Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Horseback Riding in the Snow?

   A lot of us would never think to be horseback riding when it's cold and blustery.  Most of us wouldn't.  Unless you are a die hard lover of winter or a trainer, you'd be sitting at home next to a warm fire.   Yes, you CAN ride in the winter, especially when there is snow on the ground.   As long as you take precaution in the safety of your horse or mule, you should have little issue when you set out to make your own path for a leisurely ride in the woods or wherever you choose.
   Horseback riding can be done if there isn't ice or deep crusted over snow.  Your horse is very capable in the snow already, but not when he has to break through ice to get through into it.  This puts not only you, but the horse in danger of a fall.
   For those intrepid enough to brave the weather, your horse would benefit from being either barefoot (no shoes), or have special snow shoes with pads.  The pads prevent snow from "balling" inside the hoof, as the hoof is cupped.  This is often called "snow-balling", and can make the horse unsteady.
  If a horse does go through deep snow, keep in mind how much exertion he will have to do in order to carry you.  Even a fit horse will end up sweating after a ride in the snow.  Take extra care in making sure your horse is warm until he is dry.  It is best to limit physical activity for your horse as they cannot take extra layers off as you are able when you get warm.
  As for the rider, the best clothing to wear in the winter can be a challenge.  Don't wear chunky boots or clothing that would make you slide off the horse if he moves wrong.  The chunky boots can possibly get your feet stuck in the stirrups and you will end up being seriously injured.  Dress in layers, but if necessary, wear a second pair of warm socks to keep those toes warm inside a pair of the boots you would normally wear when riding.  You do not want to impede your movement with too much heavy clothing.
  Horses are not able to handle ice well.  Occasionally you may come across an icy patch, and your horse may have a time crossing it safely.  If at all possible, avoid ice as your horse can easily break a leg if a fall does occur.
  Take the time to assess the weather in your area before you make a decision whether to ride or err on the side of caution.  You can make your horseback ride in the snow as enjoyable as long as you and your horse are safe in the process.

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