Do you have a free morning to spend with your equine partner? Here are five ways to make him feel his best, on a budget!

Quiet mornings in the barn with your horses are the best time to catch up on your horse care regimen and make your horse's health and well being a top priority. Here are five cost-effective ways to pamper your equine partner, straight from the Horse&Rider archives. 

1. Apply Cold Therapy: Your horse's legs bear the brunt of their body's wear and tear. Routine icing or cold-hosing of your horse’s legs after strenuous exercise can help minimize the slight inflammation that naturally occurs following hard work. This helps to keep new problem areas from developing. Regular cold therapy is particularly useful if your horse is a weekend warrior; icing can help prevent the inflammation that occurs from intermittent use. 

More on Icing: 

Understanding Hot and Cold Therapy: Your horse is injured, and you’re not sure if you should be running for hot water or an ice pack. Which is best, and when do you use it?

2. Poultice Up: It may be old-fashioned and low-tech, but nothing spells relief to a hurting horse like a poultice in a pinch. Some poultices are designed to reduce heat and swelling in joints or tendons, while others are intended to relieve stiffness in those same areas, and still others to draw out an infection or an abscess developing in the hoof. Some are either heat-producing or microwave-hot, while others are chilled in the freezer for best effect. At the heart of every poultice is one gooey, gloppy, slimy substance or another. Depending on its purpose, it could be anything from kaolin clay, a blend of Epsom salts and bran, Kaopectate and flour—even mixtures of baking soda and witch hazel, povidone iodine and sugar, etc. Here's how: 

  • The mixture itself is applied to the affected area by hand.
  • The area is then wrapped with plastic (usually either a sandwich bag or plastic wrap).
  • and then the whole concoction is bandaged and left for awhile to work its magic, after which it must be washed (sometimes even scrubbed) off.

More on Poultice: 

From the Ground Up: From Sherry Cervi—Keeping your horse sound is all about preventive maintenance and adapting to the ground he’ll be performing on.

Person checking the fit of a saddle on a horse.

3. Double-Check Saddle Fit: Even the most expensive saddle money can buy might be pinching your horse somewhere. A free weekend day is a great time to re-evaluate how everything is fitting, especially if your horse has gained or lost weight or grown. Check for wither swelling, armpit itch, dead spots on the back, bald spots, pumps, painful palpation, and resistance when riding. Barb Crabbe, DVM, wrote this brilliant piece packed with action items for you to review before heading out. 

More on Saddle Fit: 

Your Horse's Tack Fit Affects His Health and Wellbeing: Tack fit is critical to your horse’s health and wellbeing. Learn key checkpoints for his saddle, bridle, bit, cinch, and other core gear. 

Woman stretching a horse's front leg.

4. STRETCH! Basic stretches can increase your horse's under-saddle flexibility and help reduce inflammation after a long week of work. Use carrots to ask your horse to reach his neck across his front legs, back to his elbow, and between his front legs. You'll want to read up on these tips from massage-therapist Peter Atkins to perfect the exercises, but safe to say—your horse will thank you! 

More on Stretching:

Joint Care to Preserve Your Horse's Legs: Preventive joint care can help preserve the function of your horse’s legs regardless of the type of riding you do.

5. Fight Flies. It's that time of year. Now is the time to get a jump on the battle. Pull out and dust off your fly sheets, fly masks, and fly control products, and make sure everything fits and is in working order. 

More on Fly Control: 

Defeat the Enemy: Fly Control Options for Horse and Barn—The reality is that flies are enemies that come with horsekeeping, and you're not going to be able to take down every single one. But you can educate and arm yourself on ways to put them into retreat. We'll provide anti-fly management tips to help you reinforce your battlefield, and then we'll deliver specifics on six weapons of mass destruction. We'll help you identify some of the other side's troops as well. Time to wage war...

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