Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reader Question - Cold Weather Riding

I received a reader question, through the contact me form, asking just how cold is too cold to ride her horse and what gear I ride in when it's cold.

Well, first of all cold is revelative. If you literally grow up in the cold environments like the Northern border area of the United States, then not only are you going to be more used to that weather, but also familiar with the steps you take and the clothing you wear to keep yourself safe.

If my memory is correct, I have rode when temps are in the low teens, although I'm sure I did not do alot of galloping and loping. I think that if the horse can live in the cold, he can be ridden in the cold with some caution not to over work him or get him too sweaty.

In the fall and winter, I routinely ride for five to seven hours in mid 20 degree temps, again just being careful not to overwork the horse. No sense loping up hills or in thick sand or snow if you really don't need to.

I would be sure to cool down and dry off your horse and even put a blanket or a slick sheet on him if you are trailering him home. I keep an old towel in my trailer and blanket lined canvas blanket for this reason.

Some people will have their horseshoer tack on some boron spots on their shoes to give the horse better footing on snow and ice and well as keep the shoes from wearing so much.

Now, cold weather to me is temperatures in the mid 20's. I sustained frost bite when I was 14 years old up in Northern Idaho, so when the temps get into the 30's I can start feeling my hands, then feet tingling, then stinging. I always wear gloves, summer or winter. The gloves in the winter time, depending upon the temperature, are insulated. I like the Heritage leather gloves with 40 grams of thinsulate. I also use their un-lined and un-insulated leather and nylon version for work gloves as well as just some thin pig skin gloves.

You need to dress in layers and not get sweaty yourself. There are a wide variety of sweat wicking shirts, like from Under Armor and such, which help take moisture away form your body. To get wet in the winter time, especially with a wind, can mean a cold injury.

I like plain old cotten, so when the temperatures get in the 20's, I'll wear a long sleeve thermal cotton shirt, then a work shirt, then a vest all under a Carhartt or Schaefer work coat. Colder than than that I trade my work coat for a sheepskin line long coat, cut for riding which also gives from protection to my upper legs.

If you wear a hat, there ear muffs available at sporting goods stores that can cover and protect your ears from the freezing winds and frostbite.

You do not want to get frostbite as then you'll be more susceptible to the cold and another cold injury. I think with common sense and the right equipment you and your horse will be fine.

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