How to Rough Off Your Hunter for the Summer
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How to Rough Off Your Hunter for the Summer

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.

Best Day to Turn Your Horse Out

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.

Understanding Your Horse's Individual Needs

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.

What About Feed?

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.

What About Grooming?

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.

Reducing Work Programme

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.

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

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:

  • Do not leave their tail too long – it will get matted full of mud and could get caught on fencing and hedges
  • Make sure you have their shoes removed by a farrier – don't do this yourself and then forget to have your horse's trimmed when they are turned out
  • Do not turn your horse away onto lush grass too quickly as this might just end up causing them to scour
  • Do not turn your horse out with no rugs on or without the right type of preparation once the hunting season is over
  • You have to inspect your horse every day to make sure they are okay and that there are no lumps or bumps as well as any injuries that would need to be treated

Top Tips on Turning Your Hunter Away

  • Make sure you cut your horse's tail to about 4 inches below their hocks. This will allow the tail to thicken up by the time you bring them back in to work
  • Take of their hind shoes when you first turn your horse out. This reduces the chance of kicking injuries should they be turned out with other horses in the same paddock. When the time is right and all the preparation has been done, your farrier can then remove all your horses shoes and trim their feet
  • Your hunter may need to have their front feet checked to see if there are any corns
  • Make sure you worm your hunter before turning them out onto clean pasture
  • Make sure you organise for your hunter to have their flu and tetanus jab before they are finally turned out for the summer
  • Make sure you have your horse's teeth checked before turning them as this will ensure there are no dental issues and your horse will get the best out of the grass they eat
  • Make sure your inspect your horse and the field at least once daily checking for ragwort or anything else that might be harmful to them
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