick or grow his coat in again. So what's the point? In my opinion, the "quick and easy" method never works with horses. It's the "slow and steady" method that works the best.

  It's also a good idea to let him out in a paddock. That way he can rub himself on something like a tree to get rid of that thick coat. He may also decide to roll, leaving a big carpet of fur on the ground. Now don't get upset if he does roll, he's just helping you out. And besides, you're going be be spending some time brushing him anyway. So what's the big deal?

  Take the time to shed off that winter coat a little at a time. It will also give you the time to bond and grow your relationship a little more. Soon enough your happy and healthy horse won't have a winter coat any more and all your hard work will have paid off.

  I hope that you are lucky enough to have beautiful warm weather where you live. Right now all I can see is snow out from my window, but I'm happy to say that it is melting. Hopefully, we will all be seeing images like the one above around us really soon.