Horse-riding in the winter months isn’t everyone’s favourite. But with a little care it can be just as much fun as in the summer. You just need the right clothes!
Grooming in the cold

When grooming your horse in the winter, try to keep him warm by keeping him covered up as much as you can. So when you start grooming, first of all, do all the bits that aren’t covered by rugs like the legs, head and neck. Pick his feet out and put on boots or leg wraps if you need to.

Then undo all the rug fastenings from the back to the front, leaving the front to last. Fold back the front of the rug and brush his shoulder and neck and front part of his back. Then fold the rug back into place and fold the back of the rug over the front. You can then groom his back and hindquarters.

If you are about to ride, you can put an exercise sheet on to wear under his saddle.
Riding in the cold

Your horse’s muscles take a lot longer to warm up in the winter so you must take much more care over your warming up and warming down.

Warm up thoroughly

When you get on, spend at least 10 to 15 minutes in walk while your horse warms up. Than start doing some lateral work, moving your horse into a small circle from a big circle and back out again to warm them up laterally. Do some leg yield and shoulder in if your horse has learnt those moves. If not, some simple halts are good to check he is listening to you and connected. This walk work needn’t be just a warm up – it can be an integral part of the schooling you are about to do. Make it count.

Lunge if you need to

If you horse is likely to be fresh, as they often can be in the cold weather, you may have to lunge before you get on. This is not as good for warming your horse up but it’s important that you are safe. No one likes getting bucked off!

When you’ve finished working your horse, don’t forget to walk for at least 15 minutes too and make the walk active so they don’t get cold. Make sure your horse is relaxed and their breathing has returned to normal before you put them back in the stable. Put a breathable rug on after you’ve finished to wick away any sweat before you put the big stable rugs back on again.

Take care of yourself

Don’t forget to take care of yourself in the winter too. Your own muscles will need more warming up so try to do some stretches in the warm before you get on. Also make sure you’ve covered up your extremities. Buy a good pair of horse-riding gloves. If your hands are frozen, how can you use the reins properly? Wear thick warm socks and have an array of different weight jackets for varying temperatures. Wear a hat on the yard, as you lose a lot of heat through your head. Have a few pairs of warm or waterproof jodhpurs on rotation in the winter. You need to be fit and healthy to look after your horse properly!

Hydrate yourself and your horse

Make sure you and your horse drink enough water in the winter. Your horse may be put off by ice in his trough or the cold taste. Encourage him to drink by making sure he has plenty of fresh water available and consider adding sugar or using electrolytes. Drink plenty of water yourself too, even though it’s cold. It can be in the form of hot drinks like tea! You both need it to make sure your immune system works properly. Water carries oxygen to cells and so helps you to get rid of toxins.