From Cherry Hill’s Horsekeeping Almanac
Shedding horses, green grass, the return of the meadowlarks . . . spring is here! When I go to bed each night, I am often rehearsing all the things I want to do the next day as I slip into dreamland, and when my feet hit the floor every morning, they are in high gear. This is the beginning of a new horse season and it can’t start too early for me.
Mother Nature, however, can bring some interesting events to the mix. We usually have our deepest and wettest snowstorms during March, April, and even May. So although I am revved, I always need a backup plan in place if the weather makes it unsafe or impossible to train or ride.
The horses are all brought in from winter pastures in March, if not before, to allow the land to rest and the plants to grow. Each horse has his own separate sheltered pen. I bring the horses back into work one at a time, starting with a grooming program. I might vigorously groom a horse daily to remove as much of the shedding hair as possible, or in some cases, I might bathe a horse in early March and give him a body clip. (See more about body clips in December.) Until a horse is 95 percent shed out, I usually don’t put a sheet on him. Then I either give him a turnout sheet or a fly sheet, depending on the weather, to protect his coat.
The horses are still on a 100 percent hay ration, but I cut back a bit to help them start to lose their winter fat and hay belly if they have one. Because they are in pens, they require exercise, so I review in-hand and longeing to get them back into work mode.
I pay attention to each horse’s specific needs for conditioning and adjust rations as needed.
Horses in training are kept shod, and even some that are not in training are kept shod to protect their hooves from our abrasive Rocky Mountain terrain. It is great having a resident farrier!
This time of year, the horses are fed three times per day, at 6:00 a.m., noon, and 7:00 p.m. The seniors are still getting their beet pulp and supplements, and the rest of the horses receive beet pulp with additives as their level of work dictates.
Spring makes us all feel great. I’m spending lots of time outdoors. I always wear a broad-brimmed hat, bandanna around my neck, gloves, and long-sleeved shirt. This is mainly to protect my eyes and skin from sun damage. I often find that from this time of year through fall, I get plenty of varied exercise from chores, grooming, training, riding, mowing, and facilities maintenance tasks, so the indoor exercise equipment gets a little dusty over the summer. The early mornings and late afternoons can still be a bit chilly, so mainly for my horse’s sake, I try to do vigorous training and riding either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, giving them plenty of time to cool out thoroughly before chilly evening temperatures.
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