We’re knee-deep into the colder months, but there’s still a long way to go until spring rears its magical head! While you might want to just settle in on the sofa in front of a roaring fire, if you’re a horse owner, your equine friend could have other ideas! Just because there’s a touch of frost on the ground, doesn’t mean your horse won’t need to get out and stretch their legs regularly. Exercising your horse in winter can sometimes pose a challenge, however, so we’re sharing our favourite tips for getting out safely in the cold with your pony!
Keep your horse warm (as well as yourself)
First thing’s first, stay warm! This goes for both you and your horse. You can use a quarter sheet or cooler in order to warm your horse up if you suspect they might be cold. For yourself, make sure to wear layers, and that you have somewhere to store them. As you warm up you may want to remove items on the go.
Whatever the weather?
Take a look at just how bad the weather is. Horses are large, sturdy creatures, but they can find terrible weather conditions just as irritating as you do! Ice, biting wind and rain are no fun for anybody. If you’re finding the conditions hard to deal with, it’s likely that your horse might too.
Consider your horse’s fitness level
Before exercising your horse in winter, take a little time to think about their current condition. Older horses and less active equines could find the conditions during winter harder to deal with and so they might benefit more from lighter activities. If your horse is fit and healthy, they can most likely get out and move as normal. Just pay attention to how they’re feeling; if there are any signs of stress or fatigue, cutting the exercise short might be a good idea!
All in the footing
The ground can be pretty treacherous during the winter months, especially if there’s ice or a lot of mud around. The mud that winter often brings can be especially dangerous, potentially leading to injury or hoof infections. Before undertaking any outdoor activity with your equine friend, take a good look at the condition of the ground beneath your feet.
Warm up properly
A good warm up is essential for winter riding and can go a long way towards preventing muscular injury to your horse. Make sure you warm them up with a blanket before beginning if needs be. You might want to leave your saddle pad and bit in a warm area, so as not to give your horse too much of a shock when you put them on! Use a cooler sheet as you warm up and spend more time steadily walking your horse around than you would in warmer conditions.
Vary your exercise
When the weather makes it unwise to go for a ride, consider other methods of exercising your horse. You could simply walk your equine friend around a ring, work on their groundwork skills, or try and find an indoor arena in which you can work. A long winter spent standing in the same stable would become tedious for anyone, so make sure to vary your exercises, as this should provide some much-needed mental stimulation for your horse!
Ensuring your horse is properly cooled down at the end of their exercise is really important. Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean they won’t sweat, and if they’re not dried off the water can become chilled. Walk your horse for around 15 minutes, making use of a moisture-wicking sheet. Once their breathing has slowed, towel them down to remove any residual moisture if necessary, especially if you’re then going to blanket them, as a thick blanket can hold dampness against the skin.
Check their feet
A horse’s feet are surprisingly delicate, and wintery conditions can cause some problems that might lead to infection and softening of the hoof. Check the bottom of their feet for any ice or snow that could have compacted within or around them. The same goes for mud; if your horse’s hooves are caked in dirt it could be the perfect breeding ground for various infections.
Take a little time out
Remember, exercising can be much harder for both you and your horse during winter, so sometimes it might just be a good idea to take it easy! Instead of going all-out every day, why not get off road for some light hacking? The experience could be a great way to get back to nature and clear your mind, as well as stimulating your horse both mentally and physically.
Exercising your horse in winter can feel difficult, but there should be plenty of opportunity for adventure! And before you know it, the warmer weather will be back to put a spring in both your steps. As a horse owner, you’ll want to do all you can to keep your equine friend in perfect condition, and taking out horse insurance might help to protect them in the event of the unexpected. At The Insurance Emporium, we offer Horse Insurance with Death, Theft Or Straying as standard. You can then customise your policy with our Optional Benefits, such as cover for Vet’s Fees up to £5,000 per incident*. You could even receive up to 30% discount^. Visit our product pages to find out more!
* Cover for Vet’s Fees up to £5,000 per incident is only available on lunar monthly policies where the Optional Benefit has been selected.
^ The 30% discount is made up of 20% Introductory Discount plus 10% Multi-horse Discount (if appropriate). The Introductory Discount is available for the first 12 premium payments on lunar and calendar monthly policies or one premium payment on annual policies.
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