Snow and cold temperatures keep many people inside. There’s no reason to bench yourself and your horse though, because even the coldest days can be great for getting outdoors and treating yourself and your equine companion to some exercise. Use these winter horseback riding tips to get started!
Warm the Bit
Keep your bridle in the house or a heated barn, or invest in a bit warmer. You can also warm your bit by holding it in your bare hands for a minute before putting it into your horse’s mouth, or by wrapping it in a warm (not hot!) pack.
Take it Easy
Cold temperatures make the body work a bit harder, so take it easy on your horse, especially if he has been spending less time under saddle than usual. A long, easygoing walk might be just the thing. At the same time, don’t worry about your horse becoming too cold while you’re out for a ride. Equines are well-equipped to handle temperatures that send humans scurrying for cozy firesides, and you may notice that your horse seems to enjoy going out in chilly weather.
Plan to Ride a Lot? Get Help from Your Farrier
If you plan to do a lot of riding in snowy, icy conditions, consider having your horse fitted with shoes with tube-type rim pads and removable studs. The pads help to prevent snow balls from forming inside the horse’s hooves, and the studs help to deal with slippery surfaces. Unlike permanent calks that can cause serious slipping on hard ice, studs have sharper points and can be removed after riding to prevent damage to other surfaces. Alternately, borium may be added to your horse’s regular shoes; farriers offer different techniques depending on the exact conditions you’ll be riding in.
If you decide against pads, applying a layer of petroleum jelly or non-stick cooking spray to the soles of your horse’s feet can help prevent snow balling. Either way, pay close attention to what’s happening with your horse’s feet as you dash through the snow! He could be seriously injured by a single misstep.
If riding in the snow, watch out for hidden hazards such as holes, large sticks, or other objects that could cause your horse to stumble. Watch out for slippery areas – even if you’re riding with ice nails, calks, studs, or borium shoes, this winter riding tip will help you prevent a devastating accident.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Warming up and cooling down are always important, and even more so when temperatures drop. If your horse has a sweaty patch under his saddle pad, take extra care to prevent chilling. Put a light blanket on the horse after removing the saddle, and walk your horse until he’s dry. A heavy, waterproof blanket will prevent the moisture from evaporating and do more harm than good. Wait until your horse is dry to turn him out or cover him with his usual weatherproof blanket.
Since riding is supposed to be enjoyable, it’s vital that you stay comfortable while taking in the winter scenery from the vantage point that your horse’s back affords! Being prepared for cold temperatures is the key to having fun, and of all our winter riding tips, it’s among the most important. Dress in light layers so that you can stay warm enough while avoiding perspiration. Wearing layers instead of a single heavy coat will allow you to add or remove apparel as your body temperature shifts during your ride.
Lastly, bring a snack along and be sure that you and your horse stay hydrated. If you’re going out on the trail, build in extra time and remember that the sun goes down earlier this time of year.