Baby, it’s cold outside

Yesterday’s post talked about strategies for keeping a rider warm in the winter.  Today, let’s talk about keeping our beloved equine partners warm too.

Two common issues I see with horses that come in to work on cold days are stiffness and excessive friskiness.  Both can be somewhat mitigated by some changes in routine.

For clipped horses, don’t unblanket them and make them stand still in the cold for 30 minutes while you tack up.  Groom them with their blankets still on.  Undo all the straps on your blanket before you begin this technique.  Then you can pull back the front of the blanket from the forequarters:

Brushing the forequarters of a clipped and blanketed horse

When it’s time to move on to the hindquarters, rotate the blanket so it covers the forequarters and exposes the hindquarters.
Marie brushing Pacifico’s  clipped hindquarters

The horse can be fully covered while you are applying leg wraps and cleaning hooves.

Remove the blanket for saddling, but then throw a cooler over your horse’s back. 

Buddy wearing a cooler over his saddle

Once it’s time to ride, you can undo the front of the cooler and use it to cover  your chili thighs while it acts as a quarter sheet.  Your cooler is tucked under your legs to stay in place, so be aware of it as you are doing your walk warm up.  When it’s time to trot, carefully remove the cooler.

All snuggly and ready to start my walk warm up

Consider your horse’s mouth.  Would you like to put a freezing cold piece of metal in your mouth on a cold day?

No, you wouldn’t.  So when you arrive at the barn, take your bridle to your car and put your bridle on your dashboard.  If it is sunny, the heat should warm up the bit.  If it’s not sunny, pop your hood and put your bit on the engine block.

If I’m the only one riding my horse, I store his bridle on the passenger foot well of my car and let the heater warm the bit on my way to the barn.

At the very least, try to warm the bit in your hands for a minute or so before bridling.

 Manually warming the bit is better than nothing

The last point to consider is if your horse is feeling cold.  If your horse is keeping his tail clamped between his legs, he’s probably cold.  Skip the long walk warm up, and trot right away to help him warm up his body.  When his tail comes away from his butt crack, he’s probably warm enough.  Sometimes horses jump around as an attempt to warm themselves on a cold day, much to their riders’ displeasure.

Once you are done riding, keep your horses back covered! Put a cooler on until it’s time for his blanket to go back on.  At the very least, leave his saddle pad on until his back cools down slowly.  You can still groom under the saddle pad.

Buddy is unclipped and unblanketed in the winter, as is evident from his beige coat. I keep the pad on his back after I ride to help his large muscles cool down more slowly and not get stiff.

Follow these tips to help your horse, and you, have a comfortable winter.