We’ve had temperatures plummet below freezing, we’ve had gale force winds, now we’re hunkering down for predicted snow and sleet. The horses are ready for the winter, as are the barns and pastures. Are we?
My Granny used to say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation. The right clothes and tools can make or break the natural horse trainer’s ability to do her or his best in all kinds of weather.
Safety, mobility, dryness and warmth are the goals. Let’s start from the bottom up: your feet. This is the “sole” of the matter!
A good pair of boots is a must. I love my Ariat Frostbiters for training and riding. They are a warm, comfortable and dry winter high boot. I have also used Mountain Horse high boots in the past. I have several pair of gore-tex hiking boots and insulated snowmobile-type boots that I wear for farmwork or ground-training. However, they are too wide to fit safely in the stirrups. If you prefer this type of boot, you can pick up an inexpensive pair of extra wide stirrups for winter riding safety on Ebay (avoid stirrups made of nickel–they are not as strong as stainless steel.)
Good socks are vital! Stay away from cotton socks, no matter how cushy or “insulated” they look. Over-bulky socks can cut off circulation in your feet and make them chill faster. Moisture wicking is vital. We love SmartWool, as well as a variety of synthetic blends that are warming and moisture wicking without being too bulky. Unless you are sock-shopping at an hiking or skiing store, read the fabric content on the labels and ignore advertising “hype”.
Now for the secret. You know those single-use hand-warming packets? A few winters ago, we found inexpensive insoles specially made with “holder” for warming packets right under the balls of your feet. These changed our lives! If you work and ride in extreme cold or wind, or spend a lot of time in the elements without moving around much (I’m talking to you riding instructors out there!) TRY THESE!
We don’t work horses on icy days (or anytime when the footing is precarious) but we still need to get farmwork done. Even the most agressive boot treads may not have enough traction. We slip on our YakTrax and tackle our outdoor barn chores with mountain-goat security.