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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Seasonal changes: Beginners guide to exercising horses in bad weather

When the season changes and the weather is extremely unpredictable at the moment, it is important to still exercise your horse.

With this in mind, Katie Allen-Clarke, head of marketing at Horse & Country, discusses seasonal changes: beginners guide to exercising horses in bad weather.

As the winter continues, there is a lot of rainy weather predicted for the coming weeks.

It can be tricky to keep exercising your horse and give them valuable time outdoors when the weather is wet, so here Horse & Country have brought together a beginner’s guide to help you navigate riding over the coming months.

There are a variety of measures you can take to ensure that you and your horse have a more enjoyable (and safer!) time outside in the wetter weather, and they vary from equipment to the routes you take on your hacks.

It also involves keeping you both as warm and dry as possible! Continuing your horse’s exercise and your own riding practice when the weather is wet is important to maintain their and your fitness and it also helps you prepare for the changeable conditions you might experience during events.

Read on to see how you can get out and ride even when it’s showering.

Dress for the weather

It is also important that you dress for the occasion when going out in the rain.

Check the labels of any clothes you buy for ‘show-resistant’ or ‘splash-proof’, and make sure that you invest in some quality clothing items that will keep you dry and warm.

It is best to buy items specially made for horse riding or sport because these garments will remain breathable while keeping you dry.

Extra items might include waterproof riding trousers, grippy knee pads to keep you more secure in the saddle, and additional linings for wind protection.

Just as you dress your horse up to make sure they are as dry and comfortable as possible in the rain, you should take the time to make yourself comfortable too.

Getting these items into your horse-riding wardrobe in advance will mean you are not left getting caught in the rain without the necessary layers.

Prepare for your ride

When it is raining, there are a few extra measures you should take to ensure that you are prepared correctly for your outing.

The first thing to do is to keep your tack covered and dry. If you can, use a covered area to groom and tack up, such as an indoor barn or inside the stable, rather than getting soaked before you’ve even begun!

If there are no thunderstorms and the rain is just everyday showers, you and your four-legged friend will probably notice it a lot less once you are ready to go.

You should also make sure that all of your tack is in good condition and has enough grip, so it won’t become too slippery in wet conditions.

This also goes for your own gear: make sure you have a waterproof pocket or pouch for your phone, and any other important items that you will need to take with you.

Taking the time to get a few preparations sorted before your ride will make it much more enjoyable for both you and your horse.

Keep your horse comfortable

If your horse is cautious about going out into the rain, you can also add a waterproof exercise sheet when you are out riding.

This is particularly useful for horses that are clipped fully or partly, and these sheets can be worn with a horse’s saddle, so they are easy to incorporate into your ride.

When you come back from your ride, you should take the time to dry off your horse thoroughly with a towel or stand him under a solarium, if you have one, then put on his cooler rug.

This will help whether the horse is sweaty, soaked with rain, or both, as it will assist with returning their temperature to normal.

Treat your tack after the ride

When you return from a hack or rainy schooling session, it is important to give some attention to your tack.

If you leave it wet, the leather can become damaged and discoloured, so it is important to take the time to dry it properly.

If your tack is not made of leather, but is instead synthetic, it will cope better with rain.

You can buy a waterproof cover to go over the saddle itself, protecting it from getting a soaking, but you can also take some measures to care for your tack post-hack.

Hang your numnah up to dry and then wipe your leather tack with a dedicated cloth in order to get rid of any excess moisture.

Use a leather cleaner to nourish the tack once it is dry, but be careful not to use too much water while cleaning, as this can add to the moisture you’ve been drying off.

Then, leave the leather tack to dry somewhere indoors, away from direct sunlight and heaters, as both of these can cause leather to warp and crack.

If you take care of your tack in this way after every rainy outing, then it will last a lot longer.

Remember that a saddle might take more than 24 hours to dry completely, so take this into account when planning your rides.

Key messageS

It is important to still try to exercise your horse when it’s raining, as long as it’s safe to do so.

Horses benefit from regular activity, and will still enjoy getting out and about.

As well as preparing with the necessary equipment, plan your routes with the weather and terrain in mind.

If you usually follow routes with dirt paths or small trails, consider finding hacks that utilise more established bridleways and paths, as these will be less prone to growing muddy, and will offer a safer footing.

In addition, you should of course wear reflective clothing and high-visibility items whenever you go out in the rain, as it affects visibility and can cause dangerous situations on roads.

Drivers will see you and your horse much easier with the proper clothing, so try getting a high-vis jacket and make sure your horse’s exercise sheet is reflective, too.

It might be tempting to use roads on your hacks when it’s raining, as they offer a surer footing.

But it is important to be careful, as using roads during times of decreased visibility can pose more risk to you and other road users.

Try to pick established bridleways where horses will be expected, and the ground will be more prepared for your four-legged friend during the wet weather.

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