Horses in the snow – Horseback Riding in the winter period
When the temperatures get lower and the first snowflakes start falling many horses become very excited and even old horse behave like the young ones:
They play and canter in the snow and are so happy to be in the middle of the white. Undoubtedly it is just great to watch the animals enjoying the snow – but some horses do not lose their new temperament underneath the saddle so that a ride can become a real challenge for the rider.
Riding in the winter – When the sun is shining one can take a ride through stunning snow nature – What could be more beautiful?
There are only few things that are more wonderful than taking a ride in the cold and fresh air and through the bright snow. On these lovely winter days you can experience the silence of the forest and fields and find your paradise of relaxation. But his, however, only is possible with the correct equipment for horse and rider.
The correct horseshoeing for the snow
If the horse normally gets shoed it definitely needs the correct horseshoeing for the winter. Normal horseshoes are very slippery and the horse can hardly survive on ice with them. Moreover the snow gets accumulated inside the hoof. The horse nearly walks on “high heels” – and this simply causes painful falls and ligament injuries. Snow grips solve this problem.
A farrier can easily fix them directly between the hoof and the horseshoe. These grips are made out of rubber and have the form of a ring. They make sure that the snow cannot accumulate in the hoof but directly falls out again. With these grips horses can easily be on the pasture in the cold and in the snow. However the grips easily collect dirt so that the horse owner needs to clean the horseshoes every time the horse stood on a dirty and muddy paddock or underground. Some grips are available in normal horse equipment shops and can easily be fixed by the horse owner.
Riding with cleats
Cleats prevent any kind of slipping. They are available in different sizes and can be screwed or completely welded on the horseshoe. The farrier can give the best advices for every individual horse. Some riders prefer screwed cleats. The horse owner can screw them on the horseshoe only when necessary so that the animal does not walk on “high heels” until the next time the farrier visits the stable. Moreover cleats are a danger for the herd on the pasture because a hit with cleats is much more painful than a hit with even horseshoes.
The best horseshoeing is the natural hoof
The natural hoof is the best horseshoeing for the winter. The material of the hoof is made for a perfect grit on slippery ice and snow. However, also natural hooves can easily accumulate the snow in the inside of the hoof. In this case it can be very helpful to brush hoof grease or candle wax on the hooves. These substances guarantee a minimum of hold on the ice.
The perfect lighting for short winter days
The cold winter period is characterized by short days. Due to the snow and the slippery underground one can only ride a slow tempo and in the end it can already become dark before the rider returned to the stable. A good preparation is the only way to prevent a dangerous situation and this means to think about possible lighting equipments for the dark (e.g. flashlight). It is recommended to use a white light for the front side and a red light for the back side.
Ideally the rider has a lamp on his left riding boot or stirrup. Additionally it is very useful to wear luminous spats, a reflective vest, a helmet lamp and blinking lights on the saddle.
Warm equipment for the rider in the winter
Cold fingers and frozen toes – once experienced a rider knows how important the correct equipment is. It can really hurt if you have to stop your horse with frozen fingers! In winter days one should be prepared with a T-shirt, sweater and a warm jacket. Moreover long underwear underneath the normal riding pants keeps the body warm. Otherwise the rider can use special winter riding pants (not air-permeable) or he simply slips thermal pants over the normal summer riding pants. These tricks prevent freezing and painful movements.
For the upper part of the body the rider should follow the same rules. Besides a shirt, sweater and a windproof jacket it is recommended to wear a vest (preferably with warm sheep skin). If your helmet is too tight for an additional cap you can also try out earmuffs. And for very cold days it can be very useful to prevent a cold nose with a fleece face protection.
Warm saddle cushions
Special cushions for the saddle are very warm and useful. They are available in different types and with different characteristic materials (sheep skin, etc.).
Warm fingers are crucial for a relaxing ride. Therefore one needs to wear warm winter gloves. Sometimes it can be useful to wear a thin and a thick pair of gloves over each other. If your horse starts to run or is nervous you can take off the thick ones so that you have a strong grip to control your horse. As soon as your horse is calm again and does not need any further exhausting control you can simply cover your hands with the warm gloves again.
Do not forget…
After an exhausting ride horses normally sweat a lot. In winter a wet coat can easily freeze and this leads to a hypothermia of the organism. Referring to this it is very important to cover the horses´ body with a blanket after every ride (it can even be useful to put some straw underneath the blanket).
Funny winter sport games with your horse
If your stable is near some fields and your horse is calm and easy to control you can try out some funny winter sport games. The Norwegian winter game “Skijoring” is a real “Must Do” for all ski and horse fans. The person on skis is pulled by a horse – in some countries (Germany and Austria) there already are a lot of competitions and events with this winter game. And if you do not like skis: Instead of skis you can simply use a sledge. This is fun for everyone!