Oh boy! Wonderful, exciting and terrifying all at the same time. For those horse owners lucky, or unlucky, enough to live in a part of the world that experiences winter, spring fever is a real and all too recognizable phenomenon. During the months of freezing cold, with ice, hard ruts and rotten snow covering the ground, horses have been unable to move freely.
The first time they feel the warm sun on their backs and some solid footing under their feet it’s time to CELEBRATE! They do this by leaping, twisting, turning, running, prancing, snorting, you all know the scenario. Its when horses look and feel their absolute best! They also seem to lose their minds for a few minutes, they forget to look where they are going, forget that you exist, act terrified of things they see everyday. Its the adrenaline! Not caused by fear or anxiety this time, just excitement! It has to be dealt with the same way though. You have to figure out how to let them work it off in such a way that they don’t hurt themselves, or you.
Unfortunately, I have heard plenty of stories involving riders who didn’t take Spring Fever into account and, dying to get back on after a winter of no or very little riding, rushed into it without taking sensible precautions. Their horse is just as excited as they are, the adrenaline rises just as surely as the sap in the trees, and guess where that puts the rider when their beloved partner forgets for that one crucial moment that they exist?
IN HARM’S WAY!!
Forewarning is your best tool here because, as always, you can’t turn off the horse’s energy and exuberance, but you can do your best to make sure that you and he are safe while he celebrates. If you have a big pasture you are probably all set because if he has room to safely cavort around, he will have a chance to work off his high jinks before you have to handle him.
If you have an indoor and he has been moving in there all winter you can open a door or two so he can work off at least some of his spring fever inside. However, I do find that often, even if horses have been moving inside all winter, you will still get some spring fever the first time you ride outside. I usually use the longe line to start with so I can keep him slower and safe until the worst of the fever is gone. If you haven’t already taught him how to longe quietly on a regular basis, this is NOT the time to start. Teach him on a quiet day, and practice often, so that on wild days you are both ready.
If you have access to a round pen this is also a good place to allow him to work off some of that extra energy safely. Just be careful that you steer clear of flying hooves!!
Happy SAFE Spring Everybody!!