Is it Safe to Ride on Snow?
There have been several years in recent times when this question would have been irrelevant, at least in most areas of the country. Mild winter after mild winter has seen a distinct absence of the white stuff across the UK but things have been very different this year! You might still be wondering what the hell happened?
Abnormal Weather in the UK
One weather system after another, including the Beast from the East, dumped snow all over the country and incredibly late in the season. Just when you thought that spring had sprung, along came another downfall leaving the landscape looking as if it was early January - except that it was mid-March! One wondered when it was safe to presume that there was no more snow on the way.
Stunning but Potentially Dangerous
Snow always looks stunning but is a fresh fall safe to ride on? You may well have been forced to ask yourself this question lately. The safety of riding can depend on the nature of the snow. Soft, powdery snow will fall out of horses’ hooves whereas heavier snow will clump and become trapped in their feet. Whatever the type of snow, you should only ride where you know that the ground is good and consistent under foot because snow can conceal a whole world of trouble! Stick to routes that you know well!
Keep Your Foot Off the Gas
It is also best to limit yourself to slower speeds. Take a gentle walk or trot but don’t go hurtling through the power when neither you or your horse can see what lies beneath. Some horses may not enjoy the snow flicking up and striking their bellies and you should certainly take extra care when riding in icy, thawing or drifting conditions. The landscape can change in a matter of minutes and leave you in serious trouble.
Pads for Hooves
It could be worth investing in pads which prevent snow balling in horses’ hooves. The rubble bubble pads eject snow from the hooves whilst rim pads dislodge snowballs but still enable the frog and sole to breathe. It would be easy to suggest that snow never lasts that long in the UK and so an investment in special equipment isn’t entirely sensible, but this year has proved that the snow can keep coming, even if each episode is quick to melt away.
In regions across the globe where snow is a regular and long-lasting occurrence, riders use special shoes and studs which create greater traction. However, closer to home, greasing will usually be sufficient. Coat the soles and the inside of the shoes with thick grease and this should prevent the snow from balling in the hooves. Snow can certainly be hazardous for shod horses but those which are barefoot do better and can revel in the snow. More food for thought!
How you respond to snow will probably depend on exactly where you live but snowy conditions are always causes for caution!