For those of us not headed south to paddocks with palm trees, those who cannot avoid the chapped skin and frozen toes that winter barn work and riding bring, we sympathize, and offer practical solutions.
Number one: Day light savings time. Okay, so we gain an hour up front, but after that, we still have to cope with sunsets that encroach on saddle time, and that somehow doesn’t seem fair. While we can’t offer any advice or help concerning the depressingly early sun sets, we can recommend a few handy tips for how to make the most out of your winter riding time. Just because you run out of light, doesn’t mean you have to cut your barn time short. It is the perfect time of year to catch up on the pesky little tasks you’ve been putting off all season. Tack repairs, extensive tack cleaning, maybe even cleaning out and organizing your tack box…?
Number two: Grooming. If your horse is in regular work and is clipped, life goes on as normally as ever, give or take a stable blanket, heavy turnout sheet, and rug with a neck attachment. If your horse is not clipped, be sure to factor in time after riding to properly cool down and groom your horse before tucking them in for the night. Once a saddle mark dries, it becomes more difficult to get rid of. Good grooming basics should not be abandoned in the race against the sun. Always use a curry, a dandy brush, and plenty of elbow grease to keep your horses’ coat shiny and well maintained. After riding, it is important to groom too. A bucket of hot water, a towel, and an Irish knit are one way to combat tough saddle marks.
Number three: It is inevitable- the thermometer will eventually drop, and stay down until somewhere around March when there is a more manageable amount of daylight. In the meantime, dealing with frozen water buckets and frozen toes can be dealt with in a few ways. Frozen buckets should always be dumped rather than chipped, to keep the fresh water from freezing as quickly. Hydration is just as important for horses as in the summer, and they should have plenty of fresh (unfrozen) water. The matter of frozen toes meanwhile, can be addressed one of two ways, 1.) Smart Wool. That stuff is amazing. 2.) A nice waterproof pair of insulated boots. By keeping your extremities warm, you’ll be able to better do your chores and maybe even forget for a little while that it’s winter.