How to Stay Safe When Riding Out in Winter
Winter days can be truly beautiful and a great time to ride, but they are not without their hazards. Riding in the extreme cold can be dangerous. It is crucial that you take all the necessary precautions in order for you and your horse to stay safe. Here are out top tips on safe winter riding.
You don’t want to run into trouble before you have even left the yard so make sure that it is always adequately gritted. Don’t allow water to run across the yard if freezing temperatures are on the cards, otherwise you will create an ice rink!
Always plan winter rides in advance. Don’t attempt new routes for the first time in bad weather in case you get delayed and end up riding in the dark. Allow for any delays caused by bad weather when planning your schedule and remember that visibility can be very poor even in the middle of the day. This will slow you down and could make it hard for motorists to see. Tarmac roads are best avoided if it icy or snowy as they will be very slippery. It is essential to check the weather forecast before you set off.
Ride carefully on public roads and don’t let an accident be your fault. You can’t singlehandedly stop drivers from behaving badly but you should do everything you can to make it easy for them to see you and to pass you. Riding two abreast is a great way to protect a younger rider but can leave you exposed. You may also raise the temperature of drivers who are in a rush, causing them to undertake dangerous manoeuvres.
Your horse will feel the cold in extreme weather so give him the benefit of an exercise blanket. If he has been confined to his stall because of the weather, then he may be fresh and excitable when you set off. So it could make sense to expel some of the energy in the field or arena before starting out. You might like to consider fitting winter studs but you should discuss this with your farrier. Make sure that your horse is wearing something reflective so that he is more visible in poor or flat light.
And What About You?
You can keep your hands warm with a good pair of riding gloves and you will need the grip that these provide in wet weather. You may also require rubber grip reins if conditions are bad. Reflective clothing is essential at any time of year but especially on winter days where flat light, fading light, rain and fog can all seriously reduce visibility.
Riding in winter can be hazardous but with the right equipment and good planning you can significantly reduce the chances of something going wrong. It is always better to be safe than sorry!