This fall we did some trail work on nearby state land. In previous years we rode and walked our horses around what we call the loop. This one mile jaunt sufficed. However, being out on the trails is way better for us and for the horses. The trees form a windbreak and the variable terrain makes for better overall conditioning.
We walk the horses down the road to the trailhead and back. This way they warm up and cool down. On the return trip we often pony Hrimfara, our filly. We have not had a problem with overheating because we don’t go very fast in the winter. If one of the horses did sweat, I’d walk it out on the loop. I’d also blanket it for a bit.
We keep our bridles inside. I dip them in the water buckets on the stove and before going out tuck them in my Refrigerware Suit. This way, the bits are warm when we set out. I also bring our sheepskin saddle pads inside.
Hoof care—We have our farrier put ice shoes with Borium on all four feet in the fall. This has greatly reduced slippage. In the past, we also had rim pads put on the horses’ feet. We are going back to this because they do cut down on snow/ice buildup. We’ve also had the farrier put popper pads on when shoeing the horses. These work well in snowy conditions. However, I do not recommend using them in warmer weather because (as I discovered) the underlying moisture combined with manure buildup can result in white line disease and thrush.
We tried Boa boots. Didn’t work for us. Hoof shapes change, boots come off.
Cut off Points for Riding—This depends on a number of variables, horse-wise, including the age and condition of your horse. And people-wise, your age and condition. I have learned to dress for the weather, and for this reason, I’am more inclined to ride more often. When it’s really cold, outer layers consist of a Refrigerware suit, Steiger Mukluks, and gloves with Polypro liners. Inner layers consist of a wool sweater and long underwear. I’ve also taken to using toe warmers on really cold days (-10 F or colder). Warmer days, I wear a windbreaker and wind pants over multiple layers.
Additional links Equis magazine on winter horse care:
Fighting equine respiratory and skin problems in winter
Maintain a Winter Riding Program
15 Savvy Winter Tips
Reduce the risk of winter colic
Next: 9. 1/9/14: To Clip or Not to Clip