As the cold snap seems to have hit us here in the UK, our thoughts are turning to how we can all continue to ride and spend quality time with our horses in the winter. Naturally, plenty of things affect the feasibility riding in the cooler months, such as inclement weather and poor lighting, but they won’t stop the most determined of riders, so when should you grab the tack and go?
The main question linked to winter riding seems to be: riding in the snow, yes or no? As with anything, option is firmly divided, with many people feeling that snow hacks are simply not safe or advised, but let’s think for a minute about riders in countries that feature a lot of snow. They tackle the weather with barely a second thought, out of necessity, as bad weather raining off play would translate to many months ride-free.
Though indoor riding schools offer a slither of hope, any facility can find itself shut up for the winter, if the temperature plummets too low, so what can you do to prevent a total winter riding embargo? Experienced riders and school owners have taken to creating their own recipes in a bid to pad out their horses’ hooves, to prevent snow balling up and causing discomfort, but that won’t negate the issue of attempting to mount in a slippery yard!
If you are determined to ride in the cold, always be aware that where there is snow there is also ice, particularly in concrete yards that will become difficult to walk on safely, but there is a way to tackle this. The more swept your yard is, the smoother the surface for ice to pool, so try to leave some shavings and even a little hay laying around, to act as a natural grip. Fire ash works terrifically well too. Also, don’t forget to buy your salt and grit well ahead of time, as it becomes as rare as hen’s teeth once the snow starts to fall and twice as expensive!
If you’re feeling adventurous and still keen to ride this winter, try to bear these handy hints in mind. Trust us, they WILL make your life easier.
- Have your horse clipped as this will prevent you having to deal with more hair than is necessary. A wet horse on a cold day is no fun for anybody.
- Don’t worry about getting every speck of dirt off your horse, as you only need to be concerned about keeping the areas that will be touching tack spotless.
- Don’t skimp on your turnout rug. Choose a style that will come up your horse’s neck, to keep them warm and a little cleaner.
- A plaited tail will be far less muddy and bothersome to deal with.
- Think about investing in different brands of coat shine, to see which are best for preventing dirt from sticking to your horse.
- Always use an exercise blanket, as this will keep your horse warm and ready to work. Cold muscles lead to injuries.
- Don’t be in a rush to get to canter. Longer warm-ups and cool-downs are vital in cold weather.
- Kit yourself out with a hoof pick for removing snow build-up.
- Be kind to your horse and warm up their bit before placing it in their mouth.
- Listen to your horse and only do as much as they want to and feel capable of.
- Don’t offer cold water to your horse after a ride, as lukewarm will be far more beneficial and comfortable for them.
- If you don’t own a specific cooler rug, try thatching, whereby you stuff dry straw under a stable rug to dry off a sweaty horse.
Above all else, remember that your horse will be just as vulnerable to cold weather as you are, so work as a team and enjoy winter exercising together.