Friday, February 26, 2010

10 Ways to Ward off the Winter Blehs!

I wrote this article a few years back- now I'll share it with you!

10 Ways to Ward off Winter Blehs!

Hurrah! Winter is here. It’s cold and gray outside. Don’t be inside lamenting the time you can’t spend with your horse on the trail. Instead get going- right out to the barn and beat those winter blues. Winter is the perfect time to catch up on all those things you meant to do last spring (but didn’t get around to because you were too busy riding!)

1. Revamp your saddle.
Winter is the perfect time to really take your saddle and bridle apart and clean them thoroughly. Unbuckle all the buckles, take off the Blevins, remove the bit and curb straps and get out the soap and water. I like to keep a notepad and pencil nearby too. Then as you clean each item you can jot down notes about what needs to be fixed on each piece as well. Sometimes a quick repair can be handled by a local shoe repair shop. Of course any major repair must be done by a saddler, so you may need to have a phone book nearby too. What better time to get the fleece redone, your saddles seat re-padded or the fenders lengthened (or shortened)?

2. Cinch Check
Whether you ride Western, English or Australian, you have to have a safe cinch. Cinches are relatively inexpensive and they are all that stands between you and what could be a very bad accident. Leather or Neoprene cinches can be cleaned with saddle soap, water and leather conditioner. A mohair or ‘string’ cinch can be washed in Woolite, then hung straight to dry. Check to make sure all the strings are tight and none are broken. Especially check the ends near the rings to detect wear before it becomes a problem. Although a string cinch can last from two to five years, I like to replace mine every OTHER year.

3. Bits and Pieces
Wash your bits in warm water. Sometimes a little bit of dried hay or grass will jam up a jointed bit, making it ineffective. Take time to run your fingers along all surfaces, checking for rust or rough spots. Check the leather where the bit is attached to the bridle. Those ‘loops’ are the first place that wears, so inspect for signs of dryness, cracking, or if damp, crumbling. Make sure to check any Chicago screws, conchos or strings to make sure they are tight and will hold your bit in place on the bridle. If there are strings instead of screws make sure they are not rotten and brittle. If so, replace with a new string. Most tack stores carry small bags of leather strings and they are easy to replace.

4. Saddle Pad Party
Don’t forget the all important Saddle pad. At the very least, take your pads and blankets outside and using a hard brush or metal curry comb, remove as much dirt and hair from them as possible. A better solution is to give them a good wash. If you use a fleece pad, take it outside or to the car wash and use the hose-MINUS SOAP- to remove built up mud and grime. If it is warm outside leave the pad face up in the sunshine to dry. If not, leave the pad in a warm dry place like the garage or tack room. Pads will take a long time to dry in the winter, so don’t do them all at once. If you use a wool saddle blanket, you can wash those in a tub of Woolite, rinse well and drape over a clothes line in a warm dry place.
TIP: To really get all the moisture out of pads and blankets, use an OLD rolling pin and work it from one side to the other, squeezing the water out with lots of downward force.
While you are cleaning the pad take note if it seem flattened in the places where the saddle sits the heaviest, such as over the withers or loin area. A pad that has gone flat is of no use at all. If it has broken down get rid of it right away and go buy a new one. A broken down pad can cause fistulas and sore places over your horses back and loin. A new saddle pad is a whole lot cheaper than a vet call!

Barn aisles are great places to teach yourself a few new skills.
5. Teach yourself to braid or band your horses’ mane and tail.
6. Practice your Halter and Showmanship skills.
7. Teach your horse a few simple tricks, like bowing or answering ‘questions’ on cue.


8. Wardrobe Check.
For those that show their horses, winter is a good time to update your show wardrobe. If you can’t go to the bigger shows to see how trends have changed, buy a copy of your breeds Journal and check out the winners via their show photos or ads. Fashions change quickly, so usually the bigger shows have the hottest looks for spring. Check your chaps to make sure they are clean and still fit. Have your hat professionally cleaned and blocked. Try on a few new shirts (guys too!) and give your show outfit a jolt with a new style or color. Make sure your boots still fit, are clean and have good soles.

9. Show Survival Kit
Everyone needs a Show Bag. It can be anything from a tool bag or a canvas tote bag, but it should have lots of pockets or places to sore things. Some items you might want to include are safety pins, spray adhesive, hair spray, an unbreakable mirror, clean cloths, hair nets, bobby pins, hair gel, hair nets, chap stick, extra curb straps, an ink pen and note pad, scotch tape, change purse with lots of change, thumb tacks, sunblock, handlotion, baby wipes, baby oil, and various sizes of zip type sandwich bags. You’ll soon find out what you need for your own showing style.

10. Trail Trials
For trail riders, winter days present a great opportunity to ‘trail proof’ your horse. Horses that are afraid of water, puddles, or shiny patches of ground can’t escape wet areas in winter. Don’t put any pressure on you or your horse; just go in and out of as many water obstacles as you can. Lots of praise and repetition may be just what he needed to get over his water ‘phobia.’

Remember your horse still needs to get out of his stall, even in winter. If you do not have a covered arena or a large paddock to turn him out in, put on your slicker, put on his halter and take him for a walk. Let him eat grass, rub on his head, let him know that he is your pal. A little bit of bonding in winter will go a long way in spring, summer and fall.