Winter comes with a barrage of reasons not to mount up, but that won’t help you get anywhere if your goal is to ride 1,000 miles, canter down the beach or compete a show jumping course.
Set yourself up for success with our winter hacking safety tips.
1. Wrap up warm
Few good rides start with your teeth chattering or toes going numb, so make sure to wear plenty of layers and decent winter socks and boots. You can help your horse stay warm too with an exercise sheet – there are many available on the market in high-vis colours, so you’ll stay seen too.
2. Avoid the worst of the weather
At this time of year, the weather can create dangerous conditions. Dark, cloudy days reduce visibility, ground conditions are unpredictable, and roads can be slippery, so it’s best to be cautious. Try to avoid riding in snow and heavy rain where possible, and don’t go too fast on frozen ground. Use the weather app on your phone to work out the best time of day to go for a ride.
3. Stick to familiar routes
If you are hacking out, keep to rides you know will stand up to the weather. There’s nothing worse than exploring a new bridleway to find yourself stuck in the mud or having to wade through deep puddles. Or worse – your horse losing a shoe.
4. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down
When it’s chilly, it can be tempting to do fast work to get warm, but skipping your warm-up is more likely to result in injury to your horse. In the cold, your horse needs an even more gradual warm-up, especially if he’s older or been stabled and might be feeling stiff.
5. Make the most of the daylight
This is a tricky one, because the days are short right now. But safety is important and you need to hack out in the light. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to get back to the yard in the light too.