4 Ways to Make Winter Horseback Riding More Fun

Updated August 24, 2023
Winter riding in cold indoor arena

The first few weeks of winter set in with a chill. Not only are your daily tasks made more difficult by the cold, but your riding routine is often changed drastically. You may be able to stand this for the first few weeks, but after a month or two, you’ll probably wish for warmer riding weather. Check out these four tips for making your winter horseback riding routine fun so you don't have to run south for the winter!

Use the Buddy System

Find a barn buddy who usually goes to ride around the same time as you do. Riding with a friend can keep both of you motivated and even spark some healthy competition. Riding on a cold night is a lot more fun when you have company and can encourage each other. Plus, if you’re worried that your horse may be fresh, it’s nice to know that someone is at the barn with you should something happen.

Spice Up Your Flatwork

Riding in an indoor arena throughout the winter can feel like riding in circles day after day. Try these exercises to spice up your flatwork.

Flatwork Exercises to Try this Winter

  • Dressage Tests: Even if you’re not a dressage rider, riding a dressage test is a great way to improve your horse’s responsiveness and build muscle.
  • Collection and Extension: Make it a game! How many trot steps or canter strides can you fit down one long side?
  • Serpentines: Use serpentines to work on transitions: trot/halt, trot/walk, or trot/canter transition. Aim to make your transitions as close to the center of your line as possible to practice precision.
  • Ground Poles: Arrange trot or canter poles to encourage your horse to lengthen or shorten his stride. If you struggle with straightness, setting up a chute of poles is the perfect way to practice staying straight.

Get Outside When Possible 

Winter riding outside through the snow

If you have a warmer day (or feel like braving the cold!), take your horse for a short trail ride around the property. Be sure to bundle up, take it slow so your horse can get his bearings, and watch out for icy spots! Even if you just take an amble around the property before getting down to business in the indoor arena, you and your horse will appreciate the change of pace.

Set Goals for Yourself and Your Horse

Set short-term and long-term goals for you and your horse this winter. Whether your goal is to make it out to the barn to ride four days a week all winter long or to master the half pass, a new goal is a great motivator. Tailor these goals to your skill level and the areas of your riding and your horse’s performance that you want to improve upon. 

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.