At this time of year if we want to ride, at some point we have to ride when it is cold, wet or windy. This brings with it cold fingers and cold toes or big puddles and flapping 'gremlins' in the hedge and always poor light. So there are a few things to think about before you put your best hooves forward and venture out!
- Wear hi-viz. This is so important but so many riders still don't do it. As a driver and a rider I know both sides. It is easier to see a rider and horse and you see them MUCH earlier if they are wearing hi-viz gear. I wear a bright hat cover, a hi-viz tabard and Basil wears a hi-viz exercise sheet and boots.
- Is it icy? If so then it would be better to wait for it to thaw before venturing out on the road or any hard surfaces. You don't want your horse to slip but equally what if a car brakes suddenly and skids into you? However, also think about off road riding because if the ground was muddy and cut up and then it froze the surface will be uneven and could cause sprains and strains!
- If riding in ice or snow look out for it 'snow balling' in your horses feet which again causes imbalance and could lead to sprains and strains. Smearing Vaseline inside hooves can help with this. Take a fold away hoof pick with you in case you need to stop and remove the ice.
- Think about where you want to ride and how long it will take. Do you have time before it begins to get dark? The low sun can dazzle drivers and make it difficult for them to see you.
- Also ensure you have time for your horse to cool off appropriately when you get back.
- Ensure your horse's shoes are in good condition so that they provide adequate grip.
- Watch out for potholes which appear at this time of year but also think about those that may be obscured by leaves or puddles.
- Cars going through puddles can also startle horses so take care.
- Flapping 'gremlins' such as plastic bags and fast food wrappers will all become more scary in the wind.
- The wind can also stop you hearing cars approaching so make sure you check behind you regularly.
- If it is cold wrap up in lots of layers, see 'My Winter Essentials' vlog to find out what I wear. Don't forget a good pair of gloves that allow you to use your fingers effectively. Thermal socks are also a great idea and leggings or tights under your jodhpurs!
- Tell someone where you are going and/or have a mobile phone with you. Remember to put it on silent so that if it rings it doesn't make your horse jump. Make sure you store it safely and securely so that it won't come out of your pocket. There are some great MP3 or phone holders available for runners and many will attach around your leg too if you prefer!
Riding in the winter can be just as fun as the summer, after all we are doing what we love. Just remember to think about you and your horse's safety and wellbeing.
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Until next time!