Winter's approaching! What to do without an indoor?

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  • EquineMelody Original Poster
    Topics Started: 6Replies Posted: 29

    Hello everyone!
    So, where I live (eastern Idaho) winter is fast approaching. Yes, it’s only September 1st but conditions are already getting to be 50 degree afternoons even with the sun full force shining. Crazy right? I’m not looking forward to it…
    So I’ve had my horse for a year now. I got him last July, therefore I’ve already been through one winter with him. However, I found out in October he had a pre-existing injury that needed a lot of care and babying. I didn’t ride him for months. Instead I had to work him on the ground every day. I did this in an outdoor arena (I have no option to board anywhere with an indoor) with a snow packed ground.

    My question is, is it okay to ride outside with a snow packed ground, as long as it doesn’t get icy? I’ve always had lessons in an indoor arena (can’t board there, it’s crazy expensive and farther away) or just taken the winter off of lessons, so I’m new to this. Is it best to not do any riding, or is it okay if the snow stays decently packed down?

    Also, how cold is too cold? Last winter we had insanely cold and dry weather. It’s not uncommon to be in the negative degrees, but typically a warm day is about 20 degrees. How cold is too cold to do some light riding? What precautions do I need to take?

    Thanks for any and all advice!

    lovemyhorse
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 19

    I used to board in a pasture and ride gravel roads and ride in the winter and didn’t have an indoor. Ah, those were the days. Yes, you can ride in the winter! If there is NO ice and the snow isn’t horrible slippery. Snow on top? Make sure you know what’s underneath….no ice. No shoes on horse either in the winter unless you put the shoes on that have borium (??) on the bottom that is “supposed” to prevent slipping. No total guarantee horse won’t slip. You can discuss that with your shoer/farrier. I would keep the pace to a walk/slow trot. That way you can decide the footing. We do NOT want slippage. Only canter if the snow is powder or not packed and only for a short short spurt…and again, that’s ONLY if the footing underneath is okay. Too cold? That depends on you. I wore ski pants and ski jacket for riding and boots that would fit in the stirrup but still come out (I’ve had shoes get stuck in the stirrup….not good). Years ago I saw a pic of a lady riding in the winter and she said it was -5 where she lived. Remember too, that horse is gonna get sweaty….YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE HE IS COOLED DOWN before putting him up. Get a cooler, sweat scraper, brush, towel, whatever you need to get him mostly dry so he doesn’t get chilled after working and then you end up with a vet bill. Walk him…we would ride for an hour or more in the winter and then spend 45 minutes to an hour walking and brushing….we didn’t have coolers back then. Make sure too that before you ride you CLEAN FEET. You might try to dry the foot and then pack it with vaseline or butter or some hoof treatment so as to help keep the snow from packing into the foot. We don’t need them walking on a “tennis ball.” Carry a hoof pick if need be. Cover your face so you don’t get frostbit. Warm gloves. Done riding, give horse some tepid water (sips) to help him dry out but don’t put him away wet. Light riding? Horse may not get very sweaty but he may get some under the blanket area so do make sure he’s not soaked. Dry as above. 20 degrees?? No wind??? No ice?? No problem! Bundle up and have a good ride! Sunshine would be even better! Hope this didn’t overwhelm you…..I’ve been there done that. Oh, warm the bit between your hands or blow on it to warm it. Try not to stick that cold piece of metal in his mouth! If you don’t think it’s cold, put it in YOUR mouth and see if you like it! 🙂 Have a good ride!

    TheFoxRider
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 28

    This might be better late than never, at this point, but I figure, if anything, someone else with the same question may benefit. I rode outside for 5+ years year round in Minnesota.

    As long as your horse feels comfortable and your vet has no concerns doing so with his previous issues, there is no reason to stop riding in the winter. I would use caution especially when it’s icy, but as long as your horse is not slipping, I would feel comfortable doing my normal flatwork and even some low jumping on snow over the frozen outdoor arena footing. Two things I keep in mind is that if you ride on the same area, slippery spots may form as you pack down the snow, so be aware. I also would be aware of your horse’s comfort – with the hard ground, hoof fall impacts will be different and on frozen ground I often see discomfort for bare or tender footed horses. If your horse seems a little “ouchy” in his feet, stick with walking and trotting. If he’s out of shape, remember that moving through deeper snow is more work for him, and take that into consideration in how long and what you choose to do during your ride.

    Winter is a great time to go back to the basics with your horse, and go on adventures hacking around (again, be careful of the ice!). As the other poster said, horses wearing shoes can be fitted with Borium on his shoes. Also consider adding snow pads, and be aware of snow balling up in your horse’s feet. When I rode outside in lessons, we would stop throughout the lesson and use a rubber mallet to help gently remove snow balls from the horse’s feet. Barefooted horses are less likely to have this issue.

    I rode down to 0 degrees last winter (only doing walk work) in our indoor, so we were out of the wind but the arena was not heated/insulated. Outside, I would stick to walk work if the air is cold enough to hurt your lungs when you breathe in. I ride with a quarter sheet (my horses are blanketed, but I think any horse would appreciate the warmth!) and make sure to cool them out until they are dry with a cooler on so they don’t catch a chill. If your horse sweats a ton, I’ve seen riders use a blow drier and towels to help the sweat dry. I also like to give my mares an extra snack if it’s really cold- usually alfalfa pellets with warm (not hot!) water poured over them/soaked. The warm water is more for me to feel good, I think, but horses produce warmth by digestion, so I like to think it helps them feel extra snug going out.

    Like the other poster said, warm up your bit before bridling. For myself, I like to ride with toe warmers in my boots, and good warm gloves. Also make sure to cover your face and ears, and I wear sunglasses if it’s very bright so my eyes don’t tear and my lashes start freezing together (it sucks!). I also LOVE my windpro breeches (Kerrits Sit Tight and Warm) which help block the wind, and invest in some long underwear. You can get brands from Target/Department stores that stretch in every direction, which makes mounting and being active a lot more comfortable while still keeping you warm.

    Good luck staying warm!

    Visit my horse care and product review blog at: www.keepcalmhorsecare.blogspot.com

    Wind_Dancer
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 14

    Really enjoyed reading the advice in both posts. I live in Virginia so it doesn’t get as cold here but it can still get pretty cold and snowy during parts of the winter. TheFoxRider I’m definitely going to check those breeches you mentioned out, I’ve been looking for some good winter riding breeches. Right now I ride in fleece lined leggings under my regular breeches when its really cold out, but its kind of hard to fit the leggings underneath.

    I'd rather be riding! www.whispertraining.com

    Wind_Dancer
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 14

    TheFoxRider do you have the full seat or knee patch version of the breeches? I would really like full seat but so many of the ones I try on in tack shop aren’t that comfortable in the seat area.

    I'd rather be riding! www.whispertraining.com

    TheFoxRider
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 28

    I hope you like them! I really like my Sit Tight and Warms (plus, they have super sticky full seats / knee patches to help me sit out the winter spooks and bucks!) and usually pair them with Cuddl Dud long underwear (the “Active layer”) for really cold days. I have the powerstretch breeches, too but they aren’t as warm for polar vortex winter riding. To those layers I add coolmax liner socks to help keep my feet dry, a layer of wool (REI brand hiking socks are an affordable favorite) and Ariat Brossard tall boots, a Cuddl Dud top + fleece and either a coat with Columbia Omni Heat lining or a vest + another coat with insulation and a wind proof outside. I am a equine blogger and recently reviewed every pair of winter riding gloves in my house for my blog, and I suggest the Ovation Syntac Thinsulate winter gloves for extremely cold days / Cold hands and the SSG Pro SHow winter gloves as two gloves that offer a lot of dexterity while still keeping you warm. I usually have a fleece cowl/neck gaiter on, and then I have helmet ear muffs on my helmet’s harness. I can pull the cowl up over my face and nose when it’s really cold and buckle my helmet chin strap over it to keep it in place. I’m a bit of a freeze baby but I survived checking horses in -32 degree wind chills layering, so I am pretty proud of my system!

    Good luck and stay warm!!

    Visit my horse care and product review blog at: www.keepcalmhorsecare.blogspot.com

    TheFoxRider
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 28

    TheFoxRider do you have the full seat or knee patch version of the breeches? I would really like full seat but so many of the ones I try on in tack shop aren’t that comfortable in the seat area.

    I really like the full seats, but they do need to be pulled up all the way before you get on your pony or you can definitely “feel” the full seat. But once I am on, they fit me really well and I bless the full seat for keeping my butt in the tack on a regular basis. If you are nervous about not liking them, I started with the Kerrits Powerstretch winter breeches as my first ever pair of full seats. They’re segmented and the suede itself is stretchy I don’t get any of the tightness/discomfort that I’ve gotten with unsegmented and non stretch seats. Plus, they don’t sag and do the “full diaper” look like some of my Clareno seated breeches. They are a bit pricey, but Smartpak does have their amazing return policy… 😉

    Visit my horse care and product review blog at: www.keepcalmhorsecare.blogspot.com

    TheFoxRider
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 28

    Oh, as a note, the Sit Tight and Warm breeches are the only ones with Windpro fleece in their line, though I think Irideon makes some with the same stuff (I don’t own any). The Windpro fleece, initially, is amazingly really quite wind proof. The effects seem to lessen a bit as you wash them, but they are still more wind proof than any other fleece-type riding breech I’ve owned, including the power stretch breeches. The outside is a bit nicer, too – more likely to shed shavings and hay/hair than other winter breeches I’ve owned. The seat on the Sit Tights is gripstretch, so it will stretch/give, but isn’t segmented like the powerstretch breeches.

    Can you tell I am a HUGE Kerrits fan?

    Visit my horse care and product review blog at: www.keepcalmhorsecare.blogspot.com

    Wind_Dancer
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 14

    Cool thank you so much for all the advice! I am originally from Florida and I hate cold weather lol so I need to get a good system down for winter riding to keep me motivated to ride a lot throughout the winter.

    I'd rather be riding! www.whispertraining.com

    Wind_Dancer
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 14

    haha I love Kerrits too! I have kerrits pull on riding tights and they are sooo cool and comfortable for summer. I think I’m going to go with the full seat sit tights…the wind protection definitely sounds good! Can’t wait to try them!

    I'd rather be riding! www.whispertraining.com

    ShilohsGirl ShilohsGirl
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 49

    I live in Colorado and at my dressage barn, we ride outside all year round. My trainer keeps her arena so well maintained that snow is not a problem.
    Last year when we had all the flooding, most people could not access their barn aisle, and we were riding outside through it all.

    During those bitter cold days, we bundle up (and don’t forget the hand warmers!) along with the horses. We use the Back On Track Quarter sheets, and they work wonders!

    "Think of riding as a science, but love it as an art" ~George Morris

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Schooling chaps are also good in cold weather, and have the benefit of being easy to put on as well as being wind proof.

    It is never the horse's fault

    Joan Fry
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    Maybe because I grew up in NJ and Michigan, where the winters were relatively mild (nothing like New England or Minnesota), I rode occasionally during the winter but not very often because I didn’t have my own horse. But when an ex-husband–I was living in CA by then–took a job in Dartmouth, NH, I did have my own horse. We made it to NH in spite of a blizzard so bad I was nearly driving blind. (We’d been towing the car, and when it started snowing we separated them.) My horse did not–the shipping company said the roads were too hazardous and CT was the farthest they would go. Luckily I had relatives in CT, and they took the horse until spring, when I drove down to pick him up.

    Very few people rode during the winter. The following winter, when the temps went down to 20 below zero and stayed there, I barely went outside, let alone rode. Maybe it was just the Dartmouth community, but–as another faculty wife told me–in the summer we do summer sports, like tennis and riding. In the winter we do winter sports, like skiing or ice skating. So instead of riding, I learned to ski. Downhill skiing in particular gave me the same kind of rush riding can, but without the calm. I am very happy living in CA where we can ride almost all year long!

    MHBTAvatar
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 31

    I HATE being cold! I’m in Colorado now, which gets pretty cold, but not that bone-chilling cold of NH, where I grew up, so I actually do get outside to ride a fair amount in the winter now. Footing is your biggest issue. If it’s slick, don’t risk it. Keeping yourself and pony comfortable is also critical (if either of you are too cold or miserable you won’t make good decisions and your bodies won’t be responding well to any surprises or challenges). Just a few things I’m doing personally:

    The SSG 10 Below gloves are the warmest I’ve found, and those one-time use hand and foot warmers can be a life-saver. I’ve got a quarter sheet I put on when I ride outside in the cold, and the ones that go over your legs as well as your horse’s bum are great! I also like my Irideon balaclava under my helmet – – it covers my ears and I can pull it up over my nose if I need to. I ride in SSG goggles for glare protection. Any variety of breeches with fleece inside and windstopper on the outside seem to work best (leather chaps over breeches add a nice windbreak and keep in the heat). Also, if you’ve got any hot water in the barn, that’s my preferred way of heating up the bit (it’s fast and it’s an easy way to get in a bit cleaning every ride). Make sure to warm your horse up slowly and very adequately when it’s cold – – well-warmed muscles and tendons with lots of blood moving through them will take longer than normal, but be much less likely to sustain injury – especially with the requisite cold weather antics most horses are prone to. If your horse isn’t used to running around in the snow with a rider, as with all things, let him get used to it and find his balance and way of going slowly. If you’re riding in an arena, frequent dragging will help it melt off and drain more quickly.

    Traction-wise, the first thing to do is discuss shoeing options and footing with your farrier. If he or she has been in the area a good long time, they are your best resource for what is best and safest for your horse, your riding conditions, and your style of riding.

    I’m fairly conservative – – I always tend to do a bit less than what I think is probably OK, but I’m doing some experimenting this year.

    My horse has been barefoot forever, but he’s splaying in front a bit and we are doing some foxhunting now so I decided it was time for a pair of shoes. Foxhunting ‘standard’ around here is borium on the shoes, but right now we’re going in front shoes with rim pads (to reduce snowballing) and pin studs at the heels only. Barefoot behind. So far so good, though we haven’t done much out in the snow yet. Worst situation has been a downhill happy prance with some side spooks, but no slipping. He feels more solid to me than he has before in the snow.

    Important things to remember if you’re interested in borium: some barns do not want them on your horse’s back hooves (or at all if you’re at a conservative facility) – – during turnout a kick with a borium hoof could be devastating to another horse. Also, borium gives great traction, so much so that injuries to the horse wearing it are possible due to torsion of the legs (horse twists or spins and the hoof doesn’t because it’s stuck to the ground). The best way I’ve been told to avoid this sort of injury (by a 70+ year master foxhunter and highly respected veterinarian, who does use borium on his hunt horses) is to make sure borium is ONLY at the toes and heels. Avoid the borium nails which will go along the side of the shoe at all costs. Of course, also just be aware if you’ve got borium on to try to keep your horse out of situations where turning on a dime is required.

    Hope some of this is useful! Happy (and warm, and safe) riding!

    Wind_Dancer
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 14

    TheFoxRider I just got my Sit Tight and Warm breeches in the mail last week and I love them! They really do help block the wind a lot! I also found the full seat sooo much more comfortable than other breeches I had tried on at tack shops. Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

    I'd rather be riding! www.whispertraining.com

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