Preparing your Horses for Spring

Getting Your Horses Back in Shape by #TeamDiO Member Suzanna Hill

Spring will be here before we know it and I am very happy about that!! With the warmer weather comes the start of the busy rodeo season for us (southeastern circuit). Aside from it being the best time of year to get your horses in great shape, I also think this is a good time to sit down and inspect your tack and give it a good cleaning and conditioning so it's ready to go for the next several months of hard use. Some main things to check would be your headstall, tie down, stirrup leathers, girth straps and the little leather strings that attach them as anything leather can crack and break. And here's a little tip, I have learned that a nylon girth strap is easier to use/tighten in wet weather. I have had problems with my leather girth strap not getting tight or "skidding" when it's wet, and that's not good when you are about to head down the alley way! Another good idea is to tighten conchos, I can't tell you how many I have lost until I learned to check! Now back to the horse side of this blog! I have seen too many people who don't ride all winter and then on the first warm weekend, they bust out at the barrel race with their horse that is barely in shape enough to trot the pattern and they enter BOTH the open and the youth...y'all, that is just asking for a horrible injury to happen to your horse, one that could end his career or worse. If your horse has really become overweight with his winter break, start off with ponying it a couple weeks before you start riding because that added weight is added force hitting the ground as they move and that means more force on the joints with every step so it would help to keep yourself and a saddle off him as that is even more weight. DiO is what you want to have for those joints when bringing a horse back from a break, it's so easy to get sore after doing nothing for awhile! Ankles, hocks, stifles, hips, shoulders, back...even feet, there is not a single place that DiO won't help. Here's one of my favorite things to do, I love hill work, I think that can really help you set your horse up for a strong come back and improve his longevity in the long run. I do lots of trotting up hill and then WALK down the hill in almost a zigzag motion. I don't think trotting down hill is good, that would also be extra added forward force on the front end as you would be sloped down. When starting off with hills, do only 1 pass or a small hill, work up to that as it takes a lot of work from your horse. Even if your horse is in shape, it will help them get the extra edge. After hills, I like to apply DiO down the back hamstrings as they do a lot of pushing with each step to get up the hill. People always ask how/what is good shape? Your horses should show good muscle tone and the muscles should be more firm than soft. Also, when working them, they will tell you a lot with just their breathing. You want to get them to a sweat, not soaking wet lathered up, but you want to see results that show you they went the extra step and got a little more fit that day! A good wide nostril intake is what you are looking for, not the whole body jolting up and down with them trying to catch their air, the lungs are just as important to build as the body is. I hope this little bit of info serves someone well and helps them with the decisions they make when bringing a horse back to work! I want everyone to do the best they can in every situation!

Until next time, good luck!!!

Suzanna Hill - Accomplishments:

RFD-TV The American Qualifier- 2017 WPRA/PRCA Southeastern Circuit Champion Barrel Racer- Multiple Pro Rodeo Winner- 2016 PCFR Qualifier *Fast Time*- 2015 PCFR Qualifier *Average Champion*

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