Cold Weather Riding Tips
You and your horse can continue to enjoy each other in winter despite the challenges cold weather brings. In fact, you can take advantage of the quieter season to foster your bond with your horse through grooming sessions and lots of riding at the walk.
Many riders stable their horses at facilities with indoor riding arenas to permit them to continue a steady riding program. A few simple adaptations to the routine can keep the horse healthy in his indoor work. If you don't have access to an indoor riding facility, don't despair-you're in good company. Many backyard horse owners give their mounts time off once the ground freezes, with just an occasional snowy trail ride to enjoy the winter scenery. Others do the best they can as weather conditions allow to keep their horses going as steadily as possible. Even walking under saddle regularly can keep your horse somewhat fit.
With a little creativity, the help of a few key pieces of equipment and winter riding apparel, and by following some basic guidelines, you and your horse can enjoy the winter riding season together.
For The Rider
Dress in layers so that you can maintain a comfortable body temperature. Just as you want to prevent your horse from becoming chilled from perspiration, prevent this in yourself too. Layering allows you to add or remove clothing easily as your body temperature changes. It also works because you build pockets of warm air within the garments for insulation. Choose fabrics to wear next to your skin that are designed to wick away perspiration so that you don't feel damp, which makes you colder.
Avoid wearing tightly fitting clothing and footwear. Wherever your body comes in contact with the surface of a garment or boot, you transfer your body heat to the item-in other words, you lose heat.
On top, consider wearing a high-necked shirt such as a fleece turtleneck. Fleece is an exceptionally warm layer that allows perspiration to move away from your skin. Or combine an athletically styled shirt such as the Mock T-neck with a microfiber vest. Vests are wise layering choices as they keep your torso warm and fit well under outer layers.
The benefits of fleece can also be found inside winter breeches. For examples, look to the Riding Sport Powerstretch Tights as well as fleece lined breeches from Kerrits and Tuff Rider. Insulated riding pants such as the Riding Sport Full-Seat Thermo Riding Pant and the Mountain Horse Forest Rider Pants are more options for keeping your legs warm while riding. With grippy seats and reflective piping, insulated riding pants are often favored for winter trail riding. Because of their superb warmth, they're also popular with trainers who spend long hours at the stable teaching and working multiple horses.
When you're thinking in terms of outer layers, there are many options to consider in jackets and parkas designed specifically for equestrians. Not only are these garments moisture-resistant and insulated, they're cut to help you ride comfortably, with styling that won't hamper your position in the saddle. Details such as tapered waistlines reduce bulk, longer back hemlines keep you covered in the saddle, and strategically placed gussets allow you freedom of movement.
The versatile Riding Sport 5-in-1 Jacket offers built-in flexibility to help you with your layering. You can wear the waterproof shell on its own, add the full liner to create a parka, wear the liner as a lightweight coat all by itself, unzip the sleeves of the liner to wear just the vest, or combine the vest for extra warmth for the torso along with the outer shell. Mountain Horse Original winter coat with its double back vents, pillow-quilted insulated lining and detachable hood remains a perennial favorite of winter riders.
Insulated winter riding boots, such as the Mountain Horse Ice Rider Tall Winter Boot, are intended to create space for warm air to circulate inside the boot. If your toes touch the end of a boot, your foot will feel colder, so be sure that you select your perfect fit. You'll find tall winter riding boots and winter paddock boots offered in a variety of styles, from sleekly styled boots suitable for winter competitions, such as the Ariat Bromont Tall Boot, to more rugged, sporty styles suitable for walking through snow, as found with the Mountain Horse Rimfrost Paddock Boot.
Tip: Check Stirrup Iron Size with Insulated Winter Boots
Most winter boots are wider than regular paddock or tall boots. Your irons should be one inch wider than the width of your boot at the ball of the foot. When your foot is in place, you should have 1/2 inch of space on each side. If your boot fits too snugly into your iron, it could be difficult for you to separate your foot from the iron in the event of a fall-a very dangerous situation.
Your head allows much of your body's heat loss. Because they cover your head, helmets will help retain some heat. But a fleece helmet cover that encompasses your entire helmet and some of your neck will go a long way toward maintaining your body temperature. An alternative to the helmet cover is a fleece helmet headband that covers the ears.
Check weather reports and find out the wind chill factor. Wind chill factor is a combination of temperature and wind speed. It makes your body lose heat faster and makes you feel colder than the actual temperature reading on your thermometer would lead you to believe. For example, if it is 32 degrees Fahrenheit with no wind chill factor, you may actually feel warm when standing in the sun. But 32 degrees Fahrenheit with a negative 10 degree wind chill factor will leave you feeling miserably cold, and you're more susceptible to frostbite.
Though the sun is farther away in your winter season, it still has the potential for damaging effects. Continue to wear sunscreen as you do in summer, and remember sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays and snow glare when you're riding outside.