Equestrian Blog

News and thoughts from around the equestrian community

Safe Winter Riding and Horse Care

The super cold weather we’re all experiencing at the moment combined with your horse spending more time stabled in winter months, makes for a fun recipe of spooks and sharpness. This can potentially mean when you’re riding accidents may be more likely and you might end up in hairy situations more often than you anticipated!
To help control this behaviour, give your horse as much turnout as you can, if you can’t use a field, try to use the arena so he can still stretch his legs and burn off some energy. Lungeing can be a valuable form of exercise in winter, either before you ride to get rid of any initial sharpness or as an alternative form of exercise when riding isn’t an option. The use of a lungeing training aid can also encourage your horse to work in a correct outline and engage his hindquarters without the hindrance of a rider. 35410-01
If you are able to ride, you may have to take things slightly slower than usual so use this time to work on your horse’s obedience and impulsion. The best way to do this is with transitions, transitions, transitions. Remember that we are all working to have our horses responding to the lightest possible aids whether that is the leg or hand. Any pace and transition you ride should be springy without being rushed and really forwards from your leg. This helps ensure your horse is listening to you, he will burn more energy and it helps to keep you and him really interested in what you’re doing. Plenty of serpentines, transitions, figures of eight and changes of rein are really good for getting your horse listening and then keeping his attention on his work. As well as this, lateral movements such as leg yield are great for keeping your horses mind on you. Calmers can make a huge difference to your horse’s winter attitude, with loads on the market such as Global Herbs Super Calm and Mag Calm which are a daily supplement to keep your horse relaxed. These paired with regular exercise can really help to keep your horse chilled out and easier to handle. Most calmers manage to do this without dulling your horse or his personality, and just keep him with a controllable level of energy with more of a willingness to listen to you. Instant calmers are also available, useful for if your horse gets nervous and stressed about a certain situation, such as going to a show, travelling in a horse box or being clipped. You could even use them if your horse is fine being schooled but gets fizzy when hacking; the instructions usually just say feed a few hours before the calming effect is needed as a one off dosage. These can be really useful and can cost less if your horse only needs a calmer as a one off every so often as it means you don’t have to feed it daily at a maintenance level. Also make sure your horse's feed isn’t too sugary and starchy. If you have a poor doer, there are still feeds on the market that aid weight gain without fizzing them up, and gut supplements such as Equine Gold help keep your horse digesting to the best of his ability and therefore getting more nutritional value out of his food, keeping weight on.
22336-01 To help you stay safe through potential fizzy behaviour, you need to be thinking even more than usual about your safety around your horses which should be to a high standard anyway. If you don’t already use one, back protectors are an excellent investment for riding in, with level 3 of EN13158:2009 and BETA 2000 being the latest and highest standard. Despite common belief that back protectors are uncomfortable, restrictive and stiff, new designs and developed technology means that this is no longer the case and many now cater for various body shapes, with women in particular having protectors designed with the feminine shape in mind. There is no reason not to have one, and they can be life savers in some instances.
They are definitely worthwhile, even if you think you have the most laid back, bomb proof horse in the world who only spooks once a year, horses are still prey animals with survival instincts which don’t take your safety into mind. Obviously riding hats are a must whilst you are riding and it is illegal in the UK for children under the age of 16 to ride on the road without one. When you are handling horses, though it is unfortunately not often seen, it is advisable to wear a hat, especially when leading your horse about, even more so in the ice and snow or if your horse is highly strung. By making sure your hat is up to standard, checked regularly and replaced if ever dropped, you are also increasing your standard of safety around your horses. Also wear good quality gloves when leading and handling as rope burns hurt and if you have to let your horse go because your bare hands can’t keep hold of him, he could end up in a nasty situation which could have been prevented. Also, when you lunge you should wear a riding hat and gloves as well as tough boots, not trainers or similar, these offer little resistance to a horse accidentally stomping on your feet!  Even though some of these precautions are time consuming, mean you might have to buy something else new and may seem unnecessary, if they were the life saver in a situation, you would be grateful to have used them. In the same way, if you don’t use them and something happens, you are left with the “what ifs”. If you follow this advice along with a good bit of common sense, a nice, safe and even pleasant winter with a saner than usual horse is likely, which will hopefully continue to help with the joys of spring until your horses are too hot in summer to be bothered bouncing about. Roll on the sunshine, and in the meantime do everything you can to keep safe and have fun!

Comments (0) -

Comments are closed