March 8, 2021
As I am writing this, it is snowing where I live. But that’s ok, because I know that the snow flurries that are flying now will not be for much longer. Spring is coming, and with that – actual time to ride.
I am a planner. I love having a plan in order long before I really need it. And planning for spring, as well as summer with my horses really helps me to get through the last few weeks of winter. So I thought I would share with you how I like to plan and a checklist in case you are feeling the winter doldrums and looking for some motivation for your riding time – which should be coming soon, I promise!
Why Plan Ahead?
Over the winter, I come up with a lot of projects and ideas of what I am looking forward to doing. This means a lot of planning now will leave me more time with my horses when the weather is warmer and the days are longer.
By planning ahead of what I hope to achieve with my horses, my goal is to be able to do the things I want to do. For example, if I were planning on having a set of horse jumps to use, I would be building them now. It takes a lot of time to build a set of jumps. But by using the time when I can’t ride, it will save my horse time for riding and not doing projects because the project will already be done!
Have you ever built a horse jump? It is pretty easy really, but it is a very time-consuming process. I have a lot of articles on my blog showing you how to build your own horse jumps if your curious.
Now is the perfect time to go through all of your gear, tack, clothing, grooming supplies and everything else you use for your horse. This way you know what you have and can plan for what you will need.
Make sure all of your tack is in useable condition. How are all of the keepers and the leather? How are the buckles? Could the leather use a good cleaning or conditioning? Now is an excellent time to get that done. If the leather is cracked or split, you should replace it.
If anything is ripped or the stitching is not strong, make a point to either replace those items or get them repaired. If they are damaged, they need to be replaced. It is not safe to use broken or worn leather—it’s just not worth the risk.
When was the last time you really cleaned your saddle? And I mean REALLY cleaned it? This is an excellent time to get that chore done. I like to act as if I am getting ready for a show. I will clean and condition my bridles, halters, and my saddles.
When it comes to tack cleaners, I have several favorites in my tack cleaning tote. For my English saddle, I LOVE Effax Leather Combi leather cleaner. And for my western saddle I like to use Absorbine Leather Therapy Wash. And for conditioning all of my leather tack, including saddles, bridles, halters, etc., I like to use Effax Leather Balm. I haven’t found anything that works better to keep my leather soft and supple—and it smells fantastic!
But back to my tack cleaning…Once everything is cleaned and conditioned, I cover the saddles and hang my bridles in a climate controlled area. No sense in them getting dirty before I can use them right?
While I am cleaning my tack, the bits are taken off. This way I can inspect them and make sure they are in good working condition. I wash them in the sink and polish them too. I do the same with my stirrups, and anything metal – everything gets polished so that it looks like new!
Photo by Mollie Himes
Do you wash your saddle pads after using them? Well, if you are anything like me and have a gazillion saddle pads, you can use a pad and then bring it in to wash. I have enough saddle pads for my English saddles that I can use them one time, and then wash them. And I can do this 7 days a week. Yeah, I have a lot of saddle pads.
But in getting ready for riding, I like to bring all my saddle pads in and wash them in my washing machine. If the weather is warmer where you live, you could wash them outside with a hose, but I think they get cleaner in my washing machine, just my opinion.
If you are cringing at the idea of washing your really dirty and hairy saddle pads in your washing machine, maybe hose them down outside, and get rid of the built up dirt and hair before you bring them inside.
If you keep your saddle pads relatively clean, they will be fine in your washing machine. You may only want to wash a couple at a time. Be sure to use cold water and a gentle spin cycle. Once they are done, take them outside for a sunbath. I find saddle pads last longer if they are not put in the dryer. So I always put mine outside on a sunny day to air dry.
Boots, Blankets and Fly Veils – Oh My!
Don’t forget to wash any summer blankets, boots, polo wraps and, yes, even your fly bonnets before you use them when you begin riding in the next few weeks. Spring IS coming!
I have two different grooming kits—one for winter and one for summer. My summertime grooming tote is packed FULL of brushes, combs, sprays and creams.
Every spring I take an inventory of what I have, and plan on what I will need for the glorious long days of summer! I don’t want to run out of the important necessities so I usually make an order, and set up an Autoship plan for summertime supplies, including:
And of course I check through my brushes to make sure they are in good repair and clean! This is when I also clean my horse brushes too. I have found that a good brush will last for years if it is cared for.
Once I have a list of what I need, then I clean out my tote, and everything in it before putting everything back into the tote. While I am mentioning grooming totes, Corro has an affordable option for a nice large tote. The Tough-1 Denier Poly Grooming Tote is very similar to the one I have, and it is very affordable.
Cleaning The Tack Room
And since you have brought everything out of the tack room, it should be pretty empty now, right? This is the perfect time to clean out the tack room!
First, sweep to get rid of the dirt and dust. Use your broom on the walls to get rid of any cobwebs. Then grab a bucket of warm water, and some cleaner and wash everything down. Don’t forget to wipe down your saddle racks, bridle racks, and any hooks.
If you don’t have any of these, now would be a good time to add them. This is something I recently did—I transformed my tack room back into a tack room. I moved everything out and redesigned the space so I could use it in the most efficient way possible.
I added a couple of garage style cabinets for storage and re-configured where the saddle racks, bridle racks, and extra hooks went.
I also added a couple of extras, including a solar light, so when it is dark I can see! I added a solar light on the outside of the tack room too—all for less that $100.00.
Having an organized tack room will save you time. If everything you own has a home, meaning always put away in the same place, you will spend less time tacking up your horse and more time in the saddle.
The Feed Room
While we’re at it, we should think about the feed room too. This is one of the main reasons I changed where my tack lives.
My husband and I would go to the feed store for hay every other week. This meant spending about 2 to 3 hours going to get hay, bringing the hay home, and then stacking it. I would only buy 12 bales at a time, enough to get me through 2 to 3 weeks. But that was up to 8 hours a month that I lost.
I decided to get that time back. I saved up some money, and bought hay from a local hay company. So now I have 3 months worth of hay, instead of 3 weeks, and they deliver the hay to me. So, all I have to do is stack it. Not too bad right?
You can also save time with the supplements you buy for your horse. If you take advantage of Corro’s Autoship program, you never have to worry about running out of your horses supplements. Which also means no more last minute trips running to the store to buy overpriced supplements because you need them now. I have been very impressed with the prices Corro has, and the peace of mind knowing I always have what my horses need is priceless.
Prepare Your Ground
Where will you be riding your horse this summer? In an arena? Out on the trail? Or somewhere on your own property? Springtime is an excellent time to get your ground ready BEFORE you venture out into the arena!
My arena doubles as a turnout for Frisby (my really senior horse). This means I have to pick up the manure, and really work the dirt. I would love to be able to afford about 65 tons of arena mix, but that really isn’t an affordable option for me right now. But, I do have an amazing piece of equipment that helps. I have an arena drag and ground conditioner that I use consistently now that the ground is mostly thawed. I drag my arena over, and over again in order to break up the hard dirt/clay that gets compacted. And in a few weeks with consistent work, the dirt is much better to ride on.
We also go out on the trail too! I am fortunate that my property backs up to an equine friendly riding trail. But in order to get to the trail, I have to have my own trail to get there. So I walk the path and trim back any overgrown foliage. I also make sure there are no hazards that my horse might step on. Tree branches need to be trimmed back so the trail is wide enough for my horse and I to walk down.
I also prefer to walk him down this path, and because he is really tall, I made a homemade mounting block that I keep at the end of my property, and the beginning of the trail. That way I can get on my horse and then get out on the trail.
Now For The Riding
Photo by Lisa Goodwin, The Budget Equestrian.
Alright, now that we have everything in order in order to ride, how do we plan for the riding?
My horses pretty much get to be horses over the winter. We might go for a walk, or have a deep grooming session if the weather is nice. But for most of the winter, I don’t have the facilities to ride in the dark or cold. In the spring, I have to plan to bring my horses back into shape, and I do this with a calendar. It’s more of a training calendar for the first 6 weeks of riding to get my horse fit for more intense workouts. This is my calendar:
I plan for my rides or horse time on a calendar in my tack room. And each session can be altered depending on the day, or the weather. And I may not spend every session riding. Sometimes I have my horse work on the lunge line too.
My horse is older, so I build his fitness level slowly over time. But I have found this plan works very well for getting my horses fitness level up. It is also fantastic for coming up with a consistent schedule to work with my horse. The more consistent you are with your work, the better your rides will be.
And each ride, or working session is about an hour long, which is realistic for me. Even when I get to 5 rides a week, two of those days are on the weekend, and 3 scattered throughout the week. Even though I have a fulltime job, horse, and home responsibilities along with my blog and YouTube channel, I can still make this work.
Getting Ready For Summer Checklist
Ok, that is a lot of things to plan for right? So to keep it simple here is an easy checklist of everything I like to do in order to prepare for the summer during the spring:
Getting Ready For Summer
So this is my plan that I am right in the middle of right now. I am anticipating better weather, and planning for it now. I have my tack room in shape, the feed room is well stocked, and I have my Autoship plan in place. All that’s left for me to do is to hurry up and wait for spring and summer to officially get here!
How about you? Are you prepared for the upcoming happy days of summer? If not, maybe you can incorporate a few of the things I do into your horse plan. I feel that anything that I can do to give me more time with my horses is worth it, wouldn’t you agree?
Happy planning, and riding!
About the Author
Lisa Goodwin is the Budget Equestrian. With over 35 years with horses, she has learned a lot about horses, caring for them and how to save money as a horse owner. You can learn more about her, and her horses over on her blog budgetequestrian.com or her YouTube channel The Budget Equestrian with over 650 videos on DIY projects, product reviews and horse related videos show you how to make the most of the time that you have with your horse.