Spring-Foot­ing Tips

Trail Rider - - SEASONAL GUIDE -

This spring, you and your horse may be the first to trudge through ne­glected trails. Sur­faces that ap­pear hard and dry may mask grip­ping, sticky mud. New grass may not have deep roots to keep ground in place under the weight of your horse. His feet may sink in, caus­ing him to slide and spook. Worse, he could lose a shoe, pull a mus­cle, or fall in the suck­ing ground.

To be safe, hike your pri­vate trails on foot to check the foot­ing and to look for any un­safe places. With per­mis­sion, clip back new branches or small limbs that have fallen across the trail. This spring, keep in mind that your horse may not be in top trail shape as soon as the weather warms. First, con­di­tion him in an arena with good, safe foot­ing.

If you ride on pub­lic trails, check with your lo­cal park au­thor­i­ties or rid­ing club to find out which trails have been cleared and groomed for the sea­son.

Be­fore you set out for a long trail ride, make sure your horse is strong and well­con­di­tioned so he can eas­ily re­gain his bal­ance after mi­nor slips. Work with him in an en­closed arena with good foot­ing. He’ll gain mus­cle tone within a few rid­ing ses­sions, and you’ll gain con­fi­dence know­ing your horse will be bet­ter able to han­dle spring­time foot­ing con­di­tions. — Bon­nie Davis, of Pleasan­ton, Cal­i­for­nia, is The Trail Rider’s con­sult­ing ed­i­tor. An in­ter­na­tion­ally pub­lished equine jour­nal­ist, she gives pre­sen­ta­tions, lec­tures, and work­shops on trail rid­ing, horse camp­ing, and gen­tle-use trail management.

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