• Erin Long

Riding on Snow

Had a request to talk about riding in the snow, which I think is an excellent topic given the current weather across the country! 

The first thing you have to consider when riding in the snow is the depth. Deep snow is much harder on your horse's body, so while walking through it can be good for building muscle, it's important to keep in mind their current fitness level and watch them for signs of distress. Next, you have to consider the terrain under the snow. I prefer not to go higher than a walk or slow jog on snow that I don't know exactly what's beneath it. The slower pace will make it easier for your horse to catch himself if he steps somewhere that could be dangerous or slippery.

Speaking of stepping, you have to consider your horse's feet. A barefoot horse will have way more traction in the snow than a shod one (unless the shod horse has studs). On a shod horse especially, it's very important to frequently check their feet for packed snow, which can not only hurt their feet and legs, but also make things dangerously slippery for them. This is why Sid knows a "hoof up" cue from the saddle, so I can keep an eye on the inside of his feet without having to hop down every time. Last, but not least, you have to consider the snow itself. Is it light and powdery, easy to move through and compacts well for grip? Is it dense and damp, creating slippery conditions? Does it have a sheet of ice on top that could be painful to walk through?

At the end of the day, it's about employing common sense and your knowledge of your own horse, but I hope these few points help you know what to look for!

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