Wintertime Riding:

7 Safety Tips for You and Your Horse

March 12, 2021

Being mired in cold temperatures or snow and ice doesn’t have to put a stop to quality time spent with your horse. It’s important to keep your horse moving during winter months, and time together will help you stay connected. So how do you safely navigate winter riding conditions? First, make sure your horse is drinking enough water, and apply these six other important tips.

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7 Tips to Help You Stay Safe and Enjoy the Winter Ride

It requires a little more preparation, planning, and perhaps a shorter ride, but winter can still be a productive time for you and your horse. Here are some suggestions to help you weather the elements more comfortably and ensure your wintry ride is safe and enjoyable. 

1.  Dress for Success

Dressing in layers is essential for any rider venturing out in chilly weather. Layers can be removed or added as the day warms or as temperatures dip, and will help you have a comfortable ride.

Wear sweat-wicking material that keeps your skin dry, and warm winter boots that slide easily out of the stirrups. Make sure to cover your hands, head, and face to limit exposure. Wearing reflective gear on your clothing is also a smart idea to help you stay visible, especially if you find yourself out after sunset.

And let’s not forget your equine friend! There are reflective collars, chest plates and leg bands available for horses. And if your horse is used to hunkering down in a warm stall, she might also appreciate a rump rug or quarter sheet to stay comfortable on the trail.

2.  Warm Up Slowly 

Speaking of staying warm, it’s vital to warm up your horse slowly in cold temperatures. Like us, a horse's muscles, bones, and joints become stiff in cold weather and grow more flexible with gradual activity.

So walk your horse a minimum of ten minutes before moving her into a trot, and consider using a half sheet or exercise sheet during warm-up. Your horse will also thank you for warming her bit before fitting it in her mouth. A cold bit is a quick way to start your ride off on the wrong foot. Which leads us to hoof safety.

3.  Be Appropriately Shod

Generally, a bare hoof is safer in winter than a shod one. Going barefoot gives your horse more traction in snow and ice. If your horse is shoeless, keep hooves trimmed to reduce the amount of snowpack into soles and decrease the chance of slipping.

If you decide to keep your horse shod, that's all right. Just make sure shoes are fitted property, and consider adding studs to the bottom. This increases grip and helps keep your horse surefooted and safe.

4.  Safety in Numbers

On the topic of safety, riding with friends is always a smart decision. Group riding is safer and often more fun. Your horse will also appreciate the company of a few extra friends on the trail.  And speaking of trails...

5.  Take the Beaten Path

Keeping to marked, well-used paths is especially important. Avoid riding off-trail in wintertime, in secluded areas, or through heavy snow where hazards like limbs, rocks, or debris may be hidden.

And remember, plodding through deep snow is strenuous for your horse. You want to avoid working her too hard or getting her too sweaty before heading back to the barn. Which leads us to cooling down.

6.  Cool Down Thoroughly

Cooling down your horse is crucial in winter. A sweaty horse can easily become chilled in cold or damp weather once exercise is over.

Cool your horse slowly by walking at least ten minutes, then dismount and hand-walk your horse for several more minutes before removing the saddle. Make sure to dry your horse thoroughly before putting her back in the paddock/stall or turning her out to feed.

7.  Eat, Drink, and Drink Some More

Winter exercise burns up more calories, and your horse is already expending a lot of energy just to stay warm. Working in cold weather can also increase your horse’s risk of dehydration, since horses are less interested in drinking during winter months.

Compensate your horse’s extra effort by increasing feed rations after a ride and giving a good electrolyte to replace minerals and encourage water consumption. And of course, always make sure they have access to fresh water immediately upon returning home.

Electrolyte and Rein Water info

Redmond Keeps Horses Hydrated in Winter 

Winter weather brings unique challenges for horses, one being a disinclination to drink. Redmond products can help your horse from becoming dehydrated. Both Rein Water and Electrolyte replace critical electrolytes, contain over 60 trace minerals for horses, and help water consumption stay consistent in cold months. Click the button below to try a sample pack of both products!

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Learn More

Want to help your horse weather the winter comfortably?  Here are 6 Things to Do to Help Your Horse Through Winter.

Read this post to learn how to keep your horse's barn, stall or paddock safe during icy conditions.

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