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Breaking the Ice – Taking the initial steps to prepare for spring

WINTER 2012 005

Although here in New England we were not pummeled with usual amounts of snow, there are still many places that were, and no matter how much snow fell, it is important to prepare for the warm weather ahead. Whether the temperatures rise slowly or swiftly, the spring season can be overwhelming with the amount of work to do around the barn. Help make your transition into spring a little less stressful with some of my helpful spring season preparation tips.

 1) Find your weak points

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I know of at least three weak spots at my barn. The first is right outside my mare’s paddock entrance. There is a slight slope that is hardly ever completely dry, meaning I can forget any sort of dependable footing on my end or my mare’s. Gravel can be used to help fill that slope, so I keep a wheelbarrow full nearby in case it needs a refill. If this is also a problem at your barn, you could also check out your irrigation setup. Be sure that the snow melting off the roof isn’t pooling up in one spot. Digging trenches for runoff is an easy way to fix this.

Second are my mats. I think every barn knows exactly what spring really means: mats pulling apart. Even interlocking mats can have this issue. The frozen ground underneath expands and pulls the mats with them. Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do to prevent this, but keep an eye on them. If you have dips try filling them in with gravel to be sure you and your animals don’t trip.

Finally I have the issue of snow on the roof. If anyone else has a spooky mare, they will understand why snow still matters in the spring. I suggest getting a long snow brush, like what you use on the car, and pulling it off all at once, rather than having your horse spook every other minute when the warm days cause the snow to slide off the roof and crash onto the ground. You could also be adventurous and climb up with a broom and push it all off, perhaps while your horse is happily distracted in a distant paddock.

2) Shoes

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Now that we have discussed some of the preventative measures you can take before the shedding really commences, we can now discuss the things you don’t have as much control over. Shoes are one of these factors. Those of you who have your horses barefoot, I envy you in the spring. With warm weather comes mud, and with mud comes loose shoes. Be sure to keep an eye on the weather. If you see the temperature rising and know your farrier will be due soon, see if they have time to come early to be sure your horses shoes are tightly attached. You could also take the opposite route and ask them to come after the muddiness subsides and count on a shoe coming off regardless. It is also a good idea to try and coordinate your riding schedule with this as best you can.

3) Replace the old with new

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This is one of my favorite things to do in the late winter. On one of those few random warm days, I, like most farm people, take advantage of it and spend the day in the barn. On these days, along with giving my saddle a good cleaning, which I also suggest doing in especially dry climates, I make a check list. On this list is everything I or my horse managed to break this winter that I have put off replacing. The usual suspects are blanket clips, hoof picks, cracked buckets, pitch forks, lead ropes, measuring cups and, of course, double ended snaps for stall guards. This usually correlates with tax season, so when I get my tax return, I have my shopping list ready!

I hope some of these tips help out with your barns spring planning. If you have any other tips that weren’t mentioned, please let us know by leaving a comment.

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