Riding in a Winter Wonderland

At Bridleway we love riding in winter. There is no more dust, it doesn’t get too hot and what better place to see the seasons change than from your saddle?

The trees are already starting to show the first signs of autumn setting in and soon there will be a carpet of crunchy leaves to trot through. But nothing beats seeing the first snowflakes of winter, getting wrapped up and venturing out through freshly laid snow.

Winter riding can be an exhilarating experience, but it can also be cold, wet and miserable if you aren’t prepared for the conditions. Here we’ve compiled our top tips for surviving (and enjoying!) the winter season:

Warm up and cool down – As the temperature plummets, both you and your horse need to spend more time warming up and cooling down, so make sure you factor in extra time. It is also a good idea to invest in a fleece rug, which will make the ideal cooler for your horse after a heavy workout. You can then rug him up in his normal stable or turnout rug.

Stay hydrated – Ensuring both you and your horse stay hydrated may not seem as important in the colder months but it should still be a priority. Frosty nights can freeze your horse’s water trough, leaving him without fluids all night. If this happens, break the ice and also offer your horse some tepid water, as they will be more likely to drink if it’s not too cold.

Stay toasty and take supplies – It is also essential to be prepared for changing conditions through the winter months. Check the weather before planning to go riding and if heavy snow or thunder storms are forecast, it may be better to train indoors. If you are riding out in cold weather, ensure you take extra layers of clothing, some snacks and plenty to drink (a flask of hot chocolate can do wonders to warm you up after a long ride!).

Stay visible – Investing in the right kit is a must as the weather gets chillier and it is essential that you and your horse stay safe and visible in foggy mornings and dark evenings. Bright gear such as reflective leg wraps, tail guards and exercise sheets, can ensure you are seen by oncoming traffic and pedestrians.

Reward yourself – After a long day galloping across the great British countryside in winter time there is nothing better than a cosy, relaxing evening, so why not warm up in a hot bubble bath and enjoy some hearty, traditional British fayre. 

Off On Holiday? Keep Calm and Gallop On!

Whether heading off on holiday or taking part in a show, visiting a new place can be stressful if you’re worried about keeping your horse calm when venturing away from home. If your horse struggles to adapt to new places or is simply not used to traveling, don’t panic – with our simple tips you could soon be calm and relaxed no matter what adventures lie ahead: –

Stick to your everyday routine
Horses like routine, so avoid breaking it where possible even if you are on holiday or competing. If you do have to make changes, plan in advance and tweak your day-to-day routine while at home to give your horse time to adjust.

Safety in numbers
Why not bring a friend or companion for you and your horse? Having a friend to support you will help you to stay calm and allow you to maintain control if your horse becomes anxious. The same can be said for your horse; a companion horse can work wonders to ease their nerves.

Practice the situation
If you are entering a competition, take your horse to a practice show beforehand so you can learn how your horse reacts in that particular situation and adapt the care you provide. If you’re planning a horse-friendly holiday, why not ask a fellow horse-loving friend if your horses can swap stables for the night. This will give your horse the opportunity to get used to being in a new environment and you will be able to gauge how they feel.

Stay confident
Horses can be spooked if they feel a lack of confidence from their rider. If you are feeling at all nervous, remember the days and weeks of training you have put in with your horse and the strong relationship you have. Simply by taking some deep breaths and walking your horse in figures of eight can calm both of you down and focus any nervous energy on the activity in hand.

Create a distraction with stable toys
Stable toys are a relatively new phenomenon but a great way to maintain your horse’s attention with something recognisable from their home environment. Most involve food and encourage natural foraging behaviour. Footballs are also great toys and some racehorse trainers simply use empty containers filled with nuts to hold their horse’s attention. Generally horses only focus on one thing at a time, so if you can maintain their attention with a toy they recognise any worries over their new environment should soon be forgotten.