10 tips for riding in winter

09. January 2020 / Guide / 3 Minutes
10 tips for riding in winter

Horses that hibernate in the cold season and wake up again when temperatures are more pleasant have not yet been discovered. Therefore, the animal has to be exercised even when it's wet, cold and unpleasant outside. With the appropriate precautions, you can make winter more pleasant for yourself and, of course, for your horse. Most horses, unlike humans, love the winter. We wish you a good ride through the cold season.

Tip 1: Avoid cold feet

There is hardly anything more unpleasant than the feeling of ice-cold frozen feet. Once your feet have become cold, almost nothing can help, so it's better not to let the situation get that far. Winter riding boots keep feet and lower legs pleasantly warm even on snowy rides. If you don't want to do without your normal leather riding boots in winter, we recommend thermal stable boots. These are worn during grooming and immediately after riding. The leather boots can be warmed up with a hand warmer during grooming. Such a hand warmer can also be used to keep the thermal stable shoes warm while you are riding. This way, a long day in the stable will not harm you, even in sub-zero temperatures!

Tip 2: Always keep your head warm

People lose most of their heat through their head. That's why it's best to always wear a hat to prevent this. As long as the riding helmet is worn, ear warmers can at least keep the ears warm. A warm scarf is also effective in limiting heat loss upwards out of the jacket.

Tip 3: All thermal or what?

When it comes to riding gear, everything comes in summer and winter versions. While the summer versions are designed for optimal ventilation and good moisture transport, the thermal versions for winter prevent you from cooling down.  Winter riding breeches, winter riding gloves, thermal riding boots, warm socks and a warm pullover are an absolute must in winter.

Tip 4: The right riding jacket

In winter it is especially important to have a very warm jacket. Mixed materials of down and polyester insulate particularly well against the freezing cold. ideally, a good winter jacket is also dirt and moisture repellent, so that it can keep you warm and dry even when it snows.
If you do a lot of training in the indoor arena, the layered look is recommended: a breathable pullover under a gilet, with a warm winter riding jacket over the top. This way, after warming up, you can take off your warm winter jacket and still have the gilet so you don't get cold.

Tip 5: A little refreshment in between

A hot tea or even a warm soup will warm you up and do you good. If you ride more than one horse in a day, you will particularly enjoy such a break. Even if there is no riders' lounge in your stable: with the consent of the stable owners, a small tack room with a few chairs, horse rugs, a kettle and tea or soups can be quickly converted into a "heat station".

The right winter gear for you and your horse

Tip 6: Always be seen

In the cold season in particular, it' s easy to unintentionally get caught in the twilight while out riding. Ensure that you and your horse are seen at all times with reflective boots, rugs, jackets, a light and so on. Remember to always provide both horse and rider with lights. If you ever part ways during the ride, you will have done your best to ensure that both of you get home safely. If you have a dog with you, it should also wear a luminous collar. However, get your horse used to all these flashing and glowing objects in good time. It is not unusual for your own dog to lead to difficult situations when it jumps out of the bushes flashing and glowing in the dark.

Tip 7: Keep the horse warm

Horses generally cope much better with the cold than with heat. Some horses are particularly fond of romping around the paddock in deep snow in winter. Thus, it is usually not necessary to put a rug on a robust horse with a thick winter coat. However, if you have a horse that is kept in a stable and doesn't have much of a winter coat, you should always put on a riding rug when you go for a ride, so that the muscles don't cool down during long periods of walking. This is especially recommended for horses that are covered or even shorn in winter. A riding rug is fixed directly to the saddle, does not slip and is accepted by most horses at all gaits without any problems.

Tip 8: Don't risk a cold

The thick winter coat of some horses also carries a certain risk: if the temperatures are not that low, horses can sweat very quickly even during light work. Once the horse is wet, it dries very slowly. With a wet coat there is always a risk of the horse catching a cold.
That's why you should take care not to make your horse sweat in winter. A thick cooler rug will help the horse dry faster and protect it from draughts and chills. As a further measure, you could also let heavily sweaty horses dry under a horse solarium, if available.

Tip 9: Cover the horse if necessary

Opinions differ about the right time to cover a horse with a winter rug. But when is a winter rug useful for the horse? Horses that are hardy and are only rarely worked during the winter months do not usually need a winter rug. Horses that are worked normally in winter and tend to have a thick winter coat should be shorn if necessary and then covered. The thick winter rug replaces the warming effect of the coat while the horse is not being exercised. During training, the horse does not sweat as much and dries faster afterwards. With shorn and/or covered horses, it is especially important to keep the animal from getting cold with a riding rug or cooler.

Tip 10: Don't take any risks

Although rides in the snow are beautiful, they also involve a number of dangers. Holes in the ground can be overlooked and become a dangerous tripping hazard. Patches of ice under the loose snow or on the road can lead to dangerous injuries.
So if the ground situation is unclear, it is always better not to ride out.

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