Well, it is spring in Colorado, which actually means winter. The month of March tends to be our wet month, generally in the form of snow. And, yet again, we have gotten quite the storm. Nothing by Alaska standards, that’s for sure, but, definitely a good one. I cannot complain, however, because as many of you know, Colorado needs to moisture.
The drop in temperatures means that we as horsemen need to take extra steps to ensure the well-being of our animals when we work in the cold. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
If at all possible, tack up and untack in a warm area – if you have access to a heated barn or arena, use it.
I don’t recommend riding or working your horse if you do not have some kind of a cooler that you can use before and after. If you have only an outdoor area in which to work, a quarter sheet is highly recommended for work on the flat. Coolers are great for helping your horse warm up at a walk prior to working and for allowing them to cool and dry without catching a chill and causing muscle issues.
Currying your horse vigorously while grooming will help the muscles relax and warm a bit – not to mention that currying your horse should be a regular part of your daily grooming routine as it pulls essential oils to the surface of your horse’s coat.
Take your time warming up – do lots of walking, stretching and relaxed trot work before you move up to canter work, transitions, training, or jumping.
When you cool down, and this is important to do no matter the weather when you’ve worked your horse hard, let your horse trot in a loose frame for a few minutes. Trotting as a cool down helps remove the lactic acid from your horse’s muscles faster than just walking to cool down will. As mentioned above, once you have trotted a few minutes at the end of your ride, grab your cooler and throw it over you and your horse while you walk out.
If your horse is mostly cool and dry, untack and curry your horse again. Then throw your cooler back on and walk your horse out one more time, a few minutes or as needed until your horse is completely dry and no longer hot.
If your horse got very hot and wet, use a warm, slightly damp towel to rub off the excess sweat. Then curry again and rub with a dry towel to pull as much moisture out as possible. Walk out with a cooler until dry.
One thing I also recommend, no matter the weather, is to stretch out your horse. Do it as you clean out hooves post workout. Pull the fore legs forward carefully and extend them. Pull the hind legs up to flex all of the joints, then extend the hind leg out behind your horse’s body. I am also a fan of stretching (you will need a treat) your horse’s neck by having them reach towards their belly on each side. Then have them “bow” by encouraging them to lower their heads between their fore legs. I’ve noticed a positive difference with my animal from these basic stretches.
Taking the extra time to make sure that your animal is properly warmed up, cooled down, and take care of will ensure that you don’t encounter any problems due to the cold weather. Enjoy your riding!