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Resolution Time

I always make New Year’s Resolutions, and some of them I even keep! For me, one of the best parts of heading into a new year is looking forward to a new show season – and it’s not too early to start getting ready for it. So, in spite of the coming two months of winter weather, and in anticipation of show season, I resolve to:

1. Get busy with grooming. Whether or not you blanket your horses, regular grooming helps them shed out. Don’t forget to worm your horses in the winter too. Horses with parasites often will not shed correctly. Grooming also helps keep fungus and skin conditions away by loosening dead hair and removing debris, so that the skin can dry out and breath. Grooming includes cleaning hooves, which helps avoid common wet weather problems such as thrush.

Grooming is always a difficult job for me. I’m allergic to horse dander, and by the time I get half-through a curry job, my eyes are red and swollen and I can’t breath. In the warm months I do minimal grooming and hose my horses off after work. This time of the year I wear a dust mask while grooming.

2. Do a monthly evaluation on each horse’s weight and fitness. Winter weather can be hard on horses. It is difficult to see your horse’s true condition through all that long muddy hair. Put on the mud boots and wade out into the pasture and feel for the horse’s ribs. While this is easy to do with our stalled horses (those same ones we are grooming), pasture horses are often neglected. Adjust feed so that all the horses maintain a healthy weight. And, do it monthly throughout the year because that same “slightly thin” horse now, can become dangerously obese in late April and May, when the spring grasses come on. Pay special attention to the young and old, and make the changes necessary.

Our oldest mare, Alibi, is 27 years old. She moves into the “Queen’s Suite” in December, January and February. While she does okay on permanent pasture during the warmer months, she gets special treatment now. It’s more work, and more money, but she’s worth it. All the pasture horses need more hay in cold, damp weather. While I believe that grass hay is the best feed for horses, in cold months we supplement with alfalfa or alfalfa pellets when necessary.

3. Assess my own weight and fitness! Ah, the traditional New Year’s Resolution. Still, horseback riding is a physical activity, and I can tell when I am not as fit as I should be. Especially when riding colts and training, I need to be able to stick with it as long as need be. Having to stop a training session because I am out of breath is not good training. I’ve found that I ride best when I am limber, so stretching and mild aerobic exercise greatly enhances my riding ability. Now is the time to start.

4. Make plans. I like to move my horsemanship forward, be challenged, and feel successful at the end of the season. In order for that to happen, I need to make a plan for the year, not only for myself and the horses that I am riding, but for my students. Now’s the time to research and decide which show circuits to attend. Choosing a show circuit, or any horse activity, involves assessing your level of skill and your horse’s readiness. Look for activities that will challenge you to do something new, but not overwhelm you or your horse. It might be a bit scary to move up to a new circuit – or a new trail -- many of us would like to keep going to the same places we’ve had success before – but if you and your horse are prepared to move on, it will not be a disappointment. Besides, making a plan is the first step to achieving the goal!

Here’s wishing you and your horse a happy, successful year !

Doris Eraldi of Eraldi Training in Potter Valley specializes in Pleasure and Equitation horses. She can be contacted at 707-743-1337, or by e-mail

Read Doris' previous article

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