Cold weather riding is a big subject of debate in the horse world, with some riders not daring to take their horses out until the weather warms up and other riders deciding that their horses can handle all but the coldest weather.
Deciding how cold is too cold to ride your horse is ultimately up to you, but there are some things to consider when making this decision. First of all, a horse’s respiratory system is designed to warm and humidify the air that enters the nose before it reaches the lungs. While that does make it seem like a horse can handle cold weather fairly well, taking a horse out riding forces it to work harder and take deeper breaths. This doesn’t allow the air to warm up sufficiently before it reaches the lungs.
Second of all, studies have shown that air colder than 23 degrees Fahrenheit can damage a horse’s lungs. These studies were all performed on horses in their natural environments, so it is possible that horses living in colder regions may be more acclimated to lower temperatures.
Finally, you need to consider how frozen and icy ground can affect a horse. There’s the obvious problem of horses on slippery surfaces, but you also need to think about how hard frozen ground can be. A surface that would be ideal for a horse in warmer weather might be too hard on a horse’s legs if you have them do any heavy work.
Working in Colder Weather
Even though you should always take these factors into consideration when deciding whether to take your horse out riding in cold weather, you should ultimately use your best judgment. If you do decide to go riding in the cold, you will need to take more time to let your horse warm up. When it gets particularly cold, spend between 10 and 15 minutes on a walking warm-up before you get to any heavy work. If your horse is older and out of shape, don’t take them out even if you think you’ll be comfortable. All horses have to work harder when the weather gets cold, and it’s unfair to put an out-of-shape horse through something they may not be able to handle.
Originally published at https://bricolereincke.net.