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Managing a New Horse

It’s been a really long time since I owned a new horse, and while I’m not a first-time horse owner, there’s been a lot to remember since I bought Miles in September. Some things remained second-nature during the time I leased, like grooming and riding schedules. And I definitely picked up a good habit or two, such as cleaning my tack more regularly. But some aspects of horse ownership… I almost forgot about. It sounds crazy, and a little stupid, but there is so much knowledge that one must acquire, and so many balls you have to juggle to keep everything working so you can actually go and ride.

Case in point, this winter Miles developed a really sour attitude. Of course my natural inclination is to conjure up some medical issue to become the culprit… like ulcers or arthritic hocks. But sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with a horse that you don’t know very well, it’s best to start with other options. And sometimes, all you really need is a critical look at how you’re managing your horse, and what you could change to make his life a little bit better.

Here are a few things I looked at when Miles was NQR in the head, and what ended up working for us. Sometimes it’s not a medical issue… sometimes it’s a management issue.

horses grazing

Diet

I believe that everything starts from the inside out. What is your horse being fed? Has his or her diet changed? Miles had been on the weight gain plan, and we deduced that 1 1/4 scoop of Purina Strategy might be too much for him. So I worked with my trainer and barn staff to cut Miles way back, and slowly increase to a more standard 3/4 scoop. Since then, I’ve been monitoring his weight closely to ensure he doesn’t lose any of those pounds we worked hard to gain in the first place. So far, so good!

Workout Routine

Evaluate your riding schedule, and ask yourself if anything has changed that could precipitate your problem. One thing I noticed was that I only went out to the barn to ride… I never just spent a day grooming, hand grazing or just spending time with Miles. I bought a horse to have a connection, and I needed to take a step back and start building a friendship with my horse, not just a working relationship.

Miles Trot Sept 2013

Turnout Schedule

Horses are built to be outside, not live in a stall. But of course, for many that isn’t really a feasible option. Still, it’s good to recognize how much turnout your horse is receiving and ask yourself if its being utilized. Let me explain: Miles is boarded at a fabulous facility which turns out as much as possible… but we live in the North, and during the winter the weather is just to crummy for daily turnout sometimes. But beyond that, I noticed Miles just stood in his paddock and didn’t even walk around! So I got him a buddy to keep him moving, and ever since he sleeps in the crossties because he’s playing so much in turnout!

Equipment Fit

What do you use to ride, and does it fit? Maybe your horse hates the new bit you tried, or maybe you’re like me trying to make a lanky Thoroughbred cross fit into a Halter-Bred Quarter Horse’s saddle. Either way, take a good, hard look at your tack to ensure proper fit. It doesn’t sound fun to run a mile in shoes two sizes too big in a shirt two sizes too small.

Those are the four management issues Miles and I have faced so far… small things, sure, but they all culminated in an uphappy horse who decided he no longer wanted to do his job. But who can blame the guy? The last time my office ran out of Diet Pepsi, there was almost a mutiny… and I certainly wouldn’t be able to do my job very well if my laptop had a virus.

I expect a lot out of my horse, but it’s only fair to ensure that he is as happy and healthy as he can be in return.

Tracy

Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

23 thoughts on “Managing a New Horse

  1. What a great post! There are soooo many cogs in the wheel that is horseback riding, and even the slightest hitch could throw things waaaaay off; riding horses is such a delicate balance! This post was a great way to remember some of the main things to keeping our equine partners happy and healthy 🙂

  2. Such a great points! I am the first to jump at the chance it might be a medical issues, maybe because there are so many options out there to try to treat them with. Sometimes they just need some mental support! Glad that Miles is feeling better now!

  3. Awesome post!! It’s funny, his feed regime sounds almost identical to Red’s when I first got him. And I agree, when you don’t know the horse super well, it’s best to go through all of the options!

  4. This is a really great, insightful post. So much truth that is so easy to forget or overlook especially when you board and aren’t in charge of your horse’s daily life. I’m so glad you were able to figure out what was bothering him and get his happy feet back on!

  5. Owning and caring for your own horse is certainly more complicated than leasing or riding your trainer’s horse, but, it is also so very rewarding. Glad you’re finding your way through what can be a daunting experience for some. :0)

  6. Loved this post, especially as a first time horse owner 🙂 I always make sure I take time out to spend with Rio where I’m not asking anything of him, it was always going to be part of the plan as I’m a strong believer that a good relationship on the ground translates to the saddle. I’m so glad you’re getting somewhere with Miles now! x

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