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How Cold is Too Cold for Riding / Lunging?

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  • How Cold is Too Cold for Riding / Lunging?

    The last times I worked my horse was last Thursday-Saturday. I was away for a couple of nights over the weekend and then the really cold temperatures set in. I know that my horse needs to be worked (if he loses muscle through his hind end it's not good due to his really straight conformation). But I'm not so sure working in these temperatures is really going to be helping anything here. And breathing in that really cold air while working can't be good for the horses, right?

    So when is it just too cold for you to ride or lunge your horses? Have you all been riding much this week?

    It's 12 degrees here right now with a wind chill of 4. It's supposed to get up to a higher 21 today (not accounting for wind chill of course). I just don't want to pull all of the blankets off my harder-keeping thoroughbred just for him to burn more calories in this cold weather...and then have to spend a long time cooling him out when we'll both undoubtedly get further chilled.

    It may be a few degrees warmer tomorrow, then Sunday the high is supposed to be around 30 (with a possible mix of snow/ice of course), and 40s with rain by Tuesday. So would you push to work him now? Or wait for Sunday when it'll be about 30 and then plan to ride more when it's warmer the better part of next week?
    Originally posted by RugBug
    Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.

  • #2
    For *me*? I am pretty much looking for reasons not to ride when it's below 20 degrees. I *loathe* being outside, period, when it's that cold. I don't mind barn chores because I'm warm and they NEED doing, but riding? Meh.

    For horses, and for less wimpy individuals? Probably single digits are OK if it's done very thoughtfully, but honestly--why bother?

    Horses have big, hollow heads for a reason--cold air is not really a problem for them to breathe. It's more the thought of getting them all sweaty and then spending the time to cool them down and make sure they're not TOO cold or TOO warm that gets to be a hassle and is potentially bad for them. IMO.
    Click here before you buy.


    • #3
      Just wait. If you are not careful, you or horse could get chilled and run down and catch something or pull something if you are not warmed up enough and then you'd be off a lot longer than a week. Id rather spend a few extra weeks getting legged up rather than pushing it and this comes from an owner of a horse with bad stifles!


      • #4
        Agree with deltawave. Once it's down to about 10 degrees, even if you're working in an indoor, it's a PITA/risk in my mind to make sure they don't get chilled.

        If I were just hand walking for rehab purposes or riding out in the snow at a walk I *might* be tempted when it's colder than 10.

        Besides your horse, what about you just standing there in the middle? You're going to freeze!

        And getting coveralls off to pee when it's this cold is no fun either.
        A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

        Might be a reason, never an excuse...


        • #5
          The actual temperature doesn't bother me at all, but I have to qualify that with the fact that it almost never drops below 20, here. A day that stays below freezing is pretty cold for us (reference NOW!). My issue is with the ground. Frozen ground=no riding. I have the next 3 days off and it does not appear there is much chance of any thaw for those days and it is making me crazy! I haven't ridden since we came back from a show on Sunday. I want to ride, NOW!


          • #6
            Before our younger Canuck friends get on, we are talking F not C. So, cold.

            Nice thing about Indiana, unless you are up by the lake, is that the cold snaps rarely last more then a few days and it can easily be mid 40s within a few days.

            If the horse is out at least part of the time, I'd leave him alone. Do be sure somebody checks the blankets daily, ideally they should come off and be reset every day. He will be fine for a few days if you can't do it.

            Many lesson/training barns have a cut off of 15f for any serious activity if they lack a heated indoor, thats as much for the trainer as the horses. If they are routinely kept in good condition, it should not be a big deal to just get handwalked for 2 or 3 days. If it gets longer, they can be carefully lunged with proper warm up and cool down or, if the barn has one, the treadmills are fabulous in the cold. Our local racetracks with winter meets shut down at about 10f, they handwalk them around the shedrows.

            But never feel guilty if you don't want to be miserable and make your horse equally so by pulling his warm fuzzies off.
            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


            • #7
              It was 9 F in the indoor this morning. I rode, but spent about 20 minutes walking and 3-5 minutes trotting. I also rode with 2 quarter sheets the whole time. That is about my limit. I would not have 'worked' the horse this morning- just too cold to risk heavy breathing/sweating. That said, I don't think he was any worse for the wear having walked around for a while appropriately dressed.


              • #8
                AS DW said horses have those long noses, and those long necks, so by the time the air gets to their lungs,it is warmed, humidified, and comfy. Now me... whine!!
                Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                • #9
                  Well ... here in the icebox of the US (well, I don't live in International Falls, but it's still FRIGID here) we cancel lessons when it gets below 5 degrees or thereabouts. The indoor arena is heated to a balmy 45* but the barns aren't (just insulated).

                  For instance, yesterday I was supposed to have a lesson but opted to cancel it because I didn't want to spend hours cooling out my horse - even though he's body clipped. It's just too cold to spend that much time walking around the indoor. So, instead both horses were lunged for about ten minutes. The outside temp was 6*, wind chills were about -20.

                  Before the heated arena went in, we always had the month of January off for lessons ... just too cold to ride in an uninsulated arena (per my trainer/BO) for prolonged periods of time.

                  I won't ride outside once temperatures are in single digits (including factoring in the wind chill). I have ridden when it's like 10-15* and as long as there isn't a wind, it's not bad.

                  I, seriously, can't wait for mud season. I'm sick of all this bitterly cold weather!
                  Proud owner of Gus & Gringo.
                  See G2's blog


                  • #10
                    Yep--dang cold here in the Northeast, too. Besides the cold, my concern is the pounding on the frozen tundra that's our footing. My guy's got winter shoes with pads, but I still wonder whether it's a good idea to do much more than walk around.

                    A 4 to 6 day stretch of time off doesn't seem to bother him at all. I'm just getting bored.......


                    • #11
                      I'm right by Indianapolis, and it has been so freaking cold for the past 4 days into next Monday. Too cold for me to ride, let alone lunge. I may get on and walk over the weekend w/ a light lunge first. But if I can avoid it, I do. I have become considerably wimpier as I age.
                      Come to the dark side, we have cookies


                      • #12
                        AS DW said horses have those long noses, and those long necks, so by the time the air gets to their lungs,it is warmed, humidified, and comfy. Now me... whine!!
                        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                        • #13
                          I still maintain that at these temps, it'a a real PITA to try to pee. That's enough for me. LOL
                          A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                          Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                          • #14
                            Now me... whine!!
                            Yep, me too. Hate it when my boogers freeze!
                            Click here before you buy.


                            • Original Poster

                              I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who hasn't been doing as much as far as riding goes this past week! I just feel guilty when I don't keep my horse in solid work to keep his hind end built up. I'm sure he enjoys a week off here and there though and I doubt that will do much in terms of him losing any fitness. Will be going out to the barn here soon just to check his blankets and get his warm alfalfa cubes made up. Luckily they got turnout time in the indoor for a while on the coldest days and they're back to going outside again now.
                              Originally posted by RugBug
                              Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.


                              • #16
                                when i was younger, I used ride in sub freezing temps all the time! As long as it wasnt icy, I went out. I used to think all the grown up women at my barn were weak or lazy or weenies because they wouldnt ride. they just were not as dedicated as me.

                                HA! Now I totally get it! My butt is staying inside.


                                • #17
                                  Today was 14* with -4 wc and we were both quite happy with an easy trot school. When it gets to single digits I worry about burning their lungs but moderate work on decent footing continues through the teens.


                                  • #18
                                    The cold will hurt humans long before the horses notice it - they are cold weather creatures with the long nose, neck, thick body and spindly legs. I used to jog horses as long as I could stand it and when my fingers stiffened in the handholds, it was time to quit.
                                    Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

                                    Member: Incredible Invisbles


                                    • #19
                                      Dress yourself like the Michelin Man, get on, and walk and walk and walk

                                      Walking is not going to hurt the horse's lungs. Walking is great exercise that is often overlooked and underutilized.

                                      There are lots of things you can work on at the walk

                                      Spending several days to a few weeks walking and walking and walking some more, marching right along, never hurt the condition of a healthy horse
                                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                                      • #20
                                        My horse is originally from Cananda so I am the wimp! I think as I get older I do not like these temps. This morning it was 2 without the wind and tomorrow looks like much of the same. I had 6 days off and not one spent in the saddle! Well, Feb is almost here so lets hope for some better weather soon...
                                        Mai Tai aka Tyler RIP March 1994-December 2011
                                        Grief is the price we pay for love- Gretchen Jackson
                                        "And here she comes. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's ZENYATTA!"