6 Ways to Prepare for Winter Riding and Horse Ownership
Horse owners would love for it to be summer all year round. Glorious, shiny summer coats, long days, and wearing t-shirts to the barn. But unfortunately, we’re at that time of year where we can no longer deny that it’s getting colder and winter is nearly here. But it’s not all bad news. You can still enjoy plenty of winter rides and quality time with your horse, as long as you get the winter prep out of the way first.
Here’s what you can do to make the colder season a little easier on both of you.
- Make sure horse blankets are washed
There is nothing worse than facing a cold snap, only to realize your horse’s winter blankets and rugs are still dirty. Or even worse, moldy! Then your horse is stuck with a gross blanket, or you need to fork out for a brand new one.
Now is the time to check your winter blankets and rugs. Take them all out and make sure they’re clean, washed, waterproofed, and patched where needed. That way, you know you’re prepared when the cold weather comes.
- Decide whether to clip
Whether you clip your horse or not will be a major decision. You’ll need to take into account where you live, what conditions your horse is turned out in, if you ride competitively or not, whether you have an indoor arena, and how much your horse sweats.
If you do decide to clip, schedule it early so you know your horse will be able to work without sweating up a storm once that hairy-beast coat comes through. Clipping professionals get busy at this time of year, so don’t be caught short!
- Invest in warm gear
It can be hard to drag yourself down to ride when you know you’re going to dismount with thighs which are frozen solid and a face so cold you can’t feel your nose.
Investing in the right gear means your winter riding can be cozy and fun, not an unpleasant hour-long slog in sub-zero temperatures.
That means, depending on where you live, you might need some or all of the below:
- Fleece lined thermal breeches or tights (the best invention since sliced bread!)
- Thermal gloves with a long cuff, so you can actually feel those reins and won’t have a gap between jacket and glove.
- Good waterproof and/or lined boots – even if you wear these around the yard and change into riding boots before you mount
- An extra layer under your hat, so your head doesn’t benefit from a bit tooooo much ventilation in a lovely, modern, lightweight helmet
- Consider your horse’s nutrition needs
Ever realized you’re eating tons over winter? It’s because we burn more calories in the cold, and need to eat more to make up for it. Ok, it’s mostly that anyway. It’s also part comfort food and form-hiding layers. But I digress.
Some horses have increased caloric needs over winter too, depending (of course) on their workload, their lifestyle, and the temperatures. You might need to consider adding some extra roughage or grain to make up for energy lost in the cold.
It’s best to consult with someone experienced before doing this though, as too much food can lead to health problems and weight gain….and can also lead to a bit more exuberance than you want!
- Treat your saddle (and other tack)
The dry winter air doesn’t just wreak havoc on your skin, but on your leather tack too. Before the cold really hits, give all your tack a good clean and then treat it liberally with a leather oil or conditioner. This will give you a bit of protection as temperatures plummet, and means your tack is less likely to crack, dry out, or become brittle.
Then you’ll just need to check it and touch up every couple of weeks as needed.
If you’re interested in learning more, here’s an article about taking care of your tack during the winter.
- Do some spring cleaning
Or is that winter cleaning? Anyway, making sure everything is organized and cleaned will make you feel more positive about some of the downsides in winter: riding in the dark, getting up in the cold, and so on.
Pack away seasonal summer gear that you won’t need for a few months, and make sure all your winter stuff is easily accessible, so you won’t need to dig around for warm breeches or your horse’s exercise sheet when you need them.
Are you ready for winter? Perhaps you even love riding and seeing your horses in the colder weather? Let us know what you do to prepare for cold weather and shorter days by leaving us a comment with your top winter tips.