Riding Your Horse In The Winter
Riding your horse in winter is not the easiest time to ride, but if you take the right preparations, precautions and warm down, riding in a winter wonderland can be beautiful and fun. Consider these tips and enjoy your winter ride.
Horses do get colds, so check for signs of illnesses such as a runny nose, coughing or wheezing. Remember nobody likes to work with a bad cold. If the horse's health is good, use a rump rug or quarter sheet under the saddle to keep your horse's muscles from getting chilled while riding. Keep your bridles inside your home so they will be warm. Cold bits can be uncomfortable for horses. Warm the bit with your hands, put it under your coat during your preparation, or put a warm, not hot, gel pack around the bit to warm it before putting it in the horse's mouth. Give your horse's hooves a coating of petroleum jelly to prevent snowballs from forming and carry a hoof pick. If you're riding near or on roads, wear bright colors so you will be seen. Make extra time for a warm up for you and your horse. Make sure you dress warmly. Southern States carries a line of Carhartt shirts, jackets, and hats that are water repellant, lined, and warm. If you're wearing boots make sure they slip out of the stirrups easily. If not, you may want to use a larger stirrup for winter riding.
For the Ride
Just as it is harder for you to walk in the snow, it's harder work for your horse. Plan the amount of time in the saddle and adjust your speed to the environment, meaning you will mostly be walking, and only trotting on safe, level terrain that you've checked. Plus, when you slow down your horse doesn't sweat as much. If you ride a lot during the winter, ask your farrier about shoes with pads and ice caulks. Carefully choose the best and safest places to ride. Stay away from areas where holes, branches, ice puddles, poles and other hidden hazards lay hidden under the snow.
A wet horse can catch a cold, so take extra time for your warm down. Dry your horse thoroughly after riding. Do a thorough visual check for scrapes, cuts, bruises, or puncture wounds. Clean the horse's hooves and check for cracks or loose shoes. You may want to cover them with a blanket for extra warmth.
Make sure your horse has fresh, clean, ice-free water. Install water heaters in troughs. Horses drink less if the water is too cold and this can lead to colic. Consider bedding stalls a bit deeper so horses are not standing on cold floors. Speak with your Southern States dealer about the best pest control to keep rodents out of your stable and feed. Pet your horse, head back inside, and have a cup of hot chocolate and dream of spring.