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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov. 18, 2004
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    Catonsville, MD
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    Default Old school criticism of winter riding vs. giving horses the winter off

    I read this sentiment on CoTH about 3x a winter:

    When I was a kid it was accepted that horses would be turned out for the winter, then people invented indoor arenas and wanted to be competitive etc..
    I ride in the winter because I want to ride. And the riding I do isn't the kind that is going to wear out a horse faster, honestly. If I stopped riding in the winter I would lose my nerve and stop riding entirely (I fear) and become one of those timid fat ladies that used to ride and now just wear dumb fleece vests with horses appliqued on them as they go to the horse expo to ... look at horse stuff intended for people who still do actually ride.

    I don't want to be that lady quite yet. Please oh please.

    People ride through the winter to try to keep their skills and nerve up. Not because they are trying to run Pookie into the ground overschooling them over 3' courses. In my humble experience and opinion.

    I just get sick of reading the old timer's lament that winter riding is bad for horses and some kind of yuppie indulgence and a deviation from the Proper Way That We Used to Do Things. I don't think a little flat work and no stirrups work in the winter is the scourge of equestrian civilization.

    Ahem.
    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09



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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct. 30, 2009
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    1,908

    Default

    We always seemed to ride more in the winter and I grew up in New England. Snow is fun! I never heard of not riding in the winter or that it was bad for horses and I'm an old timer. I think this is a fairly new lament.
    "I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted". - Anonymous


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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov. 2, 2001
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    Packing my bags
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    Default

    It depends....when you have decent winter weather, not so cold that your breath freezes into snow before it leaves the lungs, or so nasty you need a seahorse to ride through the mud...

    But there is a point though in scaling down winter riding....
    It used to, there were no competitions during the winter month, so everything got scaled back, competition horses got a break before they got legged up again for spring season.
    At one point it was believed - over 25 years ago or there about - that this break was beneficial. For the competition horse, mind you.

    Like some people think that it is detrimental for TB sires to be shipped to Down Under for the season, then return for the regular seasoned event up north.

    Riding in the winter can be fun.
    Or really scary...or downright disgusting.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mozart View Post
    Personally, I think the moderate use of shock collars in training humans should be allowed.


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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb. 1, 2008
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    Nowhere, Maryland
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    Default

    I think that's more directed at people who compete pretty much every weekend year round (which didn't used to be possible) than it is at people riding for pleasure.


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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr. 28, 2006
    Location
    Coastal New England
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    Default

    I agree with you. I'd much rather my horse and I stay fit through the winter than have to catch up come summer. While we must make reasonable exceptions for challenging weather, nobody suggests that we should stay inside on the couch from November through April.


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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar. 10, 2007
    Location
    Montana
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    What old timers say that? The old timers I know are using their horses to hunt all fall, check cows during calving in January, ski joring in February and some of the middle timers I know are using their horses to chase coyotes and calling it fox hunting all winter!

    It's good to ride a horse whenever you can, for you or the horse!
    “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct. 24, 2001
    Location
    Virginia
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    2,545

    Default

    Mine's been injured in the fall on more than one occasion, so we've essentially done the "winter off" thing more than I ever care to. It's like starting over again with a green horse in the spring, and it's AWFUL. As long as I have a sound healthy horse, she will be in work year round.

    Because I hate the cold and short days, I do probably ride a day a week less than in any other season, but I don't think some dressage work and a jump school a few times a month is going to end civilization. And it might just let us come back in the spring where we ended in the fall.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr. 13, 2008
    Location
    NY
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    2,302

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lori B View Post
    I read this sentiment on CoTH about 3x a winter:



    I just get sick of reading the old timer's lament that winter riding is bad for horses and some kind of yuppie indulgence and a deviation from the Proper Way That We Used to Do Things. I don't think a little flat work and no stirrups work in the winter is the scourge of equestrian civilization.

    Ahem.
    I get sick of hearing about how much better it was in the bygone days period......
    AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct. 14, 2010
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    Default

    I grew up with that sentiment. I also grew up with old time trainers who campaigned show horses. The winter was when they let down the finished horses, rehabbed the ouchy ones, and started the green beans. They also lived in Chicagoland and it was colder than a mother in law's kiss.

    The trainer I ride with now is a 100 years old (not quite ), the horses that were shown quite a bit have been let down & turned out. The younger stock is still being worked.

    Half the riders in our barn are rehabbing some injury, so no sense keeping the horses up.


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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun. 30, 2006
    Location
    Middle Tennessee
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    I think hooves were a whole lot better when they got a winter vacation from bad shoe jobs...

    Otherwise, I have no problem with keeping a horse fit year-round. I do think horses working hard benefit from a little down time to keep them sound and sane, but that downtime can come in any season.
    Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr. 10, 2006
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    Nope... growing up we rode all winter long. My trainer was an old school horse lady. We were expected to cool horses out properly but we never thought to take a break. BUT horses were getting turned out every day, and we did have an indoor.

    As I've gotten older, I've found I do not ride much from December to March, mainly because turnout is so limited due to ice/mud and I've often had horses that get BONKERS without regular, long turnout.

    Up here temps get down to the single digits. If that is the case, I do a lot of walking and some trotting, nothing that is going to get them breathing hard.

    But honestly I think it is just fine to ride through winter...... or, if you prefer, put them away till spring.
    We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    May. 28, 2013
    Location
    Front range, Colorado
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    I love riding in the winter. So, much better then riding when it is 100f. I think it depends on the person though. I personally love riding in the winter, while other people may not. I don't think it would do any harm to turn the horses out for the winter either though. It is a personal choice.
    Bilbo - The mustang!
    "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr. 15, 2011
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    989

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    In many parts of the country, between taking the winter off plus summer storms and such you'd end up only riding 6 months out of the year or less. Indoor arenas are a godsend. I do like riding in outdoor rings, but I couldn't imagine going without an indoor where I live.



  14. #14
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    Jul. 3, 2012
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    Twin Cities
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    Quote Originally Posted by CFFarm View Post
    We always seemed to ride more in the winter and I grew up in New England. Snow is fun! I never heard of not riding in the winter or that it was bad for horses and I'm an old timer. I think this is a fairly new lament.
    Yup. I love riding outside in the winter way more than in the summer. I hate bugs, sun, heat..

    Our summer camp horses got turned out in the sense that they were set free in the ginORMOUS pasture, rather then kept in closer paddocks, but they still had to work in the winter, just not as much.

    Of course real working horses had/have to work all year pulling things around.


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  15. #15
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    Aug. 2, 2004
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    Whidbey Is, Wash.
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    Default

    When it gets dark at 4pm and it's 38* plus rain, I'm not into riding.

    I'm probably going to clip in the next few weeks and plan on riding more in Feb, but I'm in no huge hurry. People who ride in winter? Hey, hats off to you! Either you have more tolerance for weather than I do, or access to an indoor . People who take winter off? A tip of my wine glass.
    COTH's official mini-donk enabler

    "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


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  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec. 20, 2009
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    3,256

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by red mares View Post
    I grew up with that sentiment. I also grew up with old time trainers who campaigned show horses. The winter was when they let down the finished horses, rehabbed the ouchy ones, and started the green beans. They also lived in Chicagoland and it was colder than a mother in law's kiss.
    A guy I knew also used to generally follow red mares' program. It didn't mean "no riding" in winter, it mean hacking around, little jumping, more turnout if the weather was decent. And yes, it came about as a practicality; not so many indoors, thus few shows and no easy way to ride daily, and crappy weather in the hinterlands.
    As he got older the schedules and facilities changed, and he changed too!
    In florida we tend to back off a bit in the summer instead, lol.
    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb. 6, 2003
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    Default

    As one of the 'old timers' who grew up when horses were let down for the winter...Highflyer was right.
    Showing stopped in winter for most. Riding didn't stop. Giving the horses the winter off meant they weren't on busy schedules of schooling, conditioning and showing. They went from show horses to fun pets. Snow rides, playing around and having fun trying all sorts of stuff was beneficial to horses and riders. It helps riders and horses to not do one thing all the time to the exclusion of all else. They went out of trails, snow runs, played games. No mane pulling, clipping, shoes were pulled often.
    Winter was like recess, classes were out and pressure was off and it was time for fun and some rest. Horses stayed fit enough and their brains got a break. Riders stayed fit and were reminded that riding could be purely for fun. Seats improved because it's warmer to ride bareback.

    Maybe I am old and crotchedy, but I still think it's beneficial to both horses and riders to get a break from showing/training year round.

    For horses not on a busy show schedule, it wouldn't much matter if they go the winter off or not because it's not like they spent 3 other seasons constantly in a trailer or show stall without extended periods of time for them to just be a horse.
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!
    ...Belefonte


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  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug. 25, 2007
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    8,780

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    During the Age of Horsepower horses did NOT "get the winter off." Some types of work might stop (plowing, planting, harvesting, etc.) but other work would generally replace it (logging, building, etc.). Neither humans nor equines got a "vacation."

    A horse has to work to stay fit and strong. So does a human. This does not mean an "Olympic level" conditioning program all year round. It does mean steady, reasonable work.

    G.
    Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


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  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar. 8, 2004
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    Baltimore, MD
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    I realize not everyone is riding a soon to be 26 year old but I know if I give my guy more than a week off that he is very stiff once we start going again. Even if I free lunge him it isn't enough. He needs to be ridden to get his back up and make him use his hind end. I do not ride him when it is over 90 degrees but there are no limits in winter. He lives in his back on track sheet when temps allow which helps as well and I use a quarter sheet when needed.



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr. 28, 2008
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    7,338

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    I don't think that anyone means that the horses oughtn't to be touched. I say that I give my horses the winter off. But I ride them every day I possibly can. What I mean is that I have no indoor, my footing is currently eight inches of snow and ice, so no effective training is being done. What is being done is stuff like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzOOhFVNfIE

    I still consider that "time off" because we aren't progressing all that much, really, in our training. Can't, given the footing. I can't ask a horse to go on the bit in that. Straight and forward and responsive to command is about all you can request. No jumping. So we just have fun and try to stay moderately fit.


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