Living on a Virginia horse farm is amazing. Not only are horses beautiful creatures but Virginia is a beautiful state which provides horse and rider some truly amazing rides. Depending on where you are located you may be able to take in the beautiful scenery of Virginia’s majestic mountains on a leisurely walk, gallop through serene pastures or trot alongside the calming waters of rivers, streams, lakes and oceans. It is just as lovely to ride in the winter as any other time of year and may feel even more magical if there is snow. Keep reading to discover the best way to keep your horse warm, healthy and happy on a winter walk in Virginia.
Think Warm Thoughts
Virginia weather varies depending on where you are in the state but as the winter months progress you can count on one thing; it is going to be cold. When heading out on a winter ride you will be dressed in layers, thick socks and you may even use hand warmers. You should also give some thought to your horse’s comfort when the weather gets cold. Although horses grow a thick furry coat to keep them warm in cold weather, they may need the extra warmth of a riding blanket. Horses also lose most of their heat through their head so providing your horse with a horse hood or neck warmer can go a long way in keeping your horse comfortable. You will want to allow a good 15 to 20 minutes for a warm up period for your horse prior to your excursion and when you are finishing up your ride allow for a 15 to 20 minute cool down period.
The cold air can make it more difficult for your horse to breathe comfortably especially during strenuous activity. You will want to pace your horse accordingly and take a lovely stroll as opposed to a full on gallup when the weather turns chilly. Although you may not think of it, even the bit can cause your horse discomfort if it is cold. It is important to warm up the bit prior to putting it on your horse. Although we have been discussing how to keep your horse warm in winter weather, you must also be cognizant of your horse sweating. A wet horse is a cold horse. You do not want to skimp on ways to keep your horse warm and comfortable, but be certain that your horse is not over exerting itself. Make sure that you take frequent breaks so that your horse does not become overheated and sweaty. When a horse walks in snow it can get what is known as snowballs- a build up of snow in the space in the shoe of the horse. This snowball can be very uncomfortable causing pressure and possibly changing your horse’s gait causing it to become unbalanced and more prone to injury. Speak to your farrier about shoe pads to prevent snowballs from becoming an issue.
Don’t Take the Road Less Traveled and other Safety Advice
When there is snow on the ground it can cover any holes, branches, poles or other debris and make it dangerous for your horse and you. Wintertime is not the appropriate time to verge off the beaten path. Make certain that you are riding in an area that you are familiar with to safeguard against unseen hazards that may cause a fall or injury to your horse. You will also want to avoid asphalt roads and areas with concrete as these surfaces can become very icy and slick in the winter and can cause your horse to slip and fall or a car could skid on the ice and become a potential hazard. Prior to your departure you should check the weather forecast to ensure that there are no severe weather warnings in place and make certain that you know what route you will be taking and where you can take shelter should severe weather occur. Likewise be certain to bring a cell phone in case you need to call for help and let others know when you expect to return. You can also invite a friend. There is safety in numbers and should you or your horse become injured and unable to complete the trip you would have someone with you who can go and get help.
Winter can feel dreary to some especially after the holiday season. If you live on a Virginia horse farm or know someone that does, then you can easily dispel the feeling of malaise that winter brings by taking a ride in the beautiful Virginia countryside. A horse back ride is a great way for you and your horse to stay active and healthy while brushing off the winter doldrums. Stick to the advice above and you and your horse will be able to enjoy fresh air and the beauty of time spent in nature no matter what the weather.