There is much to consider with your horse that he or she doesn’t succumb to sourness halfway thru your competition season …there is the horses mental state, the horse’s environment and of course the horse’s health and comfort
There are lots of things you can become more aware of, just day to day things that will keep the horse mentally happy. When saddling up, allow at least 15-30 minutes to give your horse a good groom apart from the relaxing effect of grooming it will also awaken muscles, then quietly saddle up, of course always making sure the horses’ gear is clean and comfortable. Upon finishing your ride check for sore spots right over your horse, and for any heat in legs – better to pick up little things now than wait for a bigger problem.
Now some-days are good days for riding, some days are bad days! We all know well before we ride if we are in the mood for riding or not, so don’t make your horse uncomfortable by dumping your mood on him, you are better off doing some in hand work, ground work, lunging or just a simple walk down the road in hand.
Boring arena work is just that – boring, make it interesting combine some flat work with cavaletti work or even pop over some small jumps, do lots of changes and patterns, if not change the scenery and hack out. Changing the pace …the show horse, even the dressage horse will welcome a good trail ride nothing better to spice up their working life, also put in some good gallops in a safe area. Speaking with some well-known dressage trainers they will often liven up some schooling with a good gallop or head over some small jumps.
It becomes your responsibility to keep even the lowest level of work interesting, even if we are talking in hand work, overwork is the most common cause of horse sourness. This does not mean that the work is physically hard it maybe just too repetitious, too long, too boring with inadequate leisure time.
your horses’ environment….
Where your horse lives is very important. First look at your horse’s stables; ventilation is important, they must be of a good size to suit the size of your horse, cosy when cold and cool for the heat and always clean [while in some countries deep littering is a preferred way to go, under Australian conditions it is far better to clean the stable of all manure and wet daily]
Outdoors the horse should have access to shade and shelter, always clean fresh water and a paddock large enough that the horse can move freely around. Whether you choose to stable or paddock, hygiene is of the most importance, always removing manure from paddocks and fully clean out stables every day.
If paddocking with other horses check for bullies, they can make your horses life a misery creating problems which will eventually show up when your horse is around you, after all your horse’s time out should be spent peacefully.
A healthy horse is a happy horse, work towards a good relationship with your vet, make sure all vaccinations, and worming are regular. If on high grain diets or if your horse is stabled make sure adequate hay is available to stop boredom. Even though most will feed twice a day, three feeds a day is better.
Learn more of the art of good old fashion strapping/grooming, not only will this give your horse a top coat but physically your horse will totally benefit from this interaction and enjoy the experience.