View Full Version : How do those of you in cold climates ride in the snow...???

Dec. 20, 2008, 08:21 PM
So pretty much what the title says. But I should add that all of my riding horses are shod (at least up front) and none are drilled and tapped or have ice nails in. So I'm curious.....assuming no access to an indoor arena, how do you ride when it's snowing?

Indoor arenas only? Ice nails or screw caulks in the feet? Handwalking only?

We don't usually get weather like we're having up here in the Northwest. My arena is sitting under 6+" of snow and with the freeze/melt cycles there's a LOT of ice. I haven't ridden anyone in over a week and I'm starting to go stir crazy. I've been perfectly happy with my outdoor arena for 4 years now, but I'm finally found a time when I WISH I had an indoor! And the worst part is that I have a good friend with a great indoor, but the roads are too treacherous to haul on (I couldn't make it out of my road with a trailer).

Am I just being a chicken by not riding in my arena? It was dragged right before the snow started, so the footing (though frozen) is level with no hoofprints in it. But it just doesn't seem like a good idea with shod horses....seems like it would be too slick. I wouldn't have a problem riding my barefoot horses, but they're not the ones that *need* to be ridden.

Any advice?

Dec. 20, 2008, 08:56 PM
Shoes are basically like the runners on an old fashioned sleigh... :(

I ride in snow, and ADORE it. I prefer starting youngsters in the snow. (THINK about it ;) ) BUT, that is barefoot or with borium and snowball pads. Barefoot entirely the last decade.

I truly would barely even be able to turn out in regular shoes. They quite literally are like the runners on a sled.

Horses do *mostly* fine in snow otherwise. Sometimes it's too fluffy and you hit hard/uneven mud underneath... sometimes it's too wet and balls up and is slick.

You do have to watch too that the horse is not 'protecting' itself and not using itself correctly if its' the least bit unstable. You can actually 'school' in a sort of 'conservative' stride if you don't pay attention to this.

Dec. 20, 2008, 10:08 PM
I prefer starting youngsters in the snow. (THINK about it ;) )

Lots and lots of trailriding. I love riding bareback on the trails in the snow. Its the only thing that makes winters in Canada livable

cheryl ann
Dec. 21, 2008, 08:57 PM
Bareback or with a pad. If I use a saddle (treeless) I will have had that saddle overnite in my house all warmed up.

Winter is the best time to ride. And stay out of the arena. Get on the trails and see something other than four walls.

If you're worried about the shoes, pull 'em off.

Dec. 21, 2008, 09:45 PM
Rim pads or bubbble/popper pads for shod horses in the snow, if that's what you mean. Otherwise, put on lots of clothes and just ride! :)

Dec. 21, 2008, 09:54 PM
. sometimes it's too wet and balls up and is slick.


yep this is the issue I had today when attempting to ride after a fresh snowfall, it was too wet/sticky and even with proper snow gear on my guys feet it was like walking around on stilts.

That said, I had a fantastic ride the day before in the soft, fluffy, dry stuff.

I wouldn't recommend riding in snow on a shod horse without borium or studs w/ rim pads/ snow pads. I agree with whoever said regular shoes and snow/ice do NOT mix.

2 tbs
Dec. 21, 2008, 11:09 PM
I don't ride from mid October (when the rain starts and the mud is up to my eyeballs!) until spring, er, um, summer-ish when the ground finally dries up enough to ride again ;)

I'd totally ride in the snow if I could keep my horse working through the muddy part of the season. I just refuse to climb aboard a horse that hasn't worked in a couple months for a snow joy ride - I'm thinking my horse would have way more fun than me if you catch my drift ;) Then again, he wears aluminum egg bars--I'm not sure I could keep the snow out of his feet for it to be safe so it's probably best I just stick to watching him play on his own :D

I have ridden in the snow when I had my retired horse at a farm with an indoor. It's a rare thing when I actually have enough snow on the ground to call it riding in the snow but those couple days each year were a blast! I had regular shoes on and didn't go above a collected canter with big sweeping turns (not risking slipping on a tight turn) and all was well. I sprayed a little Pam on the foot to avoid ice balls and off we went. We had no issues with slipping and when we do get that multi-inch snowfall it's usually wet and slick even for me to walk around. My horse is super sure footed though.

I'd probably just let the horses take a break if you are worried about it. The snow will go away...eventually ;) Or just take it easy and let each horse tell you if they can handle it. Some may, some may not.

Dec. 23, 2008, 10:37 PM
I live in the interior of Alaska, where we've had snow on the ground since late September. I personally think barefoot is the way to go, but if shoes are a must than borium+snow pads are your best bet. Don't let the snow/cold scare you. Winter is the best time to ride!

Dec. 23, 2008, 10:44 PM
Right now my only "working" horse is at my trainer's for the winter, so she gets ridden indoors. The retiree is occasionally taken out for a joyride--ESPECIALLY in the snow (assuming the temperature is >25 which it has not been for over a week) :sigh: and we just bomb around and have fun.

All of mine are barefoot in the winter, but when I've had horses needing shoes in winter I go with shoes in front only, with pop-out pads. Those work best for me; I hate the idea of borium or ice studs or studs in general unless ABSOLUTELY necessary, and for me it never is. ;) I'd rather just plod around and have fun in the winter anyhow--it's horsey "vacation time" for my girls.

Why not give barefoot a try? With deep snow, they'll probably not get ouchy and the break from shoes is so good for their hooves. :yes: (Please note I am NOT a give-me-barefoot-or-give-me-death type at ALL, just a believer that shoes are a tool with slightly more "cons" than "pros" in the winter) ;)

ETA that riding bareback in the snow is one of life's greatest pleasures. :yes:

Dec. 23, 2008, 11:26 PM
Our temp today was 18 with sun and wind. Snow is 2.5' deep. Our horses are shod all around, with borium and rim pads. They are turned out all day. 2 wear heavy blankets, 2 are naked. We rode today-40 minutes w-t-c thru fields and woods. It was a total gas for all of us. If we didn't turn out and/or ride in the snow, our horses would be on lay up from Thanksgiving till Tax Day in April. Nothing better for hind end strength than trotting in deep snow.

Dec. 29, 2008, 12:46 AM
I have borium studs on one that I like to hop on bareback and walk up and down my 10% grade road. This ottb is a freakin goofball out in competitive situations with other horses, but he is a trusty solo trail horse that likes to take his walks in the cold. But I would not ride him in the snowy fields now, it is hard and crusty snow that he and I find unpleasant and labored to break through even at a walk. Even the wildlife like moose and foxes would rather use my road right now. I asked Bruce Davidson when he came to Maine for a small January Equine Affaire thing where to ride in these conditions and he said stick to the roads with their even footing.

Dec. 29, 2008, 09:44 AM
I was thrilled this weekend to discover the joys of riding on dirt roads in the winter. There is one with excellent footing that goes for several miles including some rolling inclines a fairly short hauling distance away. Lately we've had a freeze then melt thing going on here in CT and the trails are either slick/icy or mucky and slippery. The dirt road was perfect for the horses since they both had studs. Just enough give but not mucky.

Dec. 29, 2008, 09:45 AM
It really does depend on the conditions. Soft fluffy dry snow is lovely footing. Deep snow with crust is not. Ice is not. Very thin snow over uneven frozen ground is not.

I ride when the footing allows. My old gelding was 100% safe to ride on the roads, so we'd hack when it was warm enough and light enough - so weekends, and sometimes I could sneak off at lunchtime- having a full time job means no light before or after work for much of the winter and I don't feel it is safe to ride on the roads in the dark. My mare is OK on the roads sometimes, so I am careful where I go, but it is limiting.

Since I don't ride consistently I pull their shoes - save some money and it's good for their feet.

Dec. 29, 2008, 01:05 PM
Living in the Rockies, I ride a bit in the winter when the weather allows. Usually barefoot is best but you can use "Pam" or Vaseline to coat the feet to help fluffy snow not stick as much.

I rode yesterday bareback around the pasture on my gelding. The snow is still fluffy at the moment but when it changes to crusty I have been know to plow a path around the pasture to keep my horses in condition.

Dress warm. When going bareback I usually wear insulated coveralls and my helmet with the cover to keep my ears warm. I have arctic sport muck boots.


Dec. 29, 2008, 02:47 PM
Why not give barefoot a try? With deep snow, they'll probably not get ouchy and the break from shoes is so good for their hooves. :yes: (Please note I am NOT a give-me-barefoot-or-give-me-death type at ALL, just a believer that shoes are a tool with slightly more "cons" than "pros" in the winter) ;)

ETA that riding bareback in the snow is one of life's greatest pleasures. :yes:

Barefoot's not an option for a couple of reasons. The first is that we seldom get snow in the winter (usually we're stuck in the "Seattle Rain" winter weather), so really I just needed an answer for the 2 weeks of snow we had. It's now pretty close to gone.

The second is that my OTTB is one of those that absolutely cannot live without shoes at this point in his life. My mare would probably do okay, and did, in fact, remove one of her front shoes for me :lol: (and arrghhh! :mad:). My other issue is that my arena is super coarse sand, so the ones that get ridden in it daily end up having to get shod or get their feet far too worn down. If I lived somewhere where it snowed and stuck all winter I would most likely go barefoot just to preserve my sanity :)

With that being said, my update is that I did end up riding in the snow, and it was really fun! I kept things slow and controlled and my mare had no problems at all at the walk, trot, or canter. I will admit, though, that I felt much safer on my barefoot pony both because he was barefoot and because I'm so much closer to the ground (he's only 12.2). I also turned my OTTB loose so he could move around on level ground and he played around for a good 20 minutes with zero slippage.

I think maybe I was more afraid of the snow than I should have been!

Dec. 29, 2008, 03:29 PM
I try to ride in the winter here but rarely can. We have layers and layers of snow and ice. Of course today its 40 and sunny. My poor pony would be up to her eyeballs in mud.

Come Shine
Dec. 29, 2008, 03:33 PM
Ditto what Nancy said: Bundle up and way ya go.


Dec. 29, 2008, 07:48 PM
We have lots of snow, and a bit of ice at the moment. My daughter and I had a nice, if somewhat short, ride in the lower fields today where the footing was decent. We had to pick our way down to the field to avoid ice patches. We only rode about 30 minutes, tho, because I was cold and there was no where else to ride that was safe.
All of my horses are barefoot now, have been for years, but when I had shoes on my mare if we hadn't pulled them before snow flew for some reason, she used Easyboots over her shoes when we rode. Shoes are a nightmare in New York winter, if you ask me!
My advice: dress warm, try bareback rather than a cold saddle, be sure to warm your bit, and try a hoof boot over your shoes if you must have shoes on in winter!
Happy riding!