April can be a funny month weather-wise and if you have kept your hunter stabled and rugged over the winter, getting them ready to be turned out so they can adjust to their time off takes a bit of planning and preparation. The rule of thumb is for this period of transition to take anything between 2 to 3 weeks – but this can be affected by the weather and the type of horse you own.
All too often the month of April can be a little unpredictable. One day, the weather is fine and warm and the next cooler and more wintry. The best time to turn your hunter out is on a clear and fine day when no frost has been forecast. The other alternative if you are worried the weather is too changeable is to wait for the month of May when the weather is normally more dependable.
However, you have to bear in mind that if the weather is too warm and there are lots of flies about, then your horse may well suffer. This is particularly true if the condition of the pasture is still poor and you are not giving your horse any supplements. If the field boasts high hedges that's an asset as is a field shelter if there is one.
Ideally, you should let your hunter down by turning them out for around an hour or maybe two each day and then gradually increase their turn out time daily until they are ready to be turned out permanently for the summer. Should you have not turned them out throughout the winter then in an ideal world, you should turn them out in a small field because this reduces the risk of them galloping around like a maniac which could result in them injuring themselves and damaging a fragile pasture.
Each horse is different and as such their individual needs differ. An example would be that you would not treat a thoroughbred as you would a native and therefore more robust type. You should also take into account the condition of your horse's coat to see if they have grown any of their summer coat. You also need to consider the type of clip they've been given – is it a hunter clip, half-clip or maybe they were not clipped at all? All this will play a crucial part of them being roughed off for the summer.
You would need to gradually reduce any hard concentrates you've been feeding your hunter whilst at the same time removing their rugs gradually. You would need to offer your horse more hay as a way to help them adjust to their new diet as this will help reduce the chances of colic or any other potentially harmful digestive issues occurring.
You should avoid grooming your horse but you would need to make sure no mud has lodged itself under their rugs. By not grooming them, it helps retain all the important natural oils in their coats and skin which in turn would protect your horse from the elements.
It is important to reduce your horse's work programme over a period of time until they only get around half and hour at the walk on a daily basis. Once you have made the decision to turn your horse away for the summer, it is important not to be tempted to bring them in again – unless the weather turns really bad and they really do need to be bought in and stabled for their own good and safety.
There are five common mistakes that many horse owners make when turning their horses out for the summer which are best avoided and which are listed below: