I live on the east coast of Canada and have my 3yo mare boarded at a barn with no indoor. We're getting to the time of year where the ground is too frozen to ride on (it's been oddly mild so far - hello, global warming). I'd like to keep my mare as active and "thinking" as much as possible over the winter, but I'm at a bit of a loss as to what I can do with her.
This is my first year having a "rideable" horse through the winter without an indoor. She's going to get plenty of time to relax and be a horse, but I would also like to keep her brain somewhat engaged too. I plan to hack out as much as possible, which will be great for her. I'll also be able to do a little light ring work after a soft snowfall (right now we don't have any snow that's accumulating or sticking around long due to above zero temps).
Any ideas? I figure there must be some creative CoTHers out there who are in the same predicament. I thought it might be neat to try long lining or ground driving, but I wonder a bit about straining her on uneven frozen ground, even at the walk. Hopefully some snow accumulates soon as we can at least have a better surface!
We don't have an indoor where I board now. Same here though so far we have been able to ride easily. Our ring footing is great and it takes a lot for it to be unrideable but i have used rainy days to do groundwork/ clipping and mane pulling. You could also practice trailer loading.
I'm on the west coast and blessed with a very nice ring (rarely freezes, if it does it's thawed by 1pm) but there's around a foot of snow on the ground right now. If it does seem to hard to have a good hack I'll still get on and walk around doing lots of lateral work (that's what I did Friday). I also like to play around a lot with them in their paddocks, they get some energy out that way and it's tons of fun! Mine follow me around. Riding on a bit of harder footing is good for their legs and fitness as long as it's not overdone!
OTM, funny... we have an OTM mare in our indoorless barn! She got the whole Fall and Winter off and is heading to an indoor mid-February for some serious conditioning/training for her show season. Her owner would love to go on hacks with her, but the last time she did, little mare bucked her off... so she wants the safety of an indoor with her.
Otherwise, we are all pretty tough and most will go on hacks at a walk when the footing is hard/icy and will be braver if we have a good cover of snow (which has not happened this winter yet).
Most people chose this barn because of the relaxed atmosphere/no lessons, etc. so they accept the limitations in the winter and still spend time with their horses.
My daughter loves winter riding because she can ride bareback and it's warm vs. sweaty in the summer!!
Never had an indoor and I love winter riding. We do have a good ring that also thaws pretty well if the sun is out. When our ground gets hard we ride mostly at the walk and hack out. There's lots you can do to keep your horse engaged. Lots of transitions, lateral yielding, contact vs long and low, different walk speeds, and to keep me in shape, LOTS of 2-point on the trail. We do some trotting but very little as my gelding is older and don't want to hurt his already arthritic joints. I also love winter riding as my guy is usually more "up" and just more fun to be with overall, and it keeps me from becoming a winter hermit and couch potato!
I am in the NE. I have rarely boarded where there is an indoor. I ride all year long outside. In the winter, it is dark, cold and under lights.
Since my girl is only 3 as well but it has always worked out fine in the past w/ my others. I don't show in the winter so I don't clip and I don't work long enough for them to get sweaty.
I have great footing, decent lights. I make certian I plow the ring if we have snow. My footing does not freeze and if it is too hard, I rake it w/ the tractor.
If it is too miserable to ride, pffffft. I take the night off and have a glass of wine or pull mane. ****Warning***** Don't have the wine and THEN decide to work on manes......I know why DUI is illegal and one of my ponies is a victim of PUI........
We don't have an indoor. Yes, the ground freezes, and it snows, etc. But we shoe our horses appropriately with borium, or in some cases studs, and snowball pads and work them anyway. We've done it for years, and never had a problem with the hard footing or the snow, etc. We usually jump right through the winter. When the ground is rock hard and frozen and their isn't any snow cover, we don't jump as big, but as all the horses have pads in addition to their shoes, we still work them, and haven't had any issues.
When the ground is frozen, I just ride on one of my pastures. I'll even set up a few small jumps out there. There's enough grass that it cushions the frozen ground and my guy has never batted an eye at it.
When the ground isn't frozen I just ride in the outdoor arena. We don't have great footing - its really just dirt, so we make do. Sometimes its too muddy to do much and I either don't ride or ride on the roads.
I do endurance, so we also do a lot of long slow work (think lots of trotting with a bit of cantering here and there) out on the roads as well. I live in the country and just ride on the sides of the road. People are respectful for the most part and my Arab has learned to not care about the traffic.
OTM, I'm in a very similar situation. I'm in Ontario and we're having the same weather - hard enough that the sand ring is unusable, and no snow to give any cushion.
I have been riding on grassy areas, as it does cushion the ground enough. Mine are barefoot and haven't been bothered on the grass. I also hack a lot - luckily both are road safe and I can hack alone with either. We do have a track on the property which is great for legging them up once there's a layer of snow (track is groomed daily) but right now it's like a concrete oval. Also lucky for me, my friend who has her horse here has a trailer and is gracious enough to let me tag along to school off-property so we can actually jump a bit.
It is tough, and many times I don't get to do as much as I'd like, but a lighter workload over the winter can be refreshing for them too.
I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted.
Glad for this post, I was thinking about this today. What if a grass field is your only riding area? Its not used in the winter for turnout so it stays pretty even - no frozen footprints from the previous mud.
I have a groomed outdoor I can ride over too but for a quick ride, its just more convenient to ride on the property.
I also heard that you can mix salt into arena footing to keep it from freezing. Does that really work?
Not salt. Magnesium Chloride. Better for the environment and hooves. I use a broadcast spreader like you would for seed or fertilizer. First drag, then spread, then drag thoroughly. Depending on the weather, drag occasionally after that.
We get a lot of freezing and thawing so I am careful when riding out. Frozen ground that is slightly thawed on top is SLIPPERY!
I spend a lot of time doing basic training in the barn in the winter. Last winter I did Carolyn Resnick's "uberstreiken" exercises with all of the horses and they all got very good and just standing still in a sort of meditative state. (Google her if you are interested).
I work on teaching horses to stand still, move over, getting them used to scary things. I bring barrels and tarps in, drag sleds around. I try to get creative.
I LOVE doing these kinds of things when it is snowing or freezing rain or whatever.
I haul to a county-owned arena about ten minutes from my place. We're having a mild winter so far, so I've been able to get out on some trails to ride, too. But in a normal winter I'm off to the local indoor three days a week with my two geldings.
I rode today with a few girls from the barn today (-22, brrr), and we basically just walked around the barn yard and a grassy field that isn't currently in use. The ground was still frozen but much better than the lumpy and icy riding ring. I think the majority of the winter will be little hacks through the barn property, mainly walking.
I'd love to be able to trailer her out to an indoor, but I a) don't know of one near enough for it to be feasible to do on a somewhat regular basis, and b) don't have a truck and trailer.
I also don't own the property so it isn't really my call on products to put in it to keep from freezing, unfortunately. Great barn though, so I really can't complain.
go for long walks, usually by hand in the snow up and down the driveway and through the fields.
trailer to a near by barn with a big indoor for lessons (by this, I mean my trainer puts up a list of times, we all sign up and go together).
try to ride when the sun is out and at its highest, and then do what the ring dictates.
hell, with the ice sometimes its hand walking up and down the isle!!
I just ride on the frozen ground. Or on the road, when the ground *isn't* frozen, and the stupid clay is slick and sticky, sigh.
I haven't had an indoor in ~8 years. I can trailer to one if I wish, but its too much of a hassle, honestly.
I mostly do w/t when its frozen, but walk only if it is very rough and lumpy, and will canter if it is smooth or a fresh snowfall over footing I know is safe.