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Cold Weather Rules

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  • Cold Weather Rules

    Hello- I'm a long time lurker, but this is my first threat, so apologies in advance if this is in the wrong area or has been covered before!

    I recently moved my horse to a closer barn so I can ride 5-6 days a week, which is great. Only problem-the new barn doesn't have an indoor. I'm pretty good with the cold, and have no problem getting out there when its dark and freezing. But I want to make sure I'm not getting overly ambitious and riding in conditions that I shouldn't.

    So I'd love to hear your thoughts on when you can ride, and when you should leave the pony in the barn. As an fyi, my horse has kissing spine which hasn't caused her much pain, but my vet has strongly stressed the importance of keeping strong back muscles to ensure we keep her pain free for as long as possible, so being able to ride/lunge is important for us.


  • #2
    First...welcome to Coth!

    Second....AWESOME typo!
    but this is my first threat,
    Winter riding...is yoour horse shod or barefoot? If shod, any winter shoeing done?
    Footing...are you riding in snow or on plowed footing?

    Never ride on ice.
    I'd also not school in really deep snow or really slushy/slippery snow.
    I also wouldn't school in seriously low temps...making a horse heat up and breathe harder with icy air isn't the best thing for the horse.

    Other than that, I ride whatever the weather. I keep my horses' feet in whichever way works for each. One is barefoot all around, the other is shod up front with studs in winter. If I feel any slippage, I don't ride.

    I don't have an actual ring here at home, so my winter riding is mostly just messing around/pleasure rides. Enough to keep me happy and keep the horses in shape.

    In really bad weather, we just do ground work or play around.
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!


    • Original Poster

      Ahh yes, my first "threat" as in answer my question all of you or else, haha. The joys of auto correct! My horse has front shoes and barefoot behind, the barn has an arena with good footing, and they clear it when it snows. I live near D.C. so we don't get too much snow.

      My biggest concern is frozen ground, which we get a lot of (where it will rain and then freeze the footing in the arena). It tends not to be slick, but just super hard. Is that something you can ride on, but just stick to a walk?


      • #4
        I laughed out loud at the typo!!

        I usually will ride if the ring has been plowed and it isnt colder than freezing. (I cant stand being cold though...I know people that ride in the 20's!)

        I dont like riding when the ground is frozen. I'm in central va, so kinda close to you. The ground has definitely frozen a few times this winter and I make sure to let it thaw before riding (or ride in the ring which has been plowed!)
        Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
        White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

        Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.


        • #5
          No, I don't school over a walk on ground that's frozen solid/rock hard. I think of that like riding and schooling on pavement...not good for the joints.

          There's a bunch of back-to-basics work that can be done at the walk though. Gets a little boring, but good for the horse and you.
          You jump in the saddle,
          Hold onto the bridle!
          Jump in the line!


          • #6
            Basically what MistyBlue said, though deep snow (say over a foot) is okay to ride in....just not to actually school in. Riding through deep snow (w maybe some trot) is very beneficial otherwise though (of course provided there isn't ice beneath). Eta: depends on the horse: first few times on my main TB I did not go beyond the walk in the deep snow; last we rode we even did a little bit of a hand-gallop in the deep snow - as per his (polite) request. I felt he could handle it, so we did, though snow remained under about a foot and a half at most in places.

            All mine are barefoot. Obviously nothing more than w/t (maybe the occasional canter, depending) on mud/slush unless I feel slippage, in which case it's walk of course. I second being careful how hard you work a horse in exceptionally cold conditions (say below 0C to -10C and colder). Dark is perfectly okay.

            Of course you can ride on frozen ground - walk is perfectly fine. I will actually school on frozen ground, but limited - w/t/c but limited canter, short session (say maybe only 30min max of actual schooling not including warm-up/down at the walk, etc, and very little of that canter), and as little as possible (avoid it if I can, but if I were to do it once every week or two, I wouldn't be overly concerned, I would just tone the session down as appropriate to that horse, ground, footing, weather, etc - so far this year I've only done it once). I wouldn't set any limits to just walking on hard ground, that isn't going to hurt really. On the other hand, walking probably is not going to keep up your mare's fitness level if you are constricted to it regularly - trot over poles and up and down hills (etc) is best (if her condition supports it, I know very little of kissing spine).
            Last edited by naturalequus; Feb. 8, 2011, 07:03 PM.
            ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
            ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


            • #7
              When it is really bad for some days (but not as bad as today, we are 2F having a blizzard and -30 chill factor) most everyone tries to at least exercise the horses, riding one and ponying the other.
              That is done mostly with trot sets, to keep some fitness up.

              When winter is over, most riders have sore shoulders from all that hijinx and pulling the horses do, feeling good in the cold weather.

              Even if all you have is the barn aisle, really bad days you could drive your horse there with long lines.


              • #8
                Is your horse turned out every day where she can move a little? Then I wouldn't worry about not being able to ride / exercise her every day.

                Here in Maine, there's only been a couple days this winter when I had to trot my mare up and down the road: when everything else was either totally icy or covered in deep, frozen ruts, including the paddocks, and I felt bad that she couldn't really stretch her legs (I'm actually really happy that she has the sense NOT to try stretching her legs in such footing! but then when the snow comes...Wheeee she's like a 3 yo again!).

                Otherwise, she's out all day, even when temps are in the teens (then, she wears a heavy turnout). She has borium and rim pads on all 4 feet so I don't worry about her slipping and falling in turnout, or snow balling up under her feet. I ride her if footing permits, in the ring or on the trails, and I adapt what I do to the footing. There's a lot you can do at walk, and we've perfected our transitions by trotting/cantering when footing is good and halting / walking when it gets bad.

                I could just give her the winter off...but I want to ride, so I moved her to an indoor until things thaw a little.
                Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!


                • #9
                  I could just give her the winter off...but I want to ride, so I moved her to an indoor until things thaw a little.
                  Considering our many feet of snow on the ground here...I contemplated this for this winter.

                  But then remembered I have two horses. Both rideable. So I'd either have to board both to keep them both ridden or board one and buy a third to keep the second one from being alone at home. Kinda defeats the purpose, LOL!

                  And there's a couple barns with indoors within 5 minutes of my house too. *sigh*

                  I guess I could go totally insane and give my guys the rest of the winter off (or at time off until the snow melts to shallow enough level that their bellies don't drag in it) and go lease another horse at a barn with an indoor to ride!

                  Huh...that's not a bad idea. Maybe a part lease. Something different. Like renting a sports car when you own a pickup. Or renting an SUV when you drive a Prius.
                  You jump in the saddle,
                  Hold onto the bridle!
                  Jump in the line!


                  • #10
                    I'm using the mountains of snow as an excuse to just play with things. Like riding bareback in the drifts, some of which are really too deep to consider anything else but walking. I worry more about the air temperature than the ground (ice aside)--if it's extremely cold, then I'm not going out to ride. I'll freeze, and it's not good for him to breathe too hard in it.
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