Horseback Riding in the Winter

Horseback riding in the snow

5 Ways to Make Winter Horseback Rides Safer for Your Horse

Just like people, horses need exercise no matter what the season. Scheduling regular horseback rides will help your horse remain active, engaged, and ensure that you have ample time to spend with your favorite equine. Before you saddle up your horse, keep these winter tips in mind.

1. Check the Conditions Outdoors and the Forecast

Venturing out when the snow is deep or the trails are icy can result in injuries for your horse and you. Although conditions may be just fine around the barn, drifting snow or icy patches may be present just a short distance away. If you're not sure what conditions you'll find on your ride, it may be a good idea to postpone your ride or limit it to nearby fields or pastures.

If you're planning a fairly long ride, a glance at the forecast and radar is a must before you head out. The weather can change quickly during the winter, sometimes with little warning. Riding through freezing rain, hail or a snow squall can be uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst. Slippery conditions and poor visibility may make your horse lose its footing, causing a fall.

2. Warm-Up Before Your Ride

When it's cold outside, both you and your horse can benefit from a few preliminary exercises. A few stretches will loosen your muscles and keep you limber during your ride. Before you begin the ride, spend 5 or 10 minutes trotting around the pasture or trailhead to warm up your horse's muscles and tendons.

3. Make Your Horse Comfortable

A blanket or rump rug will keep your horse warm on cold rides. If you don't normally use a blanket, place it over your horse's back before your planned ride. Giving your horse time to get used to the unfamiliar sensation will help you ensure that the ride starts off on a positive note.

Don't forget to warm the bit by rubbing it between your hands before putting it in your horse's mouth. The freezing cold metal can be quite uncomfortable for your horse if you don't warm it first.

4. Protect Your Horse's Feet

If you and your horse will be riding often during the winter, ask your farrier if he or she recommends special shoes that offer better traction. Horse and Rider magazine notes that horseshoe nails with ribbed heads, studs, or borium attached to shoes, or hoof boots that have removable studs, can be helpful.

Be sure to check your horse's feet for snow and ice balls after your ride. If you don't remove the balls promptly, your horse may slip or experience stretched or damaged tendons.

5. Allow Plenty of Time for Cool Down

Walking your horse for 5 or 10 minutes after your ride will allow time for sweat and heat to dissipate. Equus suggests covering your horse with a cooler made of wool or a synthetic fabric that wicks away moisture during the cool-down period.

Your horse's blanket will probably be soaked with sweat after a ride. Unfortunately, exposure to cold temperatures when wet can chill your horse and may even drop its temperature. If you don't dry your horse with a towel or use a cooler during cool down, its body temperature can drop, which may increase the risk of illness.

Is your horse ready for winter riding? If you have a question or concern about your horse's winter readiness, get in touch with our office.

Sources:

Horse and Rider: 6 Best-Ever Tips for Winter-Riding Fun, 11/25/19

Equus: Tips for Cooling Down After Winter Rides, 2/26/19

Sport and Trail Magazine: Winter Riding Tips by the Trailmeister

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine: Maintaining Hoof Health in the Winter, 11/9/18

Location

Find us on the map

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Tuesday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Wednesday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Thursday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Friday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Saturday:

9:00 am-2:00 pm

Sunday:

--

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Kath, thank you so much for being Greyson's vet, your gentle hand, compassion and great skill made all the difference for my buddy."
    --Deirdre Dekking, Portland
  • "Dr. Mertens is a very friendly, knowledgeable equine veterinarian (and a friend to the rest of the farmyard, including the chickens!). Always up to date on the latest in equine health, and even though Mertens Mammals is a small clinic giving you the personable experience, Dr. Mertens also has equipment for more advanced diagnostics and procedures!"
    —Ari Gordon, Boring
  • "I have been a client of Mertens Mammals for 10 years. Kath (Dr. Mertens) is the most kind, thoughtful and caring Vet I have ever had for my animals. I have 3 horses: my Appy "Breeze" who turns 30 this year, my Paint " Rocket " 14 and my other Paint "Fergie " 3 are all under Kath's care. I also had a dog "Cowboy" who I lost to cancer last July. Kath took care of him also. Dr.Mertens came out on Mother's Day about 7 years ago to treat Breeze for a cut above her right eye. After a few weeks of recovery we were happy to not have a huge scar. Kath also spent 2 hours with me 3 years ago when Rocket had a small case of colic. (Thank God). I couldn't ask for a better person to take care of my girls. Kath always calls to check in on the patients. When people ask who I use for my veterinary needs for my horses, I'm always proud to refer them to Mertens Mammals. I am so thankful for an honest and caring Vet. Thank you, Kath!"
    --Michelle Schatz, Portland
  • "I got looking at Sassy’s records and it will be 6 years in July when you first met Sassy—I feel so fortunate that you became her vet and have looked after her all these years. You are such a wonderful and caring doc and I know you always have Sassy’s best interests at heart. I also know I can always rely on you to help me or Sassy when needed. Thanks for all you do for both of us—will keep you posted on Sassy.”"
    —Judy Becker, Eagle Creek
  • "My horse, Pester, would have lost her eye had it not been for the great care and dedication by Mertens Mammals. They are truly there for you any time you need them. I could go on and on. Kath Mertens has been so good to us!"
    --Troy and Wendy Mohr, Estacada
  • "She has always been there for us. She is forever in my thoughts as the best vet. She saved our hours old filly from certain death. She knew exactly what to do in an instant after just seconds in seeing her. We are forever in your debt...thank you!"
    Barbara T.
  • "Thank you Dr Mertens for such a thoughtful and careful job with our sweet Daisy the Donkey this morning! She is well on her way to health again after that abscess!"
    Suzi C.