The Fall Is Some Of The Best Riding Weather
That is one thing that I think most horse people will all agree on. Not too hot, not too cold, and the best part, not as many bugs! There are a zillion reasons while we all look forward to enjoying our horses in the fall. There is just one thing to consider.
Our horses start to grow winter coats when the daylight hours start getting shorter. The thing is, in many states, this happens before the cool fall temperatures are here to stay. This means a few things, that we as riders need to keep into consideration when riding and caring for our horses.
Consider the Temperature
If it is an 80 or 90-degree day and your horse has a winter coat, keep that in mind! If possible you could maybe ride early or late in the day to avoid the hottest temperatures.
Temperature When You Are Cooling Off
You might find that after a great fall ride you have got yourself a very wet and sweaty horse.
Think about the temperature outside now, is it mid-day and going to stay warm for a while? Or is it an evening when the temperature is just going to get colder as the evening goes on? Is their wind?
If it is mid-day and pretty warm out, hosing your horse and then sweat scraping him to get off all the excess water is just fine.
Too Cold For A Shower?
If you think it is too cold to hose off your horse. Brush it as best as you can. Especially with the curry comb to lift the hair up. Then what I do, is use a towel to rub my horse as dry as I possibly can. Just do the best you can, if you get the worst of the dampness off, he will dry quickly and not get chilled. Especially if he lives outside because he will probably go outside and roll around in the dirt! That’s one way to get dry, right?
Using A Cooler Properly
This is another pet peeve of mine. It seems that many people that use coolers don’t understand the proper way to use them. Which is probably worse for the horse than just doing your best to dry them and then letting them go.
Using a cooler is not a way to get out of brushing your horse. You still need to get the horse as dry as possible before you put the cooler on. If you want to put him in the stall for a moment or two with it on that’s alright. What you should be doing though, is walking your horse, to slowly cool him down as the cooler soaks up as much of the remaining moisture as possible.
Take It Off!
I have seen so many riders do a quick brush job, throw a cooler on their horse in the stall and then just roll out. What is so wrong with that? I would be like you getting a hot shower and then putting on wet clothes. You won’t stay warm, wearing the damp or wet clothes will chill you. The same thing goes with horses.
A cooler is a useful thing to have to help you dry off your sweaty horse, but it is not meant to be left on for an extended period of time? Would you want to wear a wet jacket all night on a crisp fall night? I didn’t think so! If you are going to use a cooler, for your horse’s sake, use it properly!
To Clip Or Not To Clip?
Whether or not to clip your horse is a big decision, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. By clipping your horse you are taking away all it’s natural ability to keep it’s self warm. Which makes you responsible for it! Or the barn help if you board somewhere.
There are many different types of clips that can be done. Ranging in how much hair is left on your horse and on what parts of his body. You may find a partial clip will be helpful to you. If you aren’t sure asking your trainer or horsey knowledgable friend for advice.
I do not suggest that my clients clip their horses. Unless you have big winter riding plans and have an indoor to ride in, it doesn’t make sense to take all your horses natural ability to warm himself. Not to mention have to deal with all the blanket switching.
If you clip your horse he will need more than one blanket. He will need a collection of them to accommodate different temperatures and weather conditions. Each day, whoever is in charge of his care will have to decide which blanket he needs to wear. If you board, there is a good chance that you will have to pay an extra fee for this service.
Remaining Aware Of Your Horses Body Condition
Blankets can rub and chafe your horse if they aren’t properly fitted or get twisted around or something. You can’t just stick a blanket on your horse for the winter, throw him in the field and forget him.
He needs the blanket taken off regularly, so you can keep an eye on if he is maintaining his body condition. Weight loss can be a problem in the winter. You don’t want to pull your horses blanket off on the first warm day in spring to find he has lost a ton of weight.
Just Think It Through
Whether you are riding a lesson horse at a lesson barn, lease or own your own. Make sure you take time to properly cool off your horse in the wintertime. Especially early in the season like now where we basically are asking our horse to workout with winter coats they can’t take off!
As far as clipping you need to think it through and decide what is right for you and your horse. If you aren’t certain, ask your trainer or experienced riding buddy for advice.
Remember, if you ride your horse and get him all sweaty, it is your responsibility to cool him properly! Not to mention, brushing the saddle marks off! Nobody wants to see a horse with a dried sweat saddle and girth mark on it! A high standard of care will make sure your horse never has a saddle mark left on him. That is another topic for another day though!