Riding Horses in the Winter: 11 Tips

Girls riding white horses along snowy lane.

Horses and their owners have unique challenges when it comes to cold weather, ice, and snow. Winter's obstacles, on the other hand, are not insurmountable. Here are some advice and suggestions for keeping your journey as safe as possible, despite the perils that winter might bring.

Provide More Grip

If you want to ride while the ground is icy, ask your farrier about ice caulks and shoes with padding. Snowballs will be avoided, and ice damage on their soles may be avoided with the use of special padding. If a kicks another with ice calks on its hind hoof, it may inflict a lot of harm. As a result, you may choose to use calks on the front and leave the hinds naked but clipped. In the winter, untrimmed chip more easily, so don't put off farrier services simply because it's cold outside.

Adjust the Workload

Remember that riding in the snow is more difficult for the horse than riding on bare ground. Time in the saddle and pace should be planned properly. Consider how you feel when you're trudging through heavy snow; your horse may feel the same way.

Slow Down

Plan to or work at a slower pace to reduce your horse's sweating. Cooling down takes a long time, and warming up chilly muscles takes much longer. Horses who are used to walking on frozen, uneven ground may take some time to acclimatize to the footing in an arena, and their gaits may appear stiff until they learn to stride out with confidence.

A Wet Horse Can Get Cold

After your ride, allow additional time to chill down. Put a sweating horse outside in the cold, wind, or rain. Change the blanket if it becomes damp so that moisture wicks away from your horse's coat. You can turn the horse out after it is completely dry.

Keep Muscles Warm

If your horse is used to being stabled and blanketed, consider wearing a 'rump rug' or 'quarter sheet' when riding to keep his muscles warm. However, try on the rump rug before you ride so your horse gets acclimated to it. When you're in the saddle, you don't want it spooking at the unusual blanket draped over its haunches.

Dress in Layers

Dress in layers that can be readily removed if you feel hot while working with your horse. Any sporty winter activity requires fabric that wicks perspiration away and dries rapidly. Underwear and apparel designed specifically for riders are available. Ear warmers or hoods can be worn beneath your helmet or over your helmet.

Wear Safe Boots

When riding in the cold, you may wish to wear warmer footwear. Make sure they're not too big to get stuck in your stirrups. If you spill something, they should still fall out easily.

Prevent Snowballs

If snowballs form in hooves while you ride, give the bottom of your horse's hooves a coating of petroleum jelly.

Avoid Hazards

When riding, keep clear from locations where there may be holes, trees, poles, or other hazards concealed beneath the snow. If your horse trips or falls over something concealed behind the snow cover, you and your horse may be injured.

Warm the Bit

Your horse may be uncomfortable with a very cold bit. Keep bridles at home, warm the bit with your hands, or wrap it in a warm (not hot) gel pack before putting it in your horse's mouth.

Bring a Snack

Warm up after your bike with a granola bar and a vacuum flask of hot cider or cocoa. Working hard in cold, dry weather can dehydrate you, so drink plenty of fluids or bring a bottle of or sports drink with you.

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