How big a problem is fairly deep snow? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 12-07-2010, 07:18 PM Thread Starter
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How big a problem is fairly deep snow?

OK, I'm new to this horse riding business. I'm NOT new to snow! I am, however, very new to the combination of the two.

So, my question is this: how big a problem is snow for the horse? Riding, that is. Not just out in the pasture.

He spends as much time in the pasture as conditions allow and it's covered with snow--largely packed down or kicked around by Mr. Big and his Friends.

I've had Mr. Big riding around the neighborhood 5 or 6 times in the snow. When we started it was pretty light, fluffy, stuff and he was able to walk right through it. As time's gone by, and temperatures have fluctuated, and we've gotten fog, and more snow, and etc., the snow has changed. Now it's almost as deep as when we started but it's hard and kind of crusty.

I can't walk on the crust, it's not THAT crusty. But coyotes, rabbits, mice, partridge, and other critters can. The snow underneith is from 6 to 24 inches deep, I think. Maybe a bit deeper where it's really blown in.

Mr. Big has to lift his feet up and over the snow most of the time--not dragging through it, at least, not easily.

We ride 3 to 5 miles, I suppose. He doesn't seem to get tired, doesn't act like he's having any problems. He seldom slips or misses hit footing. Once he's past being a bit barn sour and starts getting into the ride he seems to enjoy being out and about. He's energetic going up and cautious going down (and since there's a LOT of hills we go up and down a lot!). We are crossing open fields, for the most part, with no trails nor roads to follow.

As long as he seems to be handling the snow just fine is there any problem taking him out in it? I know I sure like taking him out in it! I'm new to the area and we're exploring countless little hills, valleys, ridges, stands of trees, open fields, etc! All within a couple miles of the farm!

But I REALLY don't want to risk hurting Mr. Big! I do, however, want to work on the barn sour problem and work on getting him in shape for longer rides when the weather gets better next spring. And that means riding!


"Don't just feed it! Ride it!" And the People said "AMEN!"
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post #2 of 22 Old 12-07-2010, 07:23 PM
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The biggest problem with snow is knowing what's underneath it. Be careful/aware of holes/ice/obstacles underneath the snow.

I've heard of the crust on snow cutting legs, but I haven't personally seen it. Usually after a good snowy romp my horses have ice balls and snow crusted into their leg hair I make sure to get it all out and check for cuts.
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post #3 of 22 Old 12-07-2010, 07:36 PM Thread Starter
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Hadn't thought about ice balls and such. Don't think it's been a problem becasue it's actually been fairly warm--his legs are clean when I bring him in.

Hadn't thought about cuts from the crust. I'll keep that in mind when it gets a bit icier.

I pay attention to where we're going and make sure he sees any ditches or obstacles we have to cross. He often sees things before I do. When there's something there, or I think there might be, I make sure he's going slow and careful. And I avoid anything that looks like it might hang him up, if I can tell it's there (old farm equipment, old fence lines, etc.). Not much I can do about holes--and he finds them, every now and again. So far just small ditches that have blown completely over; he steps into them, staggers, and recovers. Doesn't seem to bother him too much.

I'll keep the crust cuts in mind! thanks!

"Don't just feed it! Ride it!" And the People said "AMEN!"
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post #4 of 22 Old 12-11-2010, 02:25 PM
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I had a percheron up to his belly in snow once :) what an exhillerating ride! He had to basically Spanish walk in the snow to get anywhere. and where he wasn't able to walk he bunny hopped. :) I used to use heavy snowfalls for training young riding horses too. it was more work to move, but it also made a impromtu dismount - falling off - less painful.

Lots of fun is to be had in the snow, just make sure you watch for burried objects, and try not to fall off! XD cuz while the landing is soft, getting on is a billion times harder!!

A canter is a cure for every evil. ~Benjamin Disraeli
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post #5 of 22 Old 12-11-2010, 03:01 PM
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I haven't had a problem. Just when the snow is deep enough I can fall off without getting hurt I normally don't ride on the road. Instead I stick to the pasture and run around and practice vaulting and trick riding. I remember when we had 2ft. of snow I leaped off and did a partial flip and landed in the snow, It was FUN!
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post #6 of 22 Old 12-11-2010, 04:37 PM
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I personally would not ride in an area that I didn't know what was under the snow. Sounds like it could be an accident waiting to happen.
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post #7 of 22 Old 12-11-2010, 09:57 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by churumbeque View Post
I personally would not ride in an area that I didn't know what was under the snow. Sounds like it could be an accident waiting to happen.
Agreed! I've been avoiding the dense trees for that very reason. Open trees with good flat snow between we'll enter because I can see branches and brambles underfoot. But where the snow is messy, I stay out!

Of course, there's no way to know about EVERYTHING under the snow. And Mr. Big has surprised both of us by stepping into shallow ditches and stuff. We can see where the big stuff is and avoid it but sometimes the smaller ditches are blown over smooth. We're both pretty good at seeing where they MIGHT be and taking our time/being careful.

"Don't just feed it! Ride it!" And the People said "AMEN!"
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post #8 of 22 Old 12-11-2010, 10:17 PM
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My horse's legs got a little cut up last year (there was crusty snow) but nothing horrid. If I ride in snow like that I would like to put boots on him though.
Yep make sure you watch for ice underneath the snow before riding.

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post #9 of 22 Old 12-11-2010, 11:04 PM
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Something else I'd mention is that it definitely is more work for them--so a great workout, but something to keep in mind. 30 minutes may feel more like 2 hours to the horse when going through deep snow. My second bit of advise applies to anytime you are on soft enough terrain to not be able to hear the horse's hoofbeat. If you are on soft ground, it's best to stick to walking and cantering. Trotting can cause strain on the tendons on soft ground.

A horse is the projection of peoples' views about themselves--strong, powerful, beautiful--and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existance.
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post #10 of 22 Old 12-12-2010, 01:15 PM Thread Starter
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I hadn't thought about/didn't realize that trotting on soft ground can cause more tendon strain. Do you know why? Can you explain the physiology? I'm NOT disagreeing with you nor challenging you! I just want to understand.


"Don't just feed it! Ride it!" And the People said "AMEN!"
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