Getting back in the saddle
WORDS Sharon Burriss - Arena Operational ManagerApril 11, 2019
For horse lovers, the longer days of spring mean more hours of daylight to enjoy in the saddle, but our equine friends need a full spring MOT before they can get back into full action.
“Over the winter, our horses don’t get ridden as much, but our spring training programme is designed to get them ready for the new season,” says Sharon, who’s been working at Gleneagles for 12 years. “They need to have a slow return to work to increase their fitness for our trail rides, cross country lessons and show jumping lessons, which get really popular over the summer months.
“We schedule slow work – starting with steadily-increasing periods of walking out on the road, then moving to longer rides and faster gaits over a period of several weeks – to strengthen their tendons and improve their heart rate. Then, after four to six weeks, once we’ve built up their fitness, we can take them into the field to begin their canter work.”
“Like humans, horses can change shape over the winter when the colder weather reduces exercise time. Our master saddler comes to check all our tack and makes any repairs or adjustments that might be needed,” she says. “They’re no different to us in that way – it’s like when you have to adjust the notch on your belt in January because you’ve had too many Christmas puddings!”
Sharon also schedules an equine physiotherapist visit in spring to check the horses’ muscles and make sure they’re comfortable; a dentist to check their oral health and rasp down any sharp teeth that could cause discomfort; as well as regular farrier visits, to make sure their shoes fit properly and their hooves are trimmed correctly before increasing exercise levels.
The warmer weather also triggers fur shedding, as the horses’ start to cast their thick winter coats. “It’s a big job keeping 26 horses’ coats in top shape,” says Sharon. “We groom each horse twice a day, so there’s a heck of a lot of elbow grease required – but it keeps us all super fit!
“Our team is so passionate about horses and riding, so we get really excited when spring arrives and we can start preparing the horses for working in the field again. We offer lessons for all abilities, from complete beginners to first time cross-country riders. We also offer a special package, ‘Life in the Saddle’, which combines two nights’ luxury accommodation with expert coaching – the perfect countryside adventure!”