Dashing through the snow in Denver, Colorado, on your horse is a lot of fun. Just remember that like us, walking through deep snow is a lot more challenging than walking normally.
Instead of being able to move our legs easily we have to lift them up higher and the snow adds resistance or drag to our leg movements. Horses are no different. I consider deep snow to be above the fetlock and below or at the knee.
Anything over the knee might be too deep for your horse to navigate (especially if your horse is out of shape), and you risk getting them stuck and struggling to escape which will increase the chances of injury. The most common injuries are pulled muscles and tendons.
Trekking through the snow is a great cardio workout for your horse. If you are used to riding your horse 20 minutes you might want to only ride for 10 minutes in deep snow. Be sure to warm up your horse really well and cool him down to prevent injury. If possible do some groundwork in a snow free area before riding in the deep snow to warm him up. If your horse is out of shape, keep your ride to a walk.
If your horse is in pretty good shape then you can ride at faster gaits, but keep an eye on your horse’s heart and breathing rate so as not to over exert him too much. If your horse does not want to go faster, then do not push him. He may sense something about the footing and/or he knows it’s too much work for him. It’s not worth risking an injury.
On a chilly day, and if you’re pressed for time, ride for 10 minutes bareback in the snow. You won’t have the added time of tacking and untacking your horse. Do some quick groundwork exercises to warm up, then hop on and away you go. Your horse will be happy for the time spent together getting out and about.