Snowflakes are already flying around the country! It’s hard to believe, but winter is going to be here sooner rather than later. We’ve compiled some of our favorite winter horse care and riding tips, to help you have a warm, happy winter at the barn.
Warm Hands, Warm Heart: You want to maintain a soft feel with your horse’s mouth, but you also want to keep your fingers frostbite-free. Riding gloves are nice, but after a little while out in the freezing cold, even insulated gloves can let the cold in. Keep your fingers together so they can warm each other up, with riding mittens. Mittens have a separate pocket for the pinkie and thumb finger, so you can hold the reins properly, but keep your three middle fingers together to share the warmth. Buy them a size large, and wear knitted gloves underneath for extra insulation. Check out Mountain Horse for some great cold weather gear for your hands.
Exercise in Comfort: Does your horse wear a blanket all winter long? Don’t send him out to the arena feeling naked! Add an exercise rug or quarter sheet to your horse’s wardrobe. On frosty days when the wind is whipping, a rug over your horse’s clipped hindquarters will keep him comfortable until he’s worked up warmth of his own. It’s also nice for you — choose a quarter sheet which wraps over the rider’s leg for some extra comfort on cold days.
Coolers for proper cool-downs: Yes, more clothes for your horse. A hot horse on a cold day is a horse just waiting to catch a chill. After work-outs, the cool-down is more important than ever when the temperature drops. Have a cooler ready to throw over your horse to wick away moisture from sweat and to keep the cold air away from hot muscles. It’s perfect for the long walk you’re going to take to help him cool down! You can use the cooler until the horse is dry and it’s safe to put his regular blanket back on.
Fix it with food: Ah, food fixes everything, doesn’t it? And just like you want an extra helping of mashed potatoes after you’ve had a chilly day in the barn, your horse could use some extra rations to deal with the cold. Add high-protein hay, like alfalfa or alfalfa cubes or pellets, to warm up your horse. What he doesn’t need for energy will go into his fat stores and speed his metabolism, which produces more body-heat. But whatever kind of hay you feed, feed it often: keeping his mouth full and his digestive system busy will help him stay warm.
Warm Water: Horses, unlike a lot of humans, are not fans of ice water. They’re more tea-drinkers, actually. Look for ways to keep your horse’s drinking water above the freezing mark. Heated water buckets are a nice investment, and come in all sizes, from five-gallon buckets to pasture-sized troughs. Water bucket immersion heaters can also be used to periodically warm up water, although they shouldn’t be left unattended. If all you’re looking for is a quick fix for your outside water trough, try this trick: leave a soccer ball floating in the water. Its bouncing and bobbing will break up ice. For the ultimate solution research Nelson Manufacturing and look at their heater automatic waterers.
What are you favorite tips for keeping the cold at bay all winter long?