Safe Exercise in Cold Weather

The nights may be drawing out (yes, they really are!) but warm weather still feels very far away! Horse's are much more prone to injuries at this time of year, here's why:

- We tend to school more than hack
- Arena surfaces are often deeper and softer than in summer
- Cold weather means tight muscles and more risk of strains

So what can you do to minimise the risk of injury:

  1. Warmup is the most important thing when the weather is cold to avoid muscle strains - the perfect winter warmup routine:
  • Start with a good groom to increase circulation. Pay particular attention to the legs and hind quarters. A rubber curry comb or grooming mitten in large circular motions will really get the blood pumping - put your back into it, this is good exercise for riders too!
  • If the weathers cold and your horse is clipped start the ridden work with an exercise blanket on until the muscles have warmed up - cold muscles strain much quicker.
  • Start with a good strong walk on a loose rein, Encourage the horse to reach down into the bridle and gradually increase the length of stride. Start with large circles and serpentines then gradually reduce the circle size. Work both reins equally.
  • Follow with a loose extended trot on both reins before beginning some collected walk, trot and lateral work with plenty of transitions.
  • Now you're ready for canter.

Warm up should take 10-20 minutes depending on how fit your horse is and whether they are clipped (clipped horses will take longer to warm up). If you're riding straight from turnout then less warm up will be required than if your horse has been stood in the stable for the past few hours.
If you're going out for a hack then the same principles apply minus the circles. Focus on extending the stride length, lots of transitions and stretching down.

2. Don't exercise beyond your horse's current fitness level (and be aware it may be reduced over winter)
3. Keep them warm - use exercise sheets in cold weather especially on clipped horses
4. Clip horses appropriately for the exercise they do - not all horses will need a full clip and a trace or blanket may be a better choice
5. Remember to cool down too - unclipped horses should be cooled down for longer as they are more likely to be sweaty. Cool them down until they have stopped sweating. Don't let clipped horses get cold during cooling down, throw an exercise sheet on to prevent muscle tightness.
6. Avoid riding on frozen surfaces
7. Try to vary the type of surface you ride on as much as possible
8. Keeps things fun! Vary your schooling work by adding poles, grid work

Please share your tips to help get you through the winter months!
Jenny x