It’s always hard to say goodbye to our friends who are fortunate enough to head south for the winter. But even more disheartening for those of us stuck in the wastelands of winter is dealing with frozen water tanks and other side effects of nature’s elements, traveling terrible roads, and working horses in spite of it all. Some wave the white flag, turn out for the winter and bring their horses back in the spring when the weather is more bearable. Others are diehards that just can’t be without their four legged friends for that long. In order to get through the winter in one, frostbite-free piece, here are some things that I have learned to make the time go a little quicker and easier.

Take time

The days are shorter and time seems to go too quickly, but it’s important to allow yourself plenty of time to make sure you are safe and warm in any situation that should arise. Always allow extra driving time, for example. In the summer, it takes me about 20 minutes to get to the indoor arena from my ranch. During the winter, I give myself no less than 30 minutes to get there safely. Once you get to your riding destination, consider the extra time it takes to cool your horses out. However long you’ve worked them, make that the amount of time to cool them out adequately. Try to get them as dry as possible before loading them back up and heading home.

Be prepared

Living in the “Ice Box” of the nation has taught me to dress for cold & have the best blankets for my horses. Through trial and error, I have learned the hard way how to dress for cold. Layers, layers, layers! Start with a hearty base. Under armor is my favorite; it doesn’t slip and stays in place consistently. I almost always have a sweatshirt on over my base and a heavy winter jacket over that. Heavy socks that fit under riding boots, like SmartWool, keep your feet dry and toes warm. I always go to the arena in Muck Boots and change into riding boots while I’m there. I usually have two pairs of gloves, a light pair for riding to maintain feel, and a heavy pair for outside work, like loading and unloading horses and tack. Hats vary, but usually a head band is all I need. The great thing about layers is that when you get hot, you can always strip one away. In the winter, it’s better to be too warm than not warm enough.

I have learned that when dealing with the cold, layers apply to horses, too. They should have a base and a top layer. The base varies from horse to horse; some need more than others, while others don’t need one at all. I like simple, quilted stable blankets under a super tough outer layer that is no lighter than 1200 denier. I prefer the heavy blankets that go all the way to their jaws, and I get them two sizes bigger than what they need. That gives them more room to move and more space if you happen to need to add more layers underneath. Always keep in mind that you should remove layers as the weather gets warmer.

When I go to the arena, I bring the same number of heavy coolers as horses in my trailer. I love the simple, polar fleece coolers with the Velcro and buckle fronts. They seem to wick away the moisture the best and cool-out time is cut in half. I hate going home with wet horses, but in the instance that I have to hit the road sooner than expected, I can throw their winter blankets over their coolers and I don’t have to worry about them getting chilled on the drive home.

Enjoying outdoors

Although most winter days are cold and miserable and our only option to ride indoors, it’s nice to take advantage of the occasional break in the weather to ride outside. Some of my most memorable and enjoyable rides have been outside. Make the most of these beautiful days. Horses are just like us, and the mundane, everyday work can get boring and tedious. Use these days to take a gallop around your meadow or ride down some trails. Go somewhere! Mix it up, dress warm and enjoy your horse. Nothing is more fun than running through snow on a blessed winter’s day.


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