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Four Tips for Riding in the Snow

Four Tips for Riding in the Snow

Four Tips for Riding in the Snow

In the sunny but cold days, for many of us, riding outside is a preference.  Riding outside brings a new perspective to your horse and is good to break up routine while still exercising your horse to maintain a level of fitness. 

Riding in the snow is fun but hard work for your horse.  With the right strategies, you can enjoy the snow, make the most of a fun opportunity to do some cross training.

  • 1. The most important is a decent warm up.  During the colder months, there is a restriction of blood flow to the hooves and legs.  A good warm up is imperative.  The joint fluid thickens and the joints are stiff.  They take longer to warm up properly.  
    • Tip - Make sure you warm up. at least 15-20 mins at walk. Muscles, tendons and ligaments need to be thoroughly warmed up to function properly and reduce the risk of potential damage.
  • 2. Work at the trot and canter through the snow is great for your horse.  The resistance from the snow has many benefits such as teaching the horse to really lift its limbs in movement (proprioception improves), increasing cardio-vascular effort and strengthening.  Be careful here not to over do it as fatigue (exhaustion) may result in injury.  
    • Tip - intersperse high intensity work with regular walking breaks - this is interval training.  Short breaks also help reduce sweating.
  • 3. Be mindful that sweating in the cold if not managed appropriately can have dramatic side effects that can damage muscles, cause muscle cramping or at worse cause colic. The rapid cooling of your horses body causes blood restriction.  This results in cramping and stiff muscles. 
    • Tip - Cool down at the walk for at least as long as you have exercised.  This gives the muscles and the core temperature adequate time to cool without potentially harmful side effects. 
  • 4. Do some stretches.  Use a food incentive to stretch the neck.  Stretch the fore and hindlimb and most importantly stretch the back.  
    • Tip - Active gymnastics and stretching exercises can help loosen muscles and joints.  Include these as a regular part of your training.  Only perform stretches after exercise and never on cold muscles, tendons or ligament.  

Your horse works harder in the snow.  This is great for off season training when you keep the above points in mind.  If your horse is purely a pleasure riding horse (Freizeit) these points are still relevant.  Regular massage is also recommended as part of your training routine regardless of the season due to the multiple benefits for balancing the body and mind.

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