How cold is too cold?
When the cold weather outside is frightful, and our warm houses so delightful, it leaves us horseback riders in a difficult position. To ride or not to ride? And how cold is too cold? The answer may surprise you.
Two major concerns come to mind in the cold weather, getting your horse very sweaty and injuring their lungs. Horses, however, have an incredibly long air passage; so when the air passes through the nostril to throat latch and then down the long neck, it allows the air to warm before reaching the lungs. That being said negative temps and overworking in the extreme cold can lead to lung burn just like it does in humans, ouch. So, how cold is too cold? Back in my college days in the New England area where it got extremely cold, we never got a day off due to plummeting temperatures. We put on our wool socks, tacked up and sucked it up. Some outstanding circumstances included wind chill in the negatives and strong winds.
Preparing your horse adequately for your ride, and cooling your hot horse down are crucial to winter riding. If your horse is clipped you will want to have a quarter sheet to help keep the warmth working within their muscles. Horses don’t have auto start, but just like our cars they need to be warmed up. Spend a good 15-20 minutes warming up your horse and yourself to get used to the bitter temperatures. Once you’ve completed your ride, walk your horse out until they’re completely cool. Of course a properly fitted cooler is helpful due to its ability to wick away moisture from your horse’s body. If your horse is still sweaty after you ride, dry them off the best you can. A wet horse can quickly become a sick horse especially if blanketed when still wet.
Truth is the temperature will be too cold for you before it will be too cold for your horse. So bundle up and stick to your horse’s workout schedule because horses thrive on routine. If it’s too cold for you, bring your horse inside and have what I like to call a “spa day.” It’s a great way to spend time with your beast and bond.
So my confession you ask? I never ride when it’s below 20.
May there always be a hoof print next to your foot print,
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The authors horse Solmir, aka the mayor, 33 years young.