Winter – the season dreaded by all equestrians. Muddy paddocks, frozen water buckets, layers of blankets, and did we mention the mud? And besides the hassle of dealing with winter weather conditions, for some of us, the cold throws a wrench in our riding plans as well. Outdoor arenas become unusable due to ice, snow, and again, mud. If you don’t have access to an indoor riding arena, here are a few tips for surviving the winter.

Remember – It’s Okay to Decrease Your Riding Workload

Firstly, it’s important to recognize that you may be getting less riding time in the winter, and that’s okay. Being realistic will help reduce any stress you may have regarding this issue. Often, our horses are just fine with the decreased workload that comes each winter, and it can even be beneficial for them to decompress during this time. Especially if you have a busy schedule during the summer, this can be a great time for them to be able to rest and recuperate. And there is no harm in some time off.

Likit Starter Kit for Horses During the Winter without an Arena available at FarmVet

If you do notice your horse getting a little restless during this break, you can keep them busy by providing stall toys or slow feeders to break up the boredom.

Set Other Goals to Focus On

Just because you’re riding less, doesn’t mean there aren’t still some things you can work on with your horse. Set some different goals that you’d like to accomplish outside of the arena, maybe something you aren’t able to focus on as much during your busy riding season. Whether it be improved ground manners, better at picking up their feet, learning to ground tie, or a better relationship with the clippers, there are lots of things to choose from! You know your horse best, and winter can be a perfect opportunity to work through some “kinks” together out of the saddle.

Check Local Facilities for Haul-In Opportunities

You don’t have an indoor arena, but someone near you might! A lot of facilities are open to haul-ins during the winter for just this reason. Reach out to nearby barns to see if that is a possibility. Weather permitting, don’t be afraid to load up and haul down the road to get some quality riding time in a controlled environment. There are also plenty of lesson programs and clinics during the winter, so keep an eye out for these opportunities as well if that is something you’re interested in.

Adjust Your Riding Routine

When you do get opportunities to ride during the winter, remember to make proper adjustments for the safety of both you and your horse. Because of the lighter workload, coupled with the cold weather, your horse may experience stiffness and require a longer warm-up. Likewise, in the cold weather, it is vital to properly cool out your horse before ending your ride. This will help keep their respiratory tract healthy despite the chilly air, as well as help their muscles better recover after a workout.

Dress Appropriately for Winter Rides

That goes for both you and your horse. Just as you layer up, your horse might benefit from some extra layers as well. This especially goes for outdoor rides such as trail rides. Quarter sheets, like this Rambo Competition Sheet from Horseware Ireland, will keep your horse protected from the winter elements without interfering with your legs during your ride.

Horseware Ireland Rambo Competition Sheet for Winter Rides without and Arena Available at FarmVet

The Rambo Competition Sheet is both waterproof and breathable, to keep your horse warm and dry during your ride.

Weatherbeeta Anti-Static Fleece Cooler for Winter Equestrians available at FarmVet

Always use a cooler if your horse is sweaty or damp after a ride, never blanketing them while they are wet. The cooler, such as this Weatherbeeta Anti-Static Fleece Cooler with help draw moisture away from your horse’s coat so it can quickly evaporate and dry. It will also help them stay warm until you can put their blankets back on.

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Learn More

If you’re looking for more ways to keep your horse busy during the break from riding, check out these Boredom Busters for Your Horse.