Tips for Warming Up and Cooling Down Horses in the Winter

Updated September 11, 2023
Winter riding in cold indoor arena

It’s hard not to love the fall as an equestrian as it's a beautiful season with glorious riding weather. It’s also the warm up act for winter, which is slightly less amazing when it comes to life in the barn.

Cold-weather barn life brings unique challenges, and every rider has their tips and tricks to make the best of it. 

Proper Warm Up and Cool Down

Make sure to give your horse adequate time to warm up. Especially if they have been wearing a blanket. Their muscles are cold, too, and demanding a lot from your horse too quickly could be asking for an injury.

Any athlete will tell you that the cool-down is as important as the warm up. After your lesson or the training portion of your ride is complete, continue walking under saddle for 10-15 minutes. You can put a cooler on your horse halfway through or dismount and hand walk him. A gradual cool down is key to preventing temperature shock and reducing risk of injury or getting a chill.

Take Your Time When Untacking 

Part of the cool-down process includes when you are untacking your horse. Slow down this process in the colder months to allow your horse to relax. Loosen the girth and let them stand in their cooler and dry. Currying sweaty spots or rubbing the coat with a towel can help speed up drying.

Protect Against the Sun and Wind

Something that riders often forget in the winter is our sunscreen! If you have ever gotten a sunburn from riding in snow and wind or on an overcast day, you know firsthand that sunburns in the winter can be just as bad as ones in the summer. Plus, the sun’s rays can reflect off the snow. So, keep covered and use sunblock where you can’t cover. This also goes for our white-nosed horses, too!

Slow Down and Watch Your Step

As mentioned before, it's important to warm up, cool down, and really take your time, allowing your horse’s muscles to adjust to the different temperatures. It's also very important to slow down and watch your footing when you are outside.

When walking in snow and ice, whether venturing to the paddocks or ring, the footing can be unpredictable. It’s easy to accidentally step on the ice, slip, and twist something. Use caution in the barn, bridle paths, pasture, and on the trail when the weather is cold enough to have ice on the ground. 

Video on How to Cool Down Your Horse in the Winter

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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.