How Cold Is Too Cold To Ride?

Like blanketing, what temperatures are too cold to ride is a subject of great debate in the horse world. The unusually cold weather throughout the United States has brought the issue to the forefront, with some people staying off their horse’s backs until the weather warms a bit and others proceeding with training as usual.

Horse Nation compiled some facts about cold-weather riding to help horse owners determine what their own riding cutoff temperature is.

  • A horse’s respiratory system is designed to warm and humidify air as it enters his nose before it reaches his lungs. A horse that is asked to exert energy and work has to deepen his breaths, which does not allow the air enough time to warm up before it reaches his lungs.
  • In three separate studies, it was determined that horses that breathe air below 23 degrees F can damage their lungs. However, it is noted that none of these studies were performed on horses in their natural environment, so it’s unclear if horses that live in cold environments may be better acclimated to the colder temperatures.
  • Damage to the respiratory tract could be found 48 hours after exercise. This damage included narrowing of the tracts and an elevated white blood cell count.

Dr. Angie Yates of Yates Equine Veterinary Services in Indianapolis, IN, noted that she does not recommend trotting, cantering or jumping when temps are below 20 degrees F.

A few considerations to take into account when riding in the cold:

  • Frozen, icy ground is too hard on equine feet and legs for heavy work.
  • Taking a horse from a heated barn into a cold outdoor ring will be more difficult on his lungs as he breaths in air that is not warmed.
  • Take more time to warm up and cool down your horse when temperatures plummet. A good rul fo thumb is a 10- to 15-minute walking warm up and cool down for a regular schooling session in cold weather.
  • It’s unfair to ask an out-of-shape horse to work heavily in extremely cold weather as he must breathe harder to do what is asked of him.

Read more at Horse Nation.

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