Cold Weather Riding Hacks

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Training

Even though it’s winter and the ground is covered in snow and ice, there is still riding to be done, right? If you’re braving the snow and saddling up for work or pleasure, here are a few hacks for a safer ride.

1) Shoe for the ice.

Nike doesn’t make cleats for horses, but there are a variety of traction devices on the market for equines. Bars of Borium can be melted down and applied as drops to specific areas of the horseshoe. Bars start at about $4 apiece and are available in different diameters. If you’re not handy with a forge, ask your farrier if he uses borium. Special snow nails, sometimes made of borium, can also be used for added traction.

Caution: If you have several “sharp-shod” horses turned out together, you will want to made sure they have adequate space – or maybe reduce the number of horses per enclosure – to ensure that they have room to escape any equine squabbles. A kick delivered by a shoe with a snow nail could easily cripple another horse.

While riding, remember that along with extra traction on slick surfaces, these devices put extra torque on the horse’s joints when turning. Take extra care when stopping or turning sharply.

Here is a 1/8″ by 12″ borium rod.

2) Prevent ice buildup in shoes.

The quick, easy, instantaneous (but temporary) DIY trick is to apply some type of grease, such as WD-40, directly onto the bottom of your horse’s hooves before you begin riding. This will help lubricate the surface, preventing snow and ice from sticking and forming into a ball. Or, you can use snow pads. These are specially designed pads that expand to push snow out of the shoe. They are applied beneath the horseshoe, so ask your farrier about this option. Snow pads start at about $5 each, and they have the added bonus of not needing re-application before each ride like grease does.

Snow shoes (okay, “pads”) for horses.

3) Warm up the bit before bridling your horse.

You know that scene from A Christmas Story when Ralphie gets his stung stuck to a flag pole? That’s how your horse feels when a frozen bit touches his warm tongue. To prevent this discomfort, take some time to warm up your bit. This can be done by simply wrapping your hand around the bit for a few minutes, pouring coffee from your toasty warm go-cup onto the bit, or taking your bridle indoors to warm by the fire or furnace while you saddle your horse.

Just looking at this is painful!

4) Or, skip the bit and grab a hackamore.

If a horse responds sensitively and safely to the bridle, he should theoretically be able to be ridden in a hackamore. You’ll definitely want to do a little prep work before switching headgear, but mixing it up can make riding in icy conditions safer. If a horse slips on frozen ground, a hackamore doesn’t have the potential to cut his mouth like a bit does during a hard fall. Plus ,the cross-training will benefit both you and your horse. Learning to use a hackamore will only strengthen his training and your riding skills.

So pretty, right? If you don’t have a hackamore, it’s a great excuse to go shopping! This one was made by Bill Black of Eastern Oregon.

5) Don’t use blankets.

Even though we humans like to curl up beneath a warm, cozy blanket on a cold, snowy day, our equine companions are actually better off if we don’t extend that habit to the corral. If a horse is blanketed, his natural winter hair growth is inhibited and he depends on the blanket for warmth. Then, if his owner goes away for the weekend, forgets to blanket one night, or an unexpected storm rolls in and drops the temperature during the workday, the horse is colder than if he were never blanketed and allowed to grow his natural winter coat.

6) Cure a cold saddle seat…

…with your rear. Sorry, there is no handy remedy for a cold, hard saddle except sitting in it. Well, I guess you could pay the neighbor kid $5 to sit in your saddle until it’s warm. That’s actually not a bad idea – or pay rate, considering the time spent and skills (not) needed. Hey, for $5 I’ll warm up your saddle!

Okay, it might take more than five bucks for me to warm up this saddle.

Photo by Jolyn Young.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Training

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit

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