With the days gradually getting longer our thoughts turn to Spring. For many horse owners this means bringing your horse back into work ready for the warmer weather.
Winter can really take it out of our horses, both physically and mentally; reduced turnout, less than ideal air quality in stables, causing stomach muscles to work harder; wrestling with haynets, which puts strain on the top of the neck causing soreness around the poll just by the action of pulling hay out; slippery mud in fields or out hacking can cause muscle strain or small tears which can go unnoticed at first. These everyday occurancies can cause sore and tight muscles and affect performance or behaviour.
It is when we increase the workload that these issues can start to come to the fore.
A horse that is sore through the poll from wrestling haynets may resist contact or have difficulty keeping an outline. Horses can strain the gracilis muscle on the inside of the thigh if they slip with one of more hind legs going outwards, or the pectoral muscles if the same happens with the front legs.
If the horse becomes lame then veterinary advice should be sought, although in the majority of cases where lameness is not present, a horse may seem off colour or lack power or impulsion or resist schooling through turns or circles.
If your horse is seen to have slipped then check whether there is any heat in the muscles, check around the inside and outside of the thigh and hip, compare this with the temperature of the other leg to see if it feels hotter in one place. If lameness develops or swelling is excessive then consult a vet.
Changing shape and muscle tone towards the end of the winter may cause the saddle to not fit as well as it did before the winter, getting it checked and getting your horse treated by a physical therapist can help avoid problems later in the spring and help a fitness program to run smoothly knowing your horse is in good shape, especially if you have goals for competing over the coming season.
Getting your horse treated and building fitness back up slowly will help prevent injury later on and lays the foundation for a trouble free summer.