Do I really need to exercise my horse in the winter?
Yes is the long and short answer. But, there will be some days that the answer is NO. Depends on your horse, and also the safety of exercise in that day’s conditions.
Here are some super reasons to keep exercising your horse in the winter:
- Bust your horse’s boredom. Many horses love their daily routine, so keep it up! A bored horse tends to become a destructive horse.
- You will keep his body sounder. When horses are exercised, their muscles, heart, and tendons and ligaments stay flexible and healthy and fit. Take away exercise, and you may find your self with a horse that can injure himself easily in the stall or turnout.
- Keep the silly, cold weather tendencies from escalating. These shenanigans are prime opportunities for injuries. Exercise helps your horse channel his energies into safer endeavors.
- Keeping up the exercise will make the transition to springtime training much easier.
- Help keep arthritis and stiffness at bay. Use it or lose it applies.
The other side of the coin is when to decide against exercise in the winter. Some cases in which I would not exercise my horse:
- The weather is horrid. Ice storms, blizzards, hail, I would bail on riding, at least outside. There is NO reason to even think about driving, walking, or riding on ice.
- The footing is slippery or dangerous. The sun may be out, but if the arena or trails are slicker than snot, find another plan.
- Your horse (or you) is feeling under the weather. No need risk anyone feeling worse than they already do.
And now some tips for making winter riding safe and fun for both you and your horse!
- Allow for an extra long warm up and cool down. If your horse is sweaty, you need to also spend a lot of time drying him properly with coolers. No letting a wet horse air dry in the winter! More on this topic here!
- You may also want to warm up with a quarter sheet or cooler if your horse is clipped. This goes a long way in preventing the “cold weather friskies” when you have just mounted up.
This was the most fun I have ever had on a horse! Crunch crunch crunch!
- You don’t need to train like you are headed to the Olympics. You can modify your horse’s routine, like doing a lot of trail riding or trying some new disciplines.
- Try not to be a weekend warrior. (This is actually good advice for year round training!) Small bits of exercise daily trump loads of exercise on one or two days. For more tidbits about weekend warrior-ing, you can read this doozy of an article!
How do you exercise your horse in the winter?