1. Plan regular farrier visits
As the saying goes, ‘no foot, no horse’ and your farrier’s the best person to make sure your pony’s hooves are in top condition. Regular trims every five to seven weeks will keep his feet strong and sturdy.
2. Check your pony daily
It’s much easier to treat any problems if you catch them early, so check his legs daily, looking for any lumps, bumps, heat or swelling.
3. Pick out his hooves
It’s super-important to pick out your pony’s feet daily. It’s best to pick them out before and after riding and at least once a day even if you’re not riding. It’ll help prevent any stone bruises and give you a chance to check over his hoof, sole and frog.
4. Warm up and cool down carefully
Warming your pony up and cooling him down for at least 10 minutes before and after exercise helps to keep the muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments in his legs healthy.
5. Think about ground conditions
Remember to consider the ground you’re riding on, especially if you’re planning to do jumping or fast work. Ground that’s too hard puts strain on your pony’s legs, and doing too much in deep mud and sand can injure muscles or tendons.
6. Use boots where necessary
Some ponies knock their legs together as they move or clip their front heels with their back hooves. If your pony does this, think about using brushing or overreach boots for protection. Even if your pony doesn’t, it’s a good idea to use boots for faster work, lungeing and jumping.
7. Make sure he’s fit for the job
One of the most important things is to make sure your pony’s fit enough for his workload. If he’s only been lightly hacking and you take him to a one-day event, he’s much more likely to hurt himself. Increase his fitness gradually and build up work over time.
8. Check his tack fits correctly
A poorly fitting saddle affects your pony’s way of moving – if he’s not comfy through his back, it can make his whole body sore. Make sure to get your saddle checked by a qualified saddle fitter every six months to keep him comfy.
9. Prevent his legs getting too hot
Heat can weaken the tendons in your pony’s legs, especially during exercise. Take off his boots as soon as possible after your ride, and look for ventilated styles. It’s a good idea to cold hose his legs afterwards if he’s particularly hot, too.
10. Keep him moving
Plenty of turnout, combined with regular exercise, keeps your pony moving and encourages his joints to stay healthy. This is super-important in older ponies, who are much more likely to get stiff.