by Jennifer L Carcaci-Trumble
The winter season is almost over and you are enthusiastically anticipating 2018 riding season. Prior to tacking up and stepping off there are some important steps you should do first. They just may save your life.
Inspect helmet
Dust off your helmet and check for integrity. Does it have cracks, or signs of being melted? Last time you rode in your helmet did you fall? If your helmet has been involved in an impact, you need a new one. You may not be able to see if the foam inside your helmet has been damaged, this foam is what protects your head in a fall. Did you know most helmet companies suggest that you buy a new helmet every 5 years? Also don’t leave your helmet in a hot car it will melt. For more information on how to care for your helmet please go to
Leather tack care and inspection
Get ready for intense thorough cleaning and inspection of your leathers. When I speak about leathers this includes saddle, girth, stirrup leathers, breast collar, martingales, bridles, halters and your riding boots. Leather, like our skin, gets dry and cracked without proper care. Last fall you put your leathers away to store for the winter months. While cleaning your leathers be meticulous in inspecting for cracks and tears. Look for stitching that is coming apart. You want no degradation. Everything must be supple and any hardware needs to be tight. If you do find problems seek out a professional that can fix that problem. A cobbler or a saddle fitter may be able to sew up your stitching. You don’t want a weak piece of tack coming apart when you are riding.
Did you get a new horse this year?
If you got a new horse this year or this is your first horse, the tack you use on your horse must fit that horse. Double check and confirm that the saddle and headstall including bit fits. If you need help search out a professional. A saddle fitter or a professional trainer would be the perfect person to ask for help. If the saddle rocks or is too tight you are hurting your horse. If the bit is too big or too small you don’t have proper ability to control the horse — both of you could get hurt.
First aid kit
Time to check your first aid kit. If you don’t have one you can make one. I used a small fishing tackle box for mine. The handle is easy to grab to throw in the truck on the go. The kit should include: digital rectal thermometer, pair of safety bandage scissors, pair of folding sewing scissors to take out stitches, stethoscope, bandaging tape, 3 X 3 Square gauze pads, feminine pad, baby diaper, petroleum jelly, medical tape, cold packs, latex gloves, pen and paper, flashlight, tweezers, hoof pick, hoof knife, riders rasp, duct tape, easy boot, sunscreen, insect spray, small bottle of iodine, Bute, electrolyte paste, sugar gel for diabetes, bandages, triple antibiotics, and a snake bite kit. This should get you started. Contact your veterinarian for a full list. You can get all of the above items at your local farm supply store.
Some vital signs that you should know for an adult horse are:

  • Temperature: 99 – 101°F
  • Pulse: 28 – 44 beats a minute
  • Respiration: 10 – 24 breaths per minute
  • Mucous membranes should be moist, healthy pink color.
  • Capillary refill time is 2 seconds or less you check this on their gums.

You may want to laminate this information along with your Veterinarian’s phone number and put it in the first aid kit.
Gut sounds should sound like gurgling gas like growls. Have your veterinarian teach you how to do this properly. The only way to know what is considered the normal range for your horse is by checking it regularly.
Make sure your horse is up to date on shots, Coggins and gets its health certificate before leaving your property.
Preventive yearly maintenance on your horse trailer
Be sure to inspect:

  • the floor to make sure the floor is safe and able to support the weight and load applied to it. Inspect the floor by taking out the mat. Inspect top and the underside of the trailer’s floor.
  • the axle. Make sure all fasteners are secure. If they are worn replace them.
  • your suspension for wear: i.e. bushings and springs condition.
  • safety chains. Make sure there are no signs of wear from being dragged. This will make a weak link and should be replaced so you don’t have to worry about it snapping during use.
  • your jack for working properly.
  • the breakaway system.
  • welds and bolts on hitch. Make sure the ball matches the coupler size. Do not put a 2 5/16th trailer on a 1 7/8 size ball.
  • all the lights and blinkers.
  • proper tires for wear and dry rot. Inspect for missing lugs nuts or bolts on the wheels and that they are there and torqued correctly.
  • brakes and wheel bearings. Repair and replace as needed.
  • electric braking components.
  • the disconnect battery.

Consult the trailer’s owner manual for recommendations on maintenance.
Preventive maintenance on your truck
Look at your owner’s manual and make sure what you are hauling isn’t too heavy for your truck.
Here is a list that you must inspect.

  • Your lights are all working properly.
  • Tire pressure is at the correct pounds per square inch.
  • Tire tread is good. You need to make sure they are balanced and have been rotated.
  • Your spare tire is in usable condition and is mounted before you have to use it. Know where your jack and lug wrench is
  • All your fluids are properly filled including antifreeze, power steering fluid, windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, engine oil, transmission oil.

Inspect and change when necessary your cabin and engine filters, your wipers and your fluid nozzles and brakes.
Make sure your emergency brakes and ABS are working properly.
Check with your owner’s manual for proper way of inspecting and changing parts and fluids. If you feel you cannot do this, take it to a professional garage and have a Certified mechanic do it for you.