Honestly I was very niave in the beginning of my riding days and rode in snow 2 exercise my horse but never too much and now I havent did more than walk when there is snow on the ground for the last 3 years
Something I posted on another board:
Okay well I hate to be controversial, but I ride and jump in all kinds of terrain. Snow, mud (NOT ice ever), grass, etc. I do eventing and it's a great way to condition the horses over various footing to help them build better bone density, etc., and something the English have been doing for ages. I have jumped in the snow, when there was enough of a snow cover to not matter what was underneath, as long as what was underneath was NOT ice.
Let me put it this way - I've skied and snowmobiled since I was a kid. They always say for trail conditions to be safe, you need a good base of at least 12" to pack down and level out the ground. Basically with enough of a base of the snow, you will get enough packing down that the footing shape underneath is inconsequential due to the laws of physics. The snow will essentially level out on top regardless of the shape of the underlying ground as long as there are no major ruts or divots. This applies to ski trails, snowmobile trails, hiking trails, and even horseback riding arenas. I've been able to successfully w/t/c and jump (no not a course, just a single fence) with enough base, no slush, and most importantly a BAREFOOT horse.
While I understand the necessity for shoes, and one of my horses is in shoes because he simply is not comfortable barefoot (yes yes I tried, for YEARS barefoot...don't go there), however I won't jump him even with snowpads and cleats b/c they add too much traction and increase the chance of a blown tendon. However a barefoot horse will be able to much better grip the ground w/o the snow balling up or getting stuck in the hoof, and has more than enough traction when there is a good solid base of snow that has been settled (i.e. Not huge drifts, but has been packed down some) and not slushy, with conditions remaining safely below freezing to jump.
You have to obviously be careful, and also check the temps b/c if it's below 20 degrees, there's a much higher risk of injury due to the cold.
Some people may call it crazy to ride in the snow, or mud, etc., however I feel it's far better conditioning when done within reason, by an experienced rider on a balanced horse that has worked up to riding in those conditions. Would I take a green bean out in the snow for a gallop? No. But would I take a trained eventer over a 2'6" solid coop on a sloppy day? Yes. And that same eventer over a single jump on a good 12" - 16" base of snow? Yes. Fresh snow? No. Slush? No. Ice? Not a chance in **** I'd even be letting my horse ON that. But, for me, riding in the snow is one of the great fun things about where I live! And horses have been running and playing and jumping around in the snow for ages w/o human help!
So be smart, be safe, and enjoy. Barefoot please! (you, not the horse!) Please note: this is ONLY for horses that have been properly conditioned to the terrain, and are balanced and experienced, with an experienced rider. Thank you!
A reply to my post on that other board:
I also jump in snow, rain, mud, shows do not run only in the sunshine. How can a horse be expected to adjust to different enviromental conditions if he is only ridden in Sunshine or indoors on perfect footing??.
One must practice saftey and common sense first and know the land.
Our OP may not have the experience needed for judging the climate or the solidity of the ground.
Jumping under a coach/instructor would be her safest option until she has gained some knowledge.
We also plow our one riding field.
Not with a field plow....but a snow plow for a tractor that has ridge setters to grade/fill in the tire tracks as well.
If one does not plow to the ground, leaving 6-8 inches of soft snow on top of a tiled sand ring.....you do not get ice unless a thaw of above 0 and a freeze again.
We use bioron/salt and sand to help with this.....I also rotate my riding pattern.
You know....we did not have arenas as a youngster like it is common tody.
Many of our Olympic riders trained outside...before there was a Florida winter curcuit.
It is only because we have become accustom to these luxeries that we forget horses can/ did and were "safely" trained and jumped outside.
It is a state of mentality....winter means stop riding outside for most people...too bad....it is a lovely season to ride in
If horses can run, jump, buck, bolt, spin, play halters in the snow.....they can be balanced enough by the knowledgable rider to jump an obstacle
How can a horse be expected to adjust to different enviromental conditions if he is only ridden in Sunshine or indoors on perfect footing??.
Well for me, it better be darn near close. I am weary of riding in soft mud down here, because it often gets deep and slippery. I have not had the experience of riding in snow down here, and unless I would bet my horse's safety on it (which is what you are doing...) than I would not jump in it.
Jumping has so much impact on the horse already, I personally would not jump even a small fence in it if I had the choice to. Conditioning in the winter season while it snows and having no other arena to ride in is tough. Make sure the footing is stable and not icy.
One of the biggest causes of breakdowns in racehorses these days in the US is the lack of conditioning over varying terrain. Different terrain is necessary to condition the tendons and ligaments and bones of the horse to better support them - and it's just as important to ride horses in varying conditions to build strength as it is to not use boots all the time, etc. If a horse is never ridden in anything other than "ideal" conditions, then there's no way for their body to develop the necessary strength to support them if they are so much as turned out in less than perfect conditions.
Overprotection of our horses is just as likely to cause injury as reckless riding - riding in terrain that the horse has NOT been properly conditioned for.