Winter riding - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 31 Old 12-07-2009, 05:36 PM Thread Starter
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Winter riding

It's been snowing here but I wanna go riding. My horses are wet from the snowfall and such, but I've read that the wetness doesn't reach their skin because of how their hair works and such. Do I need to dry them off before putting on a saddle pad and saddle to avoid pushing that wetness down into contact with their skin? And after a ride they will be sweating and such, so is it safe for em to sweat when it's cold out? And if it's all ok and such do I need to dry em off before letting em back into the pasture so that the sweat that's reached their skin won't cause em to be cold? It's around 20 degrees right now.

I've read that they are fine in the weather and such because of their coats, but is it a different story when we wanna go riding? And do I need to take precautions so I don't harm my horse?
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post #2 of 31 Old 12-07-2009, 06:17 PM
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It definately changes when we ride. I personally make it a point to not ride them when it's wet and cold - the saddle pad and saddle, or even us riding bareback causes the hair to flatten and moisture to get to their skin. It's not so bad when it's just raining (although it can cause irritation), but when it's cold I want to make sure I'm not doing anything to affect the action of their hair to cause them to become damp.

If you don't have a barn or an arena (like me), it's absolutely IMPERITIVE that you don't cause them to sweat when you ride. Making a horse sweat in winter means having a barn and a blanket to keep them warm while they're drying.

We ride throughout winter, but without an arena or barn, we're extremely limited to what we can do. As long as you have one of those two things, it's not such a big deal, but yes, definately make them dry and warm before they go out. If you like riding in winter, it may be a good idea to blanket them to prevent the hair from getting wet at all.

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post #3 of 31 Old 12-07-2009, 08:32 PM
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I would invest in a blanket, even just a waterproof sheet, for when it snows or rains in the cold weather. The hair can only work to a point until it becomes saturated, and once that happens they can get chilled quite easily. I would not saddle or ride a wet horse as it would be uncomfortable and cold for them, but a sheet will prevent this problem. After your ride you should put a cooler on the horse to allow them to dry off without becoming chilled. This is a longer process in the winter as you will need to stay with the horse until he is dry so that you can brush him and blanket if need be. I like to let my horses grow a nice thick coat in the winter as riding is limited with only a small outdoor arena to ride in, but I still blanket my guys to keep them dry and warm. If you don't overdo it they will be comfortable but still grow a nice coat.

One thing you didn't mention is footing. Take it easy when there's snow on the ground as a misstep could cause a bad slip for both horse and rider. Always check the footing under the snow as well because what may have been dirt one day could have frozen to a layer of ice the next.
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post #4 of 31 Old 12-07-2009, 09:07 PM
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If you do ride in the snow, cover him with a fleece or wool cooler after the ride until he's completely dry. Like others said, a wet horse in cold weather is a bad combintation. A waterproof sheet will be sufficient to keep him dry. If he's already grown a nice winter coat, an insulated blanket won't be necessary.
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post #5 of 31 Old 12-07-2009, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by MyBoyPuck View Post
If he's already grown a nice winter coat, an insulated blanket won't be necessary.
I've heard that that wasn't true. I've heard that the hair gets all poofy, which more or less stores heat within the coat. And that the sheet will smash down all the hair, releasing all the stored heat. So essentially, a sheet won't be enough to keep your horse warm, and while it may keep him dry, it would in fact make him colder. Anyone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I read that somewhere on here, and it seems to make sense, at least to me.

Honestly, I think if you want to ride in the winter, not just a walk around the pasture but really ride, give your horse some kind of trace clip and buy him a good blanket. Ricci is trace clipped, with a good blanket. We work hard, and when she sweats, it takes less than half the amount of time to dry as it would if she had a full coat. I also never, EVER, ride a wet horse. In my opinion, that's just begging for irritated skin. I have a fleece cooler I can throw on, and a blanket that I can put on over it so she's still warm while the fleece soaks up the moisture. I also have access to a quarter sheet that I ride with on super cold days, like today, it was only about 30 F give or take a few degrees.

PS. If it's snowing, and you don't have an arena, it's extremely important that you make sure your horse isn't accumulating snowballs in his feet. It's usually more common in shod horses, but I suppose it could happen even barefoot.

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post #6 of 31 Old 12-07-2009, 10:58 PM
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My horse is a wooly bear in the winter. We ride outside almost everyday for about an hour. If he gets a little sweaty, I just make sure to dry him off completely with a fleece cooler before turning him back out.

What I meant about the light turnout was, if it is actively snowing, better to have a thin blanket on over his coat to keep him dry than to have him wet, however thick the hair is. I doubt horse hair is dense enough to keep moisture away from the body. They aren't otters. However, you present an interesting question about the light sheet matting down the hair and defeating the purpose. I've never had any problems doing it the way I've been doing it, but will be interested in hearing other opinions.
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post #7 of 31 Old 12-07-2009, 11:19 PM
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I live in the same general area as you and I ride all winter long and sometimes I ride quite hard. When I unsaddle I brush them a little then turn the loose. The first thing they do is roll in the snow. This serves to dry them off and itch the back. I have never had a horse get sick in the winter. The saying Healthy as a Horse is because horses rarely get sick. I don't stall and I don't blanket. Horses for the most part are not hot-house flowers that will wither and die if exposed to the natural elements.

There's nothing like the Rockies in the springtime... Nothing like the freedom in the air... And there ain't nothing better than draggin calves to the fire and there's nothing like the smell of burning hair. -Brenn Hill
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post #8 of 31 Old 12-08-2009, 01:19 AM
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MyBoyPuck -- I agree about it's better to be dry and all that, and I don't mean to suggest you've been doing it wrong. It was just a thought, I'm definitely interested in what others have to say too.

kevinshorses -- My mare sure thinks she's a hot-house flower that will wither and die if she's exposed to the natural elements. She pouts something terrible if she isn't blanketed when she thinks she should be, lol. =P

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post #9 of 31 Old 12-08-2009, 09:55 AM
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Do you keep your horses at home? do you have access to an arena? or do ride outside all the time? if your current temps are around 20 degrees(C or F?), I wouldn't worry about it to much. It's when it's -25 with wind that you have to be more careful

I had a lot of problems with winter riding for many years. Wanted to go riding but the weather was just to cold during most of the winter and since the horses were at my house back then, I would usually take most of the winter off.
You really have to be careful if you do choose to ride in the cold. If it's a light hack, then you will be ok. Keep a cooler on during your ride to keep the moisture away but make sure they aren't moist or damp after you are done. I would suggest getting a blanket as a precaution as well for after your rides.

Winter riding really sucks for the home, horse owner. Depending on your geographical location, you can be really limited as to when and where to ride during those long winter months.

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post #10 of 31 Old 12-08-2009, 12:16 PM
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<3<3<3<3 my heated indoor barn and arena. It's -40C and I'm still training!
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