Winter can be cold and uncomfortable, but you (and your horses) can still enjoy riding out during this chilly time of year with a few practical tips:
1. Those hand warmers (and foot warmers) that we recommended in our Christmas-gift article really are must-haves when you’re working at the barn or climbing on a horse. Add a pair of hand warmers to your gloves, slip the foot warmers inside your boots and even put a pair into the back pockets of your jeans. Staying cozy and comfortable enhances any outdoor activity!
2. Add a fleece headband to cover your ears; it fits well under your helmet. You don’t have to forego safety to keep your head and ears warm.
3. If driving to the barn before you ride, hold your helmet up by the heat vent to warm it a little before you put it on.
4. Use a bitless bridle or riding halter in lieu of a bit. Most horses don’t appreciate a freezing cold metal bit in their mouth. Riding without a bit is likely to increase their cooperation.
5. Respect the winter friskies. Let your horses out to play and run for a bit before you climb aboard for a cold-weather ride. If you get on a young horse that you feel is ready to take flight at any moment, ride in a contained area and make your session short and sweet. Always end on a good note; an effective ride need not be a long ride.
6. If your horses are blanketed, fold the blanket in a way that will retain as much interior warmth and dryness as possible when you take it off to tack up your horse.
7. A fleece cooler, or even a towel warmed in the dryer, can help protect your horse’s loins when you remove tack, before replacing the blanket.
8. If it’s snowing while you ride or work your horse, try and put them in a sheltered area after your session is done, before putting the horse blankets back on (this allows them to dry off so you’re not putting a blanket on your wet horse).
9. Wear enough clothes to keep warm, but not so much that you can't move. You still want to be able to relax and move with your horse.
10. Before tacking your horse, make sure the equipment is dry. Never put a damp saddle pad on your horse's back (this rule applies any time of the year).
Horses and humans will both look forward to fun winter rides when they’re kept as comfortable as possible. Happy trails!