Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter Riding

In an earlier post, Matt asked me about winter riding: can you ride all year long, or is it a warm-weather sport? Thankfully, many barns have indoor rings so, whether it be heavy rain or New England snow, riding can be done all year long. And, even if you don't have an indoor there a things you can do to help your horse weather the winter. For example, some horses that live outside during the winter (or even just get turned out in the snow) get snow pads. Your blacksmith can equip your horse with specials rubber pads that prevent snow build up in their hooves, making it easier for your horse to navigate the snow-covered terrain.

While riding during the winter months, it is important to take the necessary precautions to keep your horse healthy and happy. Horses can't change their wet blanket or chip the ice off their water buckets, they rely on you to do it for them.

One of the biggest changes from summer to winter riding is the way you cool your horse out after a good workout. In the summer, if you're in a rush, you can hose your horse down and turn them out to dry in the sun. In the winter, it is extremely important to make sure your horse is cool and dry before putting them away so that they can avoid getting a chill. EquiSearch has several great articles about winter horse care.

Possibly one of the most tedious aspects of riding horses in winter is the after-ride cooling-out process. Tedious though it may be, it's very important to cool your horse properly. Putting him away hot and sweaty will jeopardize his health by allowing him to catch a chill.

Even in the coldest of weather, the horse's metabolism (the burning of internal fuels to produce energy) will cause him to sweat during intense exercise. This sweating can be exaggerated by a full winter coat. For this reason, many horse owners choose to clip their horses in winter.

To cool your horse safely, you can begin while you're still riding. Following your ride or work out, walking him for ten to fifteen minutes will allow the heat built up in the muscles to dissipate.

Once you've dismounted, loosen the girth or cinch, but don't remove the saddle immediately as this will allow cold air to the muscles of his back and may cause cramping. Cover him with a cooler which may be wool or one of the more high-tech fabrics designed to wick moisture from the horse and cool him out quicker. Walk him for a few minutes like this and then remove the saddle and replace the cooler before continuing to walk him.

I can't stress enough how important it is for you, a horse owner, to remember that your horse relies on YOU, is completely dependent on YOU to take care of them all year long, but especially during the winter. Would you be comfortable standing outside, in soaking wet clothes, in below freezing temperatures? I think not.

Just something to keep in mind.
Talk to you soon,

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