Monday, November 1, 2010


Winter is coming for this Florida girl and her pony. It snowed on Friday but had melted into a think mud by the time I made it out to ride on Saturday. Bodhi had little mud booties on. I went at each leg with a sweat scraper and then a pick and then a hard brush. The arena was too muddy to ride in so we went for a hike down the road (the flood plane had also lived up to it's name).

We worked on some free shaping on getting round. Worked out pretty well. a had him target and stretch down and then follow the target back a bit (towards his body) When I saw his back lift up I clicked and gave him a pat and treat. It helped to distract him as we walked between fields of hundreds of Canada geese. They honked and flushed anytime we got close. I was pretty scared but Bodhi was brave.

Also Bodhi is fat. Really fat. The hay on the property is really good. I am trying not to be to worried. It is his first northern winter and he will have no blanket and it can be -40. So if he looks like a cow it may not be such a bad thing.

In an intrest to keep him from becoming one of those pony cartoon drawings though I am calling all northerners!

What do you do in the Winter? What do you do with snow?

Can I ride in it? Are there rules? What am I supposed to do!!?!!! Besides maybe this. Note the Haflinger in this kids section!

So to all you Northern folks what do you do in the winter to keep horse and rider fit? Any innovative solutions? How about safety tips?


  1. I won't tell you what the weather is like in Texas.... :)

    However, I did live (and ride) in Chicago land for several years, so I can comment a bit about the cold.

    If he's healthy, has shelter from the wind, has plenty of hay and plenty of water, he'll be fine with the cold.

    Snow is fun to ride in, just make sure you have plenty of layers to keep the toes and fingers warm!! They'll get plenty cold if you're riding and they aren't moving around a lot.

    Be careful about ice. I was especially careful in the spring when things are thawing and then freezing again. Ice can be slippery and dangerous.
    Cantering down a snowy trail is really fun, though. :)

    Winter is a good time for working on ground exercises, tricks and anything else that can be done in a barn aisle or run-in shed!

    And just for fun, this is one of my favorite horse snow youtube videos:


  2. Riding in snow is lots of fun and a good workout for the horse. You just have to watch out for ice - ice is definitely no fun and can be pretty dangerous. Barefoot horses do better on it, though. The other thing that can be a challenge is the horse getting sweaty under the saddle - you can't clip if you're not blanketing, but having a cooler handy to throw on him post-ride before he's turned back out can help.

  3. In winter you do things like invest in disposable toe warmers (you stick them to the tops of your socks) pam for hooves, and lots and lots of layers. I suggest full chaps, they keep the wind out.

  4. Ah, welcome to winter! If you don't have an indoor arena, it is incredibly hard to keep a horse fit, in my opinion. I live one province east of you and in my area, we get a lot of snow. Snow on its own can be ok to ride in. Especially the light fluffy stuff. I wouldn't ride much in a light layer of wet snow - probably too slippery.

    Another factor is when the ground freezes - if it is frozen mud, there can be lots of pockets of really hard, uneven ground. Not fun.

    If your sand riding ring has good level footing, it would probably be ok to ride on it with some snow - walk, trot, maybe not much cantering. It all depends on what is underneath...

    Then there is the ice. Where I live, we get some snow, then it is really cold and nice for a few days. Then it will warm up, then get really cold again. When this happens, the snow gets a crust on it that can be quite sharp. I personally wouldn't ride in that because I would be worried about cutting the horses legs - maybe I'm just paranoid.

    My innovative solution would be to move to Florida!!! :-)

    Sorry for the long comment - riding in the winter is really tough. Maybe your area of MB won't get a ton of snow? I've never been there, so I'm not sure what the winters are like.

  5. Hi Golden,

    I live in Ontario and our season changes can be quite dramatic. I have learned over the years to embrace the changes. :-) Winter can be a magical season. It's bright at night and so quiet. We get lots of snow and cold fronts, but I love riding in winter. It's exhilarating breathing crisp air, having the sun shining on your face and your horse kicking up snow. You have to dress for it and you probably have to invest in hand and toe warmers that you put in your gloves and boots.

    Our barn owner actually checks some of the trails and lets us know of the conditions. We won't ride if the temperature is lower than -15 degrees Celsius, if there has been freezing rain or if there is a sharp ice crust on the snow because it can cause scrapes. Around the gates it can get muddy and then freeze causing some uneven footing, but it is not usually a problem. It's actually really good exercise for the horses to plow through the snow. I will say that we usually don't go faster than a walk out on the trails.

    The herd is not clipped and stays outside 24/7 - they have a forested area for protection. Bodhi will need his body fat. :-) If Bodhi works up a sweat, you will need an absorbent blanket for when he is cooling down; not the kind that you put on a horse if they are clipped to keep them warm. His body will steam as he sweats. When he's cooled down/dry, just give him a brush to make his hair stand up for insulation and he's good to go!

    Have fun!

  6. I live in North Dakota and my horse is across the Red River in Minnesota, we are about 3 hours south of you. We will have very similar and miserable winters. I grew up 600km North of “Winter-peg” so I know EXACTLY how horrific winters in Manitoba can be. It will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced before! Be careful on the days with windchill advisories. They will let you know how fast exposed skin will freeze, usually its within a few minutes. On those days it hurts to BREATHE! So obviously don’t ride on those days!! If you want to know a bit more let me know…Its scary though!!
    But on the days that it’s nice enough to ride warm clothes are definitely something you need. I can’t tell you enough about how important warm boots are. My friends all have winter riding boots and I just need to bite the bullet and get a pair. No matter what size your horse is, when you dismount and your feet are frozen…it will feel like your feet shattered into a million pieces once you hit the ground and pain shoots up your legs. We have a heated indoor arena and even still my feet shatter every single time I dismount…time to buy those boots I think!! I wear layers upon layers when I ride. That way if I do get warm I can remove a layer to get more comfortable. Better to be too warm then to cold! If you want to keep your head warm with your helmet on I’d look into getting one of these there is a a Greenhawk tack store in Winterpeg on Niakwa Rd. I like that store a lot. If you do end up going there, talk to the salespeople about what to wear. They should be able to tell you a bit better what you should wear since they probably ride around there too. When I was there they were really helpful and friendly.
    As far as your monster, He’s probably growing fuzzier by the day. I know my monster is. They can do just fine outside without blankets. Mine wears his blanket on the coldest days though (soooo bascially most of the winter!) and on the days we work a little harder than normal then I put his fleece cooler on him until he dries off. When riding outside just keep an eye out for ice, especially a light coating of snow over ice. I’ve never had much trouble with riding outdoors during the winter. The only problem you are going to face is the temperature and what is comfortable for you to ride in.
    Whew..that was a novel and a half there! Sorry!! But let me know if you have anymore questions of what to expect weatherwise! If you’ve never faced a winter on the prairie you have no idea what to expect haha!

  7. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Snow already? That sounds way too cold for my liking. I'm already riding Tucker in a quarter sheet at night and it's only gone down to 34 so far! Don't freeze up there!

  8. He should grow quite a nice fur coat! I do blanket my OTTB but only on the really cold, or cold/windy, or windy/cold/wet days. I found great blankets at Dover's and that are priced great and LAST.
    Now, when riding, try to ride him bareback (if u feel comfortable) especially when hacking b/c he'll keep you so toasty warm! :)
    Snow is great to ride in, but watch watch watch for ice below. I usually walk my outside arena in my Artic Muck boots (btw awesome for bareback riding to keep toes warm but too clunky for stirrups) and see if it's icy before bring out my horse.
    Enjoy, some of the most fun riding in winter (I keep telling myself that, lol)

  9. You've gotten good advice here, so I will try not to repeat too much. I will stress that winter boots make a huge difference. I had been just been using my cross-country ski socks in my paddock boots for years. Last year, my husband was so adamant I get winter boots he made me go to Greenhawk (not a hard sell!) and bought them for me. I got winter paddock boots and although I find them bulky at first you get used to them. And your toes stay nice and warm.

    Our biggest challenge is dealing with sweat. It takes forEVER for a sweaty horse to dry in the winter. We trace clip to help reduce that problem but that means we also have to blanket carefully. And you still need to take a long time with cooling out. One thing to watch is that sometimes the horse will start to sweat up again once you're back in a relatively warmer barn if you don't cool out long enough. It happened to me last year after walking with a cooler for 20 min. And it can be hard to determine what "enough" is since it depends on the horse, the ride, and the temperature.

    Warm up takes longer too, for both of you. I always end up with IT band (leg) issues in the winter because I go from freezing muscles to riding. I started warming up in-hand at walk and trot to get myself warmer before getting on.

    In terms of clothing, I love stuff made for cross-country skiing (tops and jackets). They are not bulky and the motions made with arms/torso are similar. People are always amazed at how thin my clothes are but that's because they are made for winter sports! They are not cheap but worth every penny. I especially love the brands "Sporthill" and "Craft". I do put a big thick sweater on until I'm warmed up. Oh, and base layers. Merino base layers are very thin and provide a ton of warmth (like this one). I have Helly Hansen brand base layer for my lower half and just wear it under my breeches.

    Hope some of this helps! You can acclimatize, really!! This time of year is hard for everyone to get used to.

  10. I don't think there is much to add here, everyone seems to have given great advice. I'm sure you and Bodhi will make it through just fine. Stay warm!

  11. Two words: Wool Undies!

    Oh yeah, you'll want something to cover your face too. Windchill can be nasty on your facial features.

  12. Spending my first winter in Pagosa Springs, CO, WITH my horses, so really enjoyed reading the blog and comments. Great advice!
    Stay warm....

    Petra Christensen
    Parelli 2Star Junior Instructor
    Parelli Central

  13. Wow thank you everyone for these helpful tips. Maybe I will make a new post with a summary with all these amazing tidbits. It feels like snow outside so look out winter is coming!

  14. Not sure if anyone mentioned this, but bare foot or shoes with studs are essential. Also, which ever you chose, do the same on all four feet. Some people put studded shoes on just the front, but then I was told by a farrier that the horse can expect that traction on the back and not have it, causing problems. Dress warm and have fun.