In the past, we have posted many of my articles and essays under the Essays tab. We are going to start featuring these essays in the blog now and then, to help you find archived articles you might have missed. This week’s Featured Article is a timely subject for riders, and especially instructors, in the Northern Hemisphere, faced with riding in the oncoming cold.
This is the time of year when many horse owners send their horses south for the winter. Why? Because keeping horses in training in cold weather is a tough job. Everything is harder for him in the cold, and you consider yourself lucky if he comes out of the winter going as well as he did the previous fall. For those who run a lesson program a big concern is keeping your students safe, since cold horses tend to be more ‘disobedient’. However, there are things you can do to give safe, interesting lessons in the winter without spending all the time in the stable or lecture room.
That being said, on days when it was below 20 degrees at my southern New England farm, we did not have riding lessons. Depending on the group, we might have ground work in the stable with the horses, or a video or talk, or simply cancel altogether. The reasons for this were safety, and good practice, because even if the horses behaved, if the riders were cold they were more likely to be tense, affecting their riding, and if they fell, to get hurt.
We’ll talk about keeping people warm later on, but first let’s talk about the horses. Most of our horses were at least partially clipped in the winter. The horses were all warmly blanketed, and most of them wore neck hoods as well. I found from experience that a horse being ridden in cold weather with his neck protected was much more relaxed than without it.
Now, we have the blanketed horses in the barn where the temperature is about 50 degrees. If we take off those cozy blankets, and replace them with just a saddle and bridle, then take the horse out into a 30 degree arena, why should we be surprised if he wants to run around and buck? He just wants to get warm!
Think how you feel if you go out to the mailbox on a cold day without putting on a coat. You want to run, and you’re tense, and you want to get back where it’s warm. And you didn’t take any of your clothes off when you went out! A lot of people think a quarter sheet is enough to keep the horse warm, but it is the neck and shoulders where horses feel the cold. Quarter sheets are intended only to keep those big rump muscles from stiffening up on the way home after a strenuous workout.
How do you keep your horses comfortable? (Click here to read the full article)