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Riding outside this winter

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  • Riding outside this winter

    I have decided not to board my horses out this winter just due to costs. I have too many that need to be ridden and can't afford boarding all of them.

    I was wondering if anyone else rides outside all winter. I did it as a kid growing up at the same farm here. I really don't remember it too well, I think I just rode on the snow. I am in Michigan, so the ground stays pretty frozen all winter. Usually from December til March. Sometimes we have snow on the ground for a long time, and sometimes we don't, each year is different.

    Do you think it would be possible to maintain my outdoor arena in the winter? I thought if I kept turning it up and keeping it soft that it wouldn't freeze like it was pavement. Maybe plow the snow off of it? Has anyone tried this? I also have a grass pasture that I ride in where my cross country jumps are set up. That might be a little softer with the grass. Any thoughts on keeping good footing outside all winter?
    Derby Lyn Farms Website

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  • #2
    I hit the trails in the winter and do a lot of walking in the deep snow with them(Massachusetts). The footing will freeze, no matter what, has been my experience, because it will get wet sooner or later.


    • #3
      Can you get the snow on your arena to pack? Or take most off and leave a thin layer on top of the frozen arena to add some cushion? I think pook is right that it'll eventually freeze. Even if it's really cold, the sun seems to warm the top up enough to get damp, then freeze hard overnight.


      • #4
        we board at a barn without an arena and the BO mixes something in the sand to keep the footing from freezing but it still does eventually. I don't remember what it is.

        He will break it up and then wait and drag it. Sometimes only the top inch will be unfrozen.

        Sometimes at night when we were younger and crazier, you could feel the footing freeze under the horse's hooves!


        • #5
          In Michigan don't you have the whole snow issue anyway? Here I have tried harrowing the arena to break up the frozen footing and it does work, but for most of the winter the issue isn't just the frozen ground, it's the SNOW which packs/melts/freezes into crunchy ice. It doesn't harrow quite as well. It just breaks up into pointy chunks of ice, or rock-like ice cubes the size of small bricks. Maybe if you could plow the snow off first you would get less of that ice pack.


          • #6
            As a fellow michigander, I would actually say DON'T plow it. The ground is going to freeze no matter what. And then just work your horses according to the conditions.

            When it's cold, the powdery snow actually provides fairly good cushion. No, you can't do jumping or advanced dressage movements. But you can move around enough to keep in condition.

            When it's icy, heavy, mushy snow, lots of walk and trot to stay in shape, and lots of turn on forehand/turn on haunches/sidepass/etc for mental discipline.


            • #7
              I am in northern Indiana so I deal with the same footing issues you do, with no indoor. We have so much snow that last year I didn't see the footing from Dec. to March, so adding something to it would not have helped.

              I actually stay out of the ring once winter hits. The freeze and melt leaves too many ridges and it is too hard on the legs and feet. I take them for a lot of rides around the fields and farm, anywhere there is a road less travelled so the footing is not ridge-y and hard.

              I keep my horses in reasonably serious flatwork during the winter, just out and about rather than in the ring, which has the benefit of being good for their minds. I also do a lot more hacking out with no seriousness involved, which refreshes their brains -- when summer hits I can spend more time being all business.

              Winter is a great time to work on straightness. You can really tell if your horse is straight -- snow tracks don't lie.

              The babies get the winter off, which is best for youngsters anyway. No need to ride a frisky 3 year old in the snow, their winter job is growing.


              • Original Poster

                dang. I think the easiest solution is to move south!

                I've been looking at the indoor arenas, especially the clearspan. I sell quite a few horses so I really need the indoor during the winter to show the horses to people. I tried boarding at a farm down the road, and well, it was more of a hassle then it was worth. The clearspans were quite reasonable, about $20k less then a wood barn.
                Derby Lyn Farms Website

                Derby Lyn Farms on Facebook!


                • #9
                  I've got a friend in MI who simply hits the trails, the more snow the better, to a point. Frozen ground sucks. But frozen with a foot or three of snow is awesome, according to her
                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                  • #10
                    Add me to the list of those who ride outside for the winter. Last winter, I trail-rode my horse until she injured her back in early December. I gave her a few weeks off and by the time the holidays were over, there was more than 3 feet of snow. I will never forget the experience of riding in deep, deep snow for the first time. It was GREAT fun. In mid-February, the fun was ended by a sleety-mushy mess-storm, and I left her alone until the melt.

                    This year, we are at a new place that has wide, smooth, open fields to ride in. I think we will take it easy between the time that the ground freezes solid and the first substantial snow, but after that, I plan to hack out as usual. The only things that will stop me are frozen ground, or ice/slippery snow that is less than 3" deep. Anything else is fair game. Plus we now have an indoor a short walk up the street
                    Disclaimer: My mom told me that people might look at my name and think I had an addiction other than horses. I don't; his name was Bravado.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Derby Lyn Farms View Post
                      dang. I think the easiest solution is to move south! .
                      Ocala is really nice in the winter. I remember riding in NY during the winter no indoor. I did a lot of trail riding. Good luck whatever you decide


                      • #12
                        I tried to ride in the snow last winter but I was worried about the "high heel" effects of snowballs in my horse's feet. Does everyone just ignore them? Or do you have pads put on for the winter to avoid them? I only felt safe to walk most of the time, but it wouldn't be the first time I've been called a sissy hunter rider!


                        • #13
                          Some years, I board my horse at an indoor for 3 months in the worst of winter, but most of the years, she's at her backyard barn with an outdoor ring and trails here in southern Maine.

                          I ride all winter. If the footing is really lousy (cement-hard frozen, or too icy) we trailer the horses to the beach to ride. Footing is always perfect there!

                          Otherwise, we also spread wet shavings (NOT manure!) in the ring, for cushion and traction.
                          Our horses have borium shoes with pads (rim pads for my horse, full pads for the other) and in light fluffy snow they don't get high heels in the back. In heavy, wet snow tho...
                          You can try applying vaseline or Spam on the sole of the back feet, but it doesn't last very long and the high heels return.
                          In that case, we don't ride in the ring, but head for the beach or the (plowed) dirt roads and trails.

                          All in all, we just adapt to the weather, our horses get a bit of a break as they're not jumped or worked very hard (they're not clipped, either!) and we enjoy being outdoors! Last year at the indoor, I actually got cabin fever and refused to ride in the indoor! I couldn't ride in the fields, the outdoors were all skating rings, so I rode on the plowed sand driveway. It's amazing what you ca do with your horse on a driveway! lol
                          Keeping my mare at "home" means substantial savings compared to boarding at the indoor.
                          Plus, the indoor gets crowded and DUSTY and then there's the fun times when the ice and snow slides off the roof when you're riding....
                          Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!


                          • #14
                            I ride out in the winter. I also trailer to my trainers and use their indoor. There is a small "use fee", but it's not bad for once or twice a week. I'd see if there was an indoor that you could use occassionally.


                            • #15
                              sohie, my dog would be thrilled if I spread Spam on the soles of my horses feet. The horse however, would be wondering why the heck the dog is following so closely......


                              • #16
                                Hehe, Spam would be messy and gross. That's too funny. It might be easier to try spraying Pam.


                                • #17
                                  I just ride outside. I don't have an indoor at home. I pay attention to the footing in my arena (just plain dirt). If its too frozen and not covered in enough snow, I'll ride on the most eaten down pasture instead. The grass seems to be fine to ride on even when the ground is frozen.

                                  Riding in lots of snow is fun! I put on Carharts, hop on bareback and go fool around!

                                  My Arab is barefoot year round kept in a Barefoot trim. His feet naturally stay free of the ice balls that form in my husband's horses' feet. They aren't ridden in the winter and he just does pasture trims on them during the winter months and doesn't shoe. Their feet are much flatter than his and don't seem to pop the snow out the same way.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by awaywego View Post
                                    I tried to ride in the snow last winter but I was worried about the "high heel" effects of snowballs in my horse's feet. Does everyone just ignore them? Or do you have pads put on for the winter to avoid them? I only felt safe to walk most of the time, but it wouldn't be the first time I've been called a sissy hunter rider!
                                    I get winter shoes (with studs) and special snowball pads (they are designed with an inverted cup to pop out snow) for the winter. They are more expensive, but I have a TB who simply can't live without shoes in the winter. My others get winter shoes in front and go barefoot behind.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by JB View Post
                                      But frozen with a foot or three of snow is awesome, according to her
                                      Uhm--- no!
                                      “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Well, I don't have a beach to ride on so that is not an option lol. Unfortunately there are no trails around me. I have a 15 acre field I can ride in though. For trails I would have to trailer out.

                                        Would some yellow sand in the arena help? Its a loamy, soft, topsoil mix now. It is usually good footing unless it rains a bunch. Then it gets deep and slippery.

                                        Growing up I never had an indoor arena and did just fine riding the horses. But I was 15 then and could handle the cold.
                                        Derby Lyn Farms Website

                                        Derby Lyn Farms on Facebook!