Maintaining Horse Health while Winter Riding
For those who don't let the cold stop them from some winter horse riding, here are some tips to ensure that your rides don't cause concern for your horse's health and wellness. There are many reasons that a proper warm-up and cool-down are necessary for any ride or session. You can check out 12 reasons in a previous post Warm Up & Cool Down Crucial Parts to Equine Fitness.
The focus of this post will be more specific on warm-ups and cool-downs as they relate to cold weather and winter horse riding.
Winter Horse Riding Warm-Up
For horses that are less mobile and stand in a stall or run, it can be beneficial for joint health and muscle mobility to add some extra lateral work, biosomatic exercises, or stretches before you get moving on to your regular warm-up or session. The cold can cause tension and tight spots that may not be present in warmer conditions.
Winter Horse Riding Cool Down
You can make your cold-weather cooldowns more efficient with the right equipment. Investing in a fleece or wool cooler blanket
can promote horse health by speeding up the cool downtime and can be a great option for those who regularly ride in the cold and work the horse to a sweat. Our horse's winter coat is designed to form an insulating layer that warms and protects from the elements, but when saturated with sweat this design is hindered and can leave the horse at risk for health concerns. Making sure your horse is dry prior to putting them away is key to maintaining horse health. Even if you use a turnout sheet or blanket the horse needs to be dry and its body temperature back to its normal range.
You can begin your cool down, while riding, by walking for 10-15 minutes at the end of your session. After dismounting, loosen the cinch, and if you know the horse is comfortable with it place the cooler blanket
on over the saddle and hand-walk the horse for a few minutes. This can help reduce a wave of cold air hitting the back and causing muscles to spasm or cramp up. You can then remove the saddle and place the cooler blanket
back on and continue to hand walk them. If the horse is still wet you can add towel drying, to hand walking and using a cooler blanket
. If the horse is not returning to normal body temperature or is continuing to sweat, you may need to consult your veterinarian to check for other possible horse health concerns. With these simple winter riding tips we hope you stay safe and enjoy horse riding year-round!