When is it too cold?

Here in the northwest one thing we deal with a lot is the cold. And for most of us that means our horses are out in the cold as well. So when is it too cold to work your horse? In Montana we tend to tough it out and use grit to make it through the winter. We put on layer after layer of clothing. We start with long johns and bundle up until we’re reminiscent of the Michelin man. Only then do we venture outside and even still the inside of our nostrils seem to fill with icicles the moment you step outside.


And then we start working. We get our heart rate up and we start to warm up. And before you know it we’re shedding layers like we’re in a sauna.


But what about our horses? They come with their own winter coat. And we can certainly bundle them up in blankets to keep them warm when they’re outside but training a horse in a blanket is not only hard, it’s often impractical or impossible. And since they have a thick winter coat most of the time we either look at clipping or keeping them inside so their coat stays short. This can cut down on their sweating but makes it harder for them to stay warm.


We also must consider where we will be working with our horse. If you have an indoor arena you can usually get away with pulling a horses blanket and putting them to work. But if it’s well below zero asking your horse to go to work in an outdoor arena where you’re both cold and miserable may not be the right decision. Add to that that a heated indoor arena can make a horse sweat and then catch a chill which poses its own problem.


The best advice is to ask yourself if what you’re looking to do has to be done that day, or if it can wait a day or two for the weather to improve? We might be willing to tough it out, but we can’t ask our horses if they are or not.


Go with your gut. If your horse is working hard and burning calories to stay warm, and you’re not looking forward to going outside, it’s perfectly ok to skip a training lesson and stay inside.