Let’s face it — a number of us are currently battling a case of winter woes. Cold weather. Snow. Ice. I’m pretty sure that many people are just sick and tired of hearing about it; I know that I am. All things considered, this is a great time of year to run through some important checks to make sure that you are ready for spring (once it decides to arrive). Even for those of you who are currently lucky enough to be south of the Mason-Dixon line, don’t stop reading; my checklist is helpful no matter what climate you live in! So what items on are my pre-spring checklist?
1. Tack and Gear: Do you usually throw your saddle back on the rack after a ride? I’ll admit it; I’m guilty of neglecting my tack on occasion. What I do swear by, though, is making sure that I give all of my tack an extra thorough annual cleaning and check-up. A complete cleaning, conditioning and oiling of my tack has helped it to stay well preserved for me after years of use. Something that is a must on my list is checking all of my tack for spots that are weak or are starting to dry rot.
Since we depend on our gear so much, and many of us don’t give a second glance when tacking up, it is oh-so important to make sure to conduct periodic checks to make sure that everything is good working order. Ensure that you check pieces that experience heavy use for weakness: reins, stirrup leathers, girths, and bridle pieces. I know that the last thing that I want is to experience a set of reins or stirrup leather snapping on me while I’m riding. Take the time to check and take care of your tack, so that it won’t let you down — literally.
2. Horse Trailer (and Tow Vehicle): Trailer maintenance is important! When we load up our horse and rack up miles out on the road, basic safety checks can be overlooked. Make sure that you check our trailer over thoroughly by asking some of the following questions: Are the tires properly inflated, and is there any dry rotting or cracking in the sidewalls? Is all of the hardware in good working order — window pin cups, tie rings, etc? Are the trailer ties in good condition? Is the floor under the mats sturdy, or is there any rotting? Is the electronic braking system functioning as it should be?
A good idea is to have your trailer inspected annually, at a dealership or garage, by professionals. Someone with a knowledgeable eye might catch a safety issue that you have overlooked. Also important is making sure that your truck or tow vehicle is well maintained. Make sure that your tires are in good condition and adequately inflated, that your hitch is in good shape, and that you are conducting regular maintenance (such as oil changes).
3. First Aid Kit: If you’re lucky, maybe you haven’t had to look in your medical supply kit recently. Many folks have supplies to tend to the run of the mill bumps, scrapes and bites that are pretty commonly seen. However, it is also important to be prepared for other common injuries and illnesses as well. Do yourself a favor and pull out your first aid kit, and start out by checking expiration dates — go ahead and toss any expired items, or crusty looking old bottles of unknown origin. Next, try making a list of items that you need to replace … and do so while you don’t need them! Here’s a preview of what my personal first aid kit contains:
- Thermometer (normal range is 99-101 degrees)
- Gauze pads
- Banamine or Naquasone
- 4 (pre-wrapped) polo wraps
- Poultice pads (legs wraps and for the hoof)
- Sterile eye flush solution
- Hoof pick
- Thrush solution
- Vet wrap
- Oral dosage syringe
4. Helmet: I can’t stress enough how obsessive I am about being safe by always, always, always wearing a helmet while riding. Riders4Helmets, an organization whose goal is to educate equestrians about helmet safety and encourage proper helmet usage, recommends replacing your helmet every five years or so. Use your annual equine check-up as an opportunity to check the date of manufacture on your helmet. If it is over five years of age, you may want to consider replacing it, per the recommendation of Riders4Helmets!
Do you have your own annual checklist to run through? What items do you think are missing from my list?
Go Being Ready for Anything. Go Spring. Go Eventing.