No matter where you are, it seems like the temperatures just keep getting lower. This morning, it was -30 degrees with the windchill in Ohio! I used to love the winter. Hot chocolate, oversized sweatshirts, snow days were the highlights. Then, I got my first horse……
Once temperatures get below 30 degrees, we should limit the heavy work we do with our horses. Below 20 degrees, I like to stick with mostly walking and maybe some spirts of trotting. For those of us that show over the winter, this presents a challenge when it comes to keeping horses fit.
Walking is a good way to keep your horses fitter and lower injury rates no matter the season. In the summer, I like to walk for an hour or so with very loose side reins (Cash can still stretch and reach his toes) to help build endurance without putting as much strain on this joints. In the winter, I walk him for 20 minutes either on the lunge line or in the saddle depending on how cold it is. Making sure you stretch your horses often will also help them stay flexible over the cold winter months.
Horses and humans alike can get overly cold when the temperature drop. Making sure both stay warm can be interesting. I have learned a couple tricks that I find useful in the cold.
Layering can be interesting if you wear tight breeches and try to layer. Even if you have winter breeches, they may not be enough. There have been times when I can barely move my legs because of this. Keeping breeches that are a size too big will give you some room to put extra layers underneath.
Quarter Sheets and Blankets
Keeping as much of you and your horses’ bodies covered will help trap heat in and help you stay warmer. Your quarter sheet will become your best friend! I like to warm up with one when it’s below 30 degrees and tuck it under my saddle when it’s below 20.
When you are grooming, try doing it in phases and only removing as much of your horses’ blanket as need. Keeping a blanket on when lunging is a good idea when just walking or trotting around for a short amount of time. If your horse allows it, riding bareback on top of their blanket would cut down on tacking time and help keep you both fit.