If you live in the northern part of the country, you get your fair share of sub zero temperatures and snow accumulation. Winter wonderlands are absolutely beautiful in their own right, as long as you and your horse are prepared! A few changes to your routine and outfits (for your horse too!) are paramount in winning over winter weather.
Be sure to adjust your routine to the weather. Being mindful of changing precipitation and fluctuating temperatures is important in determining turnout schedules. This is especially important with barns with clipped equines. Horses are well equipped to handle cold temperatures with adequate feed and a natural coat, but when their own protections are compromised, it’s time to just stay in. Snow storms come in without long warnings, so get all the chores done before the roads get bad and temps really drop that make roads dangerous. Be sure to have all snow removal tools such as a tractor and four-wheelers on standby ready to use to clear walkways, driveways and gate areas.
Dress for the weather. Nothing is worse than underdressing and never warming up. The same goes for your horse! Horses are usually able to brave low temps with a natural coat, healthy weight and plenty of forage, but sometimes, extra layers are needed. A healthy, unclipped horse that has been exposed to cold temps before may need no blanket at all or just a lightweight, waterproof rug in extreme conditions. Make sure your blanketfits your horse to prevent dangerous hang ups and uncomfortable rubs. Dressing yourself for the cold is important too! A tough denier jacket to hold up to barn wear is ideal and will last for years to come. Insulated gloves and boots and a well-fitted hat make all the difference between warm and cozy and miserable. An infinity scarf will protect your neck and lower face from wind burn and from getting chapped. These also are not able to unravel and be able to be stepped on (hazzard). Pull on fleece lined breeches are perfect, not just for riding but for layering under bibs too!
Keep dry! Staying dry is critical to maintain a healthy body temperature for horses and riders! Wool and fleece materials are ideal for drying and allowing moisture to move away from the body. This goes for your outfit when heading to the barn or coolers for drying a wet horse in cold weather. A wet horse (from excessive precipitation or sweat from a workout- this is why proper cool down is especially important, not just in the summer) must be dried as soon as possible to come down or come up to a comfortable temp. Fancy barns with heat lamps are life savers and comfortable too! Since most barns do not have these, towel your horse to remove as much moisture by hand first. Cross groomingwith a bristle brush stands the hairs back up to reform that insulative layer for your horse.
Keeping these tips in mind will keep you and your horse comfy-cozy. Finally, you can have peace of mind this holiday season that you and your horse can brave the tundra!