Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
by: Barbara Weatherwax
Common Sense + Winter = Great
Cold winter weather can put a snag
into riding plans. But remember, the out-of-doors, and all that
comes with it, is a natural environment for your horse. Don’t put
off riding just because of the weather. With attention to safety
measures and a healthy dose of common sense and proper attire,
different weather will simply expand your options for new trail
Snow can be a lovely landscape for a
horse-back-ride. Save exploring for the fair weather days. In the
snow, even familiar trails take on a whole new appearance.
Common-place items like mailboxes, parked cars, boulders and tree
stumps can be mysterious and even scary to a horse when they are
covered with mounds of white. If your horse is new to winter
weather, be patient until it learns to accept these changes.
Take time and stick to trails you’re
acquainted with. Remember, fresh snow can camouflage holes,
drop-offs and poor footing. Don’t risk asking your horse to walk on
pavement or other slick surfaces that might be frozen. Black ice can
A hoofpick is a necessity on snowy
rides. Snow can pack into the hoof and actually create balls of ice
and snow that make it difficult and even dangerous for a horse to
travel. Check your horse’s feet regularly and use the hoofpick to
clean the hooves whenever necessary. Before the ride you might
prepare for snowy possibilities by applying Vaseline, WD40, or
vegetable oil to the frogs of your horse’s feet. It can help to
guard against snow build up. If you often ride in the snow, you
might even want to have rubber pads mounted under your horse’s
shoes, or consider leaving your horse barefoot. Of course this
should be done only after discussing it with your farrier, because
he will best know the strength of your horse’s hooves. Folks who
choose to pull the shoes for the winter often run into the problem
of damaged feet. Once a horse’s feet get chipped and disfigured, it
can take a number of shoeings before they are back to normal.
Make sure you are dressed warmly. Be
careful that your winter boots are not too big to be pulled safely
from your stirrups. Don’t wear a long and loose scarf that could get
tangled in the brush or tree branches. Wear gloves with a good grip
and preferably ones that won’t become soaked with moisture.
Wear a slicker to cover the saddle in
wet weather. You may want to add tapaderos or stirrup hoods to
stirrups, and a sheepskin cover for your saddle can be real cozy.
Don’t put an icy cold bit into your horse’s mouth; hold it under
your arm for a while.
Your horse, with its heavy winter
coat, will tend to sweat more on a snowy ride. If you ride
frequently in this cold weather, you may want to consider clipping
its belly and legs, so the sweat can be wicked off the horse easier.
Planning ahead is the only way we can enjoy the winter season. Part
of the planning is having good serviceable blankets on hand for each
of your horses. I don’t blanket my horses as a general rule. I
prefer to let the horse’s natural thermostat control its body
comfort during the cold. There are, of course valid reasons for
keeping a horse blanketed but there are also legitimate reasons for
not blanketing. If the horse is a show or competition horse that is
kept in a barn, with all the accompanying upkeep, blanketing will
keep the horse’s coat slick and show-time ready. If the horse is
primarily a pleasure horse, it may be best to forget the blanket.
Left unblanketed, the horse’s body thermostat can control hair
growth and other physical survival mechanisms. Once the blanketing
process interferes with this natural ability, the horse owner
assumes the ongoing responsibility of providing artificial
This being said, I keep two blankets
available for each of my horses. One is a cotton sheet I use for
the trailer ride home after a ride. This protects the horse when its
coat is damp from exercise. The cotton blanket holds the horse’s own
body heat in allowing it to dry naturally. Do remove the sheet once
the horse has dried. It you leave it on, it holds the hair down
against the horse’s skin and doesn’t allow for “fluffing” which
creates insulation necessary for the horse to maintain body warmth.
(a cotton blanket is also maintenance-friendly and can be washed in
your washing machine, and repaired on a home sewing machine.)
The second blanket is warm, lined and
water-resistant. I want to have this available for those times when
the horse gets wet to the skin, and is winter-time cold. Sometimes,
after a vigorous ride, I put the heavy blanket over the cotton one
for the ride home and overnight. Then in the morning, depending on
the weather, I take the heavy one off at breakfast, and remove the
cotton one when the sun shines. This should not interfere with the
natural thermostat kicking in, because it’s done gradually.
So get out there and create memories
for yourself and enjoy the process!
me on my email: email@example.com with your specific questions or
thoughts about the Mountain Horses. And Happy Gaiting!