Riding in the winter - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 30 Old 10-13-2011, 11:56 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Alberta, Canada
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Riding in the winter

I've had my horse for about 3 years now and haven't once ridden him in the winter.. I'm wondering how you all go about it. Where I live in Canada, we get a ton of snow starting in about November and it's usually all gone by April/March.

I have some questions. What are the differences between riding in tack and bareback? Can you ride in deep snow? What about sweating? Any hints for the snowballs that form on the hooves? Any winter riding input is welcome :)

The love for a horse is just as complicated as the love for another human being. If you never love a horse, you will never understand.
Rip Java; May 2000 - February 2012, xoxo
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post #2 of 30 Old 10-13-2011, 12:04 PM
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: South Dakota
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I would handle my winter riding as you have the previous 3 winters...and just NOT do it LOL. Too cold for me in the bitter Dakota winds.

Have fun!
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post #3 of 30 Old 10-13-2011, 12:06 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Alberta, Canada
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4 months of not riding sucks though :(

The love for a horse is just as complicated as the love for another human being. If you never love a horse, you will never understand.
Rip Java; May 2000 - February 2012, xoxo
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post #4 of 30 Old 10-13-2011, 12:37 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Ontario
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If you have the confidence to ride bareback, it's warmer altho your feet will get painfully cold for a while but that goes away. When you dismount do it slowly to make sure your feet are actually touching the ground. With winter riding you need to stay mainly at the walk. Snow balls occur during milder weather because of the heat the sole of a hoof emits - like packing snowballs with barehands. Some spray the hoof with cooking spray. Plowed roads are the best place to ride as you know what you are on. Trails only if familiar with them. Enjoy, you're a tough Canuck, you can do it.
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post #5 of 30 Old 10-13-2011, 12:47 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Northern Illinois
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Riding in winter is definitely possible. However, I live in northern illinois, so climate is way different.

The most important things to remember when riding are 1. Temperature and 2. Ground conditions and 3. Horse condition

So if its -30, maybe not a good idea. It can be dangerous to do, unless you are only riding for short periods of time and are dressed very well for the cold.
However, I have been riding in -20, and it was rough, but fun! Lots and lots of layers and a very puffy horse! It was a lot of fun walking and trotting through the snow.

Ground conditions are extremely important. If there is an ice storm, and then it snows, then do not go riding. The inability to see the ice is dangerous, and most horses will not even go faster than a walk in the pasture in these conditions. Better to play it safe, as I seen had horses slip on ice and hurt themselves. "Black" ice or "invisible" ice are also things to take into account. Of course, if you have an indoor arena, then these things are no problem.

By "horse condition" I mean a few things. They need to have good feet and adequate shoes (if they wear shoes). You also need to be careful of sweat. Sweat in extremely cold temps can quickly get a horse sick, if not dealt with properly. So you need to constantly be checking him for sweat, unless you have a dry stall and a heavy blanket. If they do sweat, then you MUST be sure to cool them down properly before you put them out. I dry them off and walk them until they cool down. Since I do not have a place to put them (like a stall) I try hard to avoid sweat.

Yes, you can ride in deep snow, but once again, you must be careful. Watch for fatigue and only ride in places that you are familiar with.

Oh and I am pretty much exclusively bareback in the winter. Keeps my tush warm :) Leather is just too cold to be sitting on in that kind of weather.
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Last edited by Lakotababii; 10-13-2011 at 12:51 PM.
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post #6 of 30 Old 10-13-2011, 01:16 PM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: MN
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I ride all winter. Trail ride too. If the horse sweats, use a cooler (or 2-3) until the horse is dry.

Knock the snow out of the hooves with a rubber mallet.

Tack or bareback - depends if your boots fit safely in your stirrups!
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post #7 of 30 Old 10-13-2011, 01:34 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Copley, OH
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I ride all winter but our barn has an indoor arena so that makes things easier! Still, we've ridden outside and on trail in the winter, here are the tips I use:

1. If it's below 25 degrees F I don't bother, too cold for both of us, not good on either of our lungs, esp outside!

2. Bareback is nice and warm so I love that every now and then, and get a good pair of insulated boots so your tootsies don't freeze!

3. You can get a quarter sheet for your horse if you're worried about him getting cold, they'll keep him cosy and go right underneath the saddle pad and saddle.

4. My girl is barefoot so she never has the snowballs under the hooves issue, but for my friends with shod ponies, you can use Pam cooking spray to help deter the snowballs!

5. When outside, I go slower! Esp. in deep snow...if you ask your horse to run around in deep snow you're inviting some potential accidents with slipping on icy/snowy areas and/or bowing tendons (much like in deep mud). Also if the snow has a sort of icy crust on top that the legs would break through they could potentially get cut if it's sharp enough.

6. Because my girl is ridden and in training all year round, I use a trace clip on her once she grows in her fuzzy winter coat, so that I can get around the sweating issue - because the LAST thing you want to do is put your horse's blanket back on with him being sweaty! The first year I got my girl I didn't know about the trace clip so I left her fuzzy and BOY was she a FUZZBALL! She got so sweaty that I had to use a hair dryer to dry her off after our rides before I could put her blanket back on! Not that she minded the warm air on her, but it took a good long time!

"The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you..."
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post #8 of 30 Old 10-13-2011, 01:37 PM
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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I like winter riding. I ride bareback so I stay warmer and I try to stay mostly to walking with some trotting so my horse doesn't sweat too much. I found thermal socks and my feet stay toasty. I put hand warmers in my mittens and I'm good to go.
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post #9 of 30 Old 10-13-2011, 01:50 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
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I ride about two times a week in the winter. Like someone else said, don't ride over ice. Our trails are groomed during the winter, so I get to enjoy them year round. Under Armour clothing is a life saver for winter riding!
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post #10 of 30 Old 10-13-2011, 02:03 PM
Join Date: Feb 2011
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I ride all winter but I have a well insulated indoor, I rarely ride outside in the winter. I wear under armor cold gear compression tights & long sleeve shirt w/jeans over and my carhartt coat if I get cold. I love ironclad's tough chix gloves, they are made for construction type work that requires nimble finger usage. They are really warm, fit well & have good grip on the fingertips so you don't have to unglove to cinch, unlock doors, etc.

I've not found winter boots with soles that I am comfortable riding with. I do a lot of colt starting & I don't want to get hung in a stirrup because I wore a lug sole. My solution is to steal my hubby's battery socks he wears for hunting and wear them with my regular riding boots :)

The most important thing is cooling your horse out. If they work hard enough to get sweaty, they need to be dry before turned back out in the elements. I don't clip mine or blanket but do walk them out until they are dry & brush out all of the dried sweat.

Life is like a camera. Focus on what's important, Capture the good times, Develop from the negatives and if things don't work out, Take another shot.
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