For most of us, it's been a long, wet winter which for me has meant very limited turnout. I expect for those still able to turn out, your horses now resemble hippos! Soon spring will be upon us and the lush, sugary grass will kick in and our horses will be like children who've had too many skittles.
I decided to enlist the advice of Trendy top rider Hayley Watson-Greaves. Hayley is renowned for training her horses through the levels and she is very familiar in dealing with fresh horses. Check out how a pro deals with the trickiest season.
"Managing Sharp horses in the winter can be tricky. It's important to remember these horses will need to keep minds occupied.
Without turnout and fresh horses being clipped, it's not easy."
Carrot stretches exercises - "These are great for mobility and suppleness when horses are standing in stables for long periods of time."
Grooming - "Horses love a good brush, it’s great for their coats and blood circulation, also a great way to bond with them."
Massage - "Massaging horses is very important (you can learn a lot about how their muscles feel, you can relax the tighter muscles)"
Rope toys - "My horses have rope toys hung on their stable doors and in the stables, they play and chew them and keeps them entertained."
Hand Walking - "Get the horses out to have a hand walk, if they are fresh to hand walk take a treat in your pocket for when you need a distraction from a flying object. (Horse must not russel for the treat its there in case of emergency)"
"If your horse is a little fresh I recommend lunging or loose lunging before you get on board.
Loose lunging is lunging without a rope. If you have a good connection with your horse on the lunge, they will lunge around you without a line and listen to vocal commands like you would if you were lunging, I do this a lot with my horses through the winter it's lovely to have that bond with them.
Have someone at the gate end of the arena so that your horse stays with you in the middle and doesn’t try and get back to the yard.
Setting out poles, loose lunging/lunging or riding over poles, either on the floor or risen-up on potties. Loose jumping (if they are happy to jump)
When riding if your horse is a bit fresh don't focus too much on stretching at the start.
Make sure your horse is listening by riding them into contact and ride lots of transitions; up and down the paces and within the pace.
When your horse is more relaxed then you can then encourage stretching.
Try to make sure they have variety in their work, and also bear in mind what you are feeding them. Feed appropriately for the exercise they are doing. Speak to a nutritionist for advice.
Most of all, do the best you can and know that winter does end eventually and you will go into spring with a happy horse!