When I was growing up on our dairy farm in Virginia, Dad would remind us that every February, there was always a week or so of very mild weather. Everyone would be tempted to feel that spring was arriving. However, the worst snowstorms we ever had was the beginning of March. Last year, during early March, I was convinced sub- freezing weather was over and turned the horse stall waterers back on and unwinterized our trailer for an upcoming trip. Yep, you guessed it, we had a surprise freeze. We had to repair water lines and problems related to freezing. My point is to wait, no matter how hard, until after your published ‘last frost date’. Even though it is difficult, you will be pleased in the long run.
There are things you should be doing to get ready for spring and the riding season. Here are a few things we do to prepare:
First, we check the state inspection and license registration of our vehicles and trailers. I did not realize that my inspection renewal was April. However, that would be April of last year! I do not use that stock trailer often and somehow, it got by me. Luckily, I had not been stopped but take a moment, and check those renewals and make sure you have a copy in your truck. The same goes for your insurance. Make sure your information is where you can easily get it to show that police officer. By the way, on insurance, last year during Covid, I asked my insurance company for a reduction in rates because we traveled less and received a 35% reduction.
Second, join your local farmer’s co-op. You do not have to have a farm to be a member. It is a place to buy feed but also many hardware items. It costs you nothing to join but you get a check every year for dividends. (Co-ops can not profit, so after all expenses, the revenue left over is divided among the members). This is also true for fuel. With the current world tensions and changes in the government policies on energy, be sure that fuel and oil prices will increase. Using a co-op helps with the prices and gets you a refund check.
Fill your propane tanks early. Again, for rising prices, fill them now at a refill station, NOT AN EXCHANGE. A refill station actually fills your tanks more than what you get at a exchange. I also buy and keep a spare tank in my trailer and one at home. (If you are ever having a family picnic and the propane runs out while you are grilling or at your trailer on that big weekend ride, you will be glad you have that spare. Also, on my horse trailer, I keep one tank turned off. That way, when you run out, the other tank is still full.
This is the time to experiment with horse water flavorings. When we travel to Florida, the sulfur content of the water is high enough that our horses do not want to drink it. You offer them water and when they do not drink it, we assume they are not thirsty. We go riding and the same thing occurs after the ride. Usually the next day is when you call a vet for colic. We love our coffee but many people hate coffee on the road. It is not necessarily the coffee, but the water change in taste that is the difference. Like us, our horses do not like the off taste or change in their water. Try adding various flavors of Kool-aide. When you are on the road, this will solve your problem!
In the same line of preparing for the new riding season, pick up a bag of compressed hay. We grow and bale our own hay here at the farm, but sometimes we run low of hay on the road. A nice, dry, plastic protected bale of compressed hay is quite a relief. When you are traveling, local hay may not be of top quality. That spare bale will come in handy.
Make sure your Coggins papers are up to date. Your vet may send you your next Coggins on a smart phone app which is nice, but I have actually been many places where my cell phone did not work. Besides the app, make a paper copy. Also, consider sending the riding location or ranch a copy by e-mail so it is all done for the ride before you get there.
One more thing, make a spare copy of your trailer and truck keys and hide them on the vehicle. We worry that “someone will find them”. Trust me on this, that if you are riding where you have to worry about your things, you might be riding in the wrong place plus I just do not believe the terrorist of the world are targeting our trailer on an upcoming ride.
So, even if it is still cold where you are, get the other things ready for the new season and you will be glad you did. If we can help you in any way, send me an e-mail and I will always write back the same day. My personal e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and our website is www.bestofamericabyhorseback.com or visit us on Facebook.
Tom Seay is the Executive Producer and creator of the television show, Best of America by Horseback, seen on RFD- TV network, The Cowboy Channel, and over 300 cable channels. Tom organized and led the great American Transcontinental Trail Ride, a 3,300 mile trail ride (every step of the way by horseback) from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans and then another great ride from Mexico to Canada. He is considered the foremost authority on trail riding in America.