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Winter Horse Trail Riding Tips

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Dreaming of riding your horses in winter snow? With the help of some equipment and these handy tips, you and your horse can enjoy the beautiful winter weather!

Winter Horse Trail Riding Tips for You

  • Inspect Your Leather Tack: Most of us tend to neglect our tack more in the winter months due to inclement weather or spending less time in the saddle. Take a few minutes to inspect your tack in order to help save yourself from a major tack failure on the trail. You want to ensure your tack is supple, strong and flexible. CLICK HERE to learn how to inspect your leather tack for safety from professional equine groom Liv Gude.
  • Dress in Layers: Prepare yourself for the cold! Dress in layers so you can maintain a comfortable body temperature.  Choose fabrics to wear next to your skin that are designed to wick away perspiration. Otherwise you will feel damp which will make you colder! 
    • Clothing Tip: Layers work well because you build pockets of warm air within the garments for insulation! Avoid wearing tightly fitting clothing and footwear, you will actually loose heat! (Wherever your body comes in contact with the surface of a garment or boot, you transfer your body heat to the item instead)
  • Wear Safe Winter Horse Riding Boots: You may want to wear warmer boots while riding in the winter; make sure they are not too bulky and will not get wedged in your stirrups. Test your boots BEFORE you get on to make sure they EASILY slide out of your stirrups. 

  • Bring A Snack:  Pack a granola bar and a thermos of some hot cocoa or hot cider to warm you up if you get cold. Working hard in cold dry weather can be dehydrating so don't forget to bring some water too!
  • Notify A Friend: Be sure to let a friend know where you will be going and what time you expect to be back in-case your cell phone will not work! This way they can check on you if you are not back in a reasonable amount of time.

Winter Trail Riding Tips for Your Equine

  • Get A Grip: Ask your farrier about what shoes and/or pads they recommend for snowy or icy weather. Pads will help prevent snow packing and may help from preventing sole bruising from ice. Calks are often excellent for traction. Untrimmed hooves will often chip easier in the winter, so riding barefoot on a winter trail is often not the best solution.
    • Shoeing Tip: Hind calks can be more dangerous as horses can cause a lot of damage if they kick another horse with these. So many riders only use them on the fronts. Ask your farrier what they recommend!
    • Winter Hoof Care Tip: Using a hoof dressing 2-3 times a week such as Hoof Heal, will help your horse's hoof maintain correct moisture balance and will help prevent chipping and cracking from ice or frozen ground!
  • Adjust His Workload: Remember, it is harder for your horse to work in snow then on flat ground. Plan your time in the saddle and your speed accordingly (what is it like for you when you run through the snow?) In addition, your horse's work/training schedule might become lessened in the winter so your horse could be somewhat out-of-shape. If your horse is out of condition, be wary of forcing a lot of exercise all at once in cold weather.
  • Keep His Muscles Warm: If your horse is used to being stabled and blanketed consider using a ‘quarter sheet’ to keep his muscles from getting chilled while riding. Be sure to try the sheet on BEFORE you get on! Your horse may spook with a strange blanket over his rump and you won't want to be in the saddle! A fifteen minute warm up is also recommended to get his muscles ready to hit the trail.
  • Warm His Bit:  An ice cold bit is never comfortable! Consider keeping your bridles in the house, warm the bit with your hands, or put a warm gel pack around his bit before putting it in his mouth. There are also several bit blankets available for purchase on the market which are great for warming bits in a cold barn.
  • Avoid Dangerous Situations: Ok, this may seem like a no-brainer! But don't be tempted to ride outside if the weather is dangerous or does not permit safe riding! Also avoid crossing logs, getting off the trail, crossing frozen water, or even accidentally walking over a hidden pole or obstacle. An injury to you and you could mean a very dangerous situation for both of you.
  • Cooling Out Your Horse: If your horse has worked hard enough that there is sweat underneath the saddle, you must use special care to prevent chilling. Placing a heavy winter blanket on your horse immediately after unsaddling is not ideal; it can trap moisture to prevent your horse from drying. Using a light blanket or cooler designed to wick away sweat is ideal. Walking will help your horse cool down gradually, and the cooler will help protect him from the cold while the moisture is allowed to evaporate. When the horse's coat is dry, remove the now-damp light blanket and either turn the horse out or cover him with a dry blanket.

Now you should be a little more prepared to ride through a winter wonderland. Happy Trails!

Be prepared and prevent horse hoof problems this winter with Hoof-Heal!


  • Is a Horse Journal top pick hoof dressing!
  • Prevents and restores brittle and cracked hooves
  • Optimizes moisture balance for wet and dry conditions
  • Creates a flexible barrier for optimal protection
  • Creates a lasting healthy shine


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Article Sources:

Gabby Gufler

Gabby Gufler

Gabby Gufler graduated from Truman State University in 2013 with a BS in Animal Science & Nutrition and a minor in Equine Science. Gabby currently works on Manna Pro’s marketing team, and enjoys competing regularly with her six horses.

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