Just because temperatures have dropped doesn’t mean you and your horse have to take the whole winter off! With the help of a few strategic pieces of equipment and a little creativity, you can spend plenty of time in the saddle this winter.
For The Rider
Layering is the key to comfort during winter rides. You’ll be able to remove clothing as your body warms up and put layers on as your ride winds down. There are three basic layers for winter workouts:
- The Base Layer: This layer includes undergarments, socks, and the tops and bottoms closest to your skin. Moisture wicking fabrics are ideal for the base layer- they’ll pull moisture away from the skin, preventing you from getting chilled when you sweat. The Knix seamless high rise panty, Bambootz socks, and Mountain Horse Vibe tech top are great choices for base layer pieces.
- The Insulating Layer: This middle layer helps trap warm air, which is key on super cold days. Fleece and wool are great insulating materials; choose garments that feature these fabrics, like Kerrits’ Hex Fleece half zip top or Horze’s Evonne softshell breeches.
- The Protective Layer: If you live in a relatively mild area, you may not need a protective layer! For riders in areas where wind, rain, and snow are part of the winter season, the protective layer is made from waterproof or water-resistant material like nylon. Jackets like the Irideon Polaris insulated coat will make winter riding warm and comfortable!
It’s also important to remember to stay warm while you’re tacking up, doing barn chores, or otherwise off the horse! Most body heat is lost through your head, so be sure to put on a hat or headband. Add a pair of winter gloves, and you’ll be all set!
For The Horse
It’s important not to cut your grooming routine short in the winter. Currying and brushing will help loosen dead hair and skin cells, which will make your horse’s coat more efficient at keeping him warm. If your horse is clipped, make sure you’re using an appropriate blanket for him.
Since warm muscles are less likely to be injured, plan to spend some extra time warming your horse up for your ride. You may also consider using an exercise sheet like TuffRider’s ThermoManager to keep your horse warm throughout your ride.
Monitor your horse’s condition while you ride; if your horse becomes sweaty, his hair will mat down and be slow to dry. You can use a cooler to help wick away the moisture and keep your horse warm while he dries, but you may want to avoid getting your horse sweaty at all, especially if he is unclipped.
Finally, ice and snow can make for treacherous footing during the winter! Snow or ice can sometimes ball up in a horse’s hooves; if you plan to ride on snow often, your farrier may be able to use pads to prevent the formation of snowballs. Frozen ground is often hard and more strenuous on your horse’s legs. Be careful while riding and be prepared to cut your ride short if you encounter unsafe conditions.
Metal bits can become very cold during the winter! Warm your horse’s bit by running it under warm water or holding it against your skin for a few minutes to take the edge off before putting it in your horse’s mouth.
Leather can require extra conditioning during the winter. Just as your skin can become chapped from cold, leather can, too! Consider cleaning and conditioning your tack more often during cold months.
With a little extra preparation, winter riding can be enjoyable for both horse and rider!