Safe riding in the winter
Published 01-30-2010 7:23 PM
Wow, did it ever snow here last night? It looks white and peaceful outside.
Some people have been asking if it is safe to ride their horses in the snow.
One thing to consider when riding in the snow is that you can't see what's underneath if the ground is covered. So unless the area you are going to ride is familiar to you and you know there are no holes, hardware, scrap metal, wood boards with nails sticking up, I would not recommend that you ride in the snow. Snow can cover a hole and your horse can step in it and, depending on the depth of the hole, he can end up getting hurt, and you may end up on the ground as well. Now if you know your surroundings, such as a paddock you always ride on, I would say go for it.
Another consideration is snow can end up packing up under their hooves, which can form into a big snow ball, and that can be very unsafe for you and your horse. This is less problematic in unshod horses, but can happen as well, especially if their hooves are untrimmed. To prevent that from happening, spray cooking spray, petroleum jelly, oil, etc, before you go out to ride.
Never ever ride your horse on ice. Horses are OK with snow, but they can get in serious trouble when ridden on ice. They can fall, break their limbs, and you can end up hurt as well.
Another point is the horse's coat. If the horse has developed a thick coat, and you ride hard enough, he will sweat. The thick coat will not allow for efficient evaporation and the horse can overheat. This is obviously more problematic if you are riding or working the horse hard. Another problem with the sweat is that if you don't cool the horse properly, he will get chilled. To overcome these problems you can clip your horse, which will allow for more efficient evaporation. You will need to blanket your horse if you clip him, though. Also, take extra time to warm your horse up and cool him down after the ride.
Watch the weather. Avoid high intensity exercise in extreme cold weather. Temperatures below freezing can induce airway obstruction and cause lung damage. So use prudence when submitting your horse to exercise in cold weather.
Also, don't offer cold water to your horse right after the ride. If you can warm up the water before offering him a drink, that would be great. You can do that by warming up some water with an electric kettle and mixing it with tap water. This will make a nice lukewarm drink for your horse. If you can't do that, wait until your horse is totally cooled down, not sweaty and not blowing hard through his nostrils, before offering him water.
Other than that, bundle up, keep warm and have fun.