(This) SmartPaker’s Guide to Winter Must-Haves
Winter is not my season. The cold, the wind, the frozen fingers and toes, the persistent sinuses draining, the cold freezing your lungs. Nope, not a winter person….when it comes to horses at least. If I’m snuggled up at home with a book and a warm drink, ok. If I’m snowboarding, ok. Even a beautiful winter hike in the snow! But why does riding just seem so terrible in the winter?
Riding winter ponies (***coughcough my OTTB***) can also be a pretty wild adventure, as we all know. As a self-proclaimed winter weather hater, I’ve put together a small list of the things I can’t live without during the cold, dark months that happen every year no matter how hard I try to pretend that I will have an everlasting summer.
Over the years, however, I’ve found a few items that help me make it back to Spring yet again.
- SmartSalt Pellets: Why do I add salt to my horse's SmartPaks in the winter? Because I want them to be drinking enough water. It is well-documented that horses often don’t drink enough water in winter, which can lead to other complications. I don’t feel the need to add in electrolytes since they don’t get much work/don’t sweat throughout the winter, so they don’t need the replenishment of minerals. However, I do want to make sure they continue to drink plenty of water through the cold winter months, so they stay healthy and hydrated!
- Waterproof winter boots: Personally, I have the Ariat Coniston Pro GTX Insulated Boots, but I understand those have a hefty price tag and I had to do some serious saving in order to be able to replace my 10-year-old Ariat boots that finally took their last breath at the beginning of 2023. Here’s the thing, no boots are going to keep your feet perfectly warm in the frigid cold without assistance- at least, none that I’ve found. But a good, insulated boot like the Ariat Coniston offers warmth and waterproofing, with plenty of room to add in a big fluffy pair of socks as well as some foot warmers, keeping your tootsies toasty through those chilly winter rides.
- Hand and foot warmers: As mentioned above, foot warmers and hand warmers. I have boxes of them stocked in my home. The HotHands brand of foot and hand warmers is my favorite. I get the toe warmers and stick them to the outsides of my socks right on my toes and then pop my feet in my boots and I haven’t experienced frozen toes in years. As for the hand warmers, I find them to be a little more frustrating because you must have your hands in your pockets for them to keep you warm, which is impossible when riding. But having that warm little surprise when you reach into your pocket for a horse treat is a serious bonus when you’re chilled to the bone.
- Heated Vest: This is the most AMAZING cold weather hack for me. I found that when I keep my core warm, it helps keep the rest of my body warm as well. I have some sensory issues, and having a big bulky jacket that impedes my arm movement sends me into a little bit of a spiral, so having a heated vest and wearing a bit of a lighter jacket over that keeps me moving more freely and happily on cold days. There are lots of options out there, but SmartPak carries the fan-favorite FieldSheer By Mobile Warming Backcountry heated Vest!
- Carr & Day & Martin Canter Silk Mane & Tail Conditioner: I know this is a winter list, but go with me on this one. Canter Silk Conditioner is actually a year-round go-to for me. But this stuff is GOLD in the winter when bathing is not often in the cards and I need to clean up my horse's tails and detangle my Haflinger's wild mess of hair. And in the winter, it makes it so easy to brush through those luscious locks without too much of a fight with my frozen fingers.
While Winter typically is not the favorite season for horse people in general, we all find ways to get through to the next hot summer. Then we can complain about the heat!
Cheers and Have A Great (Cold) Ride!
-SmartPaker Megan I.