J and I did our first of the season snow ride today. She rode Coyote and I rode Ashke. The temps were right around 16 degrees F when we left the barn and 14 when we got back.
Snow fell in big, puffy flakes our entire ride.
When I first put the saddle on Ashke, he humped his back bad. I was a little nervous about riding out, if he was humping his back before we ever left the barn (he was very humped last time I rode him in the arena. Took several minutes for him to relax). I told J I wanted to mount in the outdoor and if need be, work him there a little bit before we headed out. As I led him toward the outdoor arena (through the falling snow) he was very snorty. Then he saw J and Coyote. His head came up and he stopped in his tracks to study her for a moment. Then he walked to the mounting block and calmly waited for me to get on. We walked out of the outdoor and headed for the trail.
J and Coyote (while she could still feel her toes)
Ashke crossed the field in a bit of a jig, while I used my powers of persuasion to calm him to a walk. We walked the majority of our ride, although he did trot at a couple of points. Walking, because I didn't want to run the risk of him getting hot or sweaty, and walking because the ground is not even and we couldn't see the holes. We walked carefully across the road and then through the neighborhood. Ashke didn't have boots on, since boots would have be disastrously slick in current conditions. Bare feet, though, have good grip on the snow. Our snow is dry enough that it doesn't ball up in the horse's hooves (this can happen in wetter, more humid climes). Ashke had two slips all day and both were when we crossed the bridge to and from the subdivision. When we met up with J, Ashke followed her on Coyote through the subdivision. He reached out and bumped her in the back at least five or six times in the two and a half blocks we walked. It was his way of reassuring himself that she was there. So cute.
The flakes were huge all day, but there was minimal wind. The wind would have been a deal breaker.
My only concession to the cold was to use the BOT pad that I purchased last year. It fits under the saddle and covers his haunches. We rode in it a lot when we were rehabbing his hamstring. I wanted to make sure that the hammie and his hip remained warm and relaxed during our ride.
I am Ninja. He is Unicorn.
We can walk in the snow with our eyes closed.
This horse loves being out. He didn't give me any trouble all day, except to ask to move out faster once we turned for home.
There is no way to look sexy when riding in the snow, unless you are the Last Unicorn.
When we turned the corner to hit this gravel path, there were cows in the field by the corner. It was a very snorty moment. Then we crossed paths with a coyote. He was a scraggly little thing out hunting mice in the weeds. I watched him pounce and gulp down one right before he walked in front of us.
He never spooked and he never hesitated.
We went past the ball fields and turned left, following the road around to an access road that took us back to the canal. Nifty little four mile loop.
This was a whole field of thistle, the thistle heads just covered with snow.
J posing for a photo op. If you look at the bottom of her pants, they are wrapped with white vet wrap.
Ashke was not amused that we were waiting for J to take photos.
He was pawing for emphasis. He knew where we were and how to get home.
He jigged a bit on the canal, since he knew where we were and how to get home from there. He asked to canter when we got to the field where we canter on our way home every time. I said no and some trotting ensued. It didn't last for more than a few moments. The snow had settled on the edges of his winter coat, and aside from a couple of spots on his neck where they melted, he was completely dry when we walked in the barn.
Going through the neighborhood was pretty fun. There was a flock of girls with toboggans racing down a side street, but they were respectful and stopped while we rode by. When we got to the road, I dismounted. The road looked icy and I wanted Ashke to only have to worry about balancing himself as he crossed. There was no sliding. On the other side of the road was a fence. I led him over to the metal gate and climbed up. I had my right leg and foot on the outside of the pole gate and maneuvered my left foot into the stirrup. Ashke was at an angle to the gate, which was not optimal for mounting, but since I really didn't want to walk the half block to the barn (yes, I am lazy) I was committed to trying to mount from the gate. I put a little bit of weight into the stirrup and verbally asked Ashke if he was ready for me to swing on. In reply, Ashke stepped up a half step, swung his hip around so he was closer to the gate and in a better position, and then braced himself for me to step into the stirrup. It was the sweetest thing he did all day. I was able to swing into the saddle while he stood quietly until I told him to walk on.
He was dry and warm, but not hot, when I untacked him. He got settled into his stall with a mash. He promptly stuck his head in the bucket and licked out the last morsels, before I took the bucket away, then dug into the mash in his bin. He was still eating when I left.
I was fairly warm during our ride. The biggest issue in riding in the cold, is that the rider really isn't moving much, so there is no way to produce heat to keep you warm. My legs got cold about half way through, but not cold enough to impact the enjoyment of the ride.
I was wearing:
Long sleeved cotton t-shirt
Cotton sweatshirt (bonus points that it had the Serenity logo on it and the word Shiny)
Carhartt Sandstone Sierra Sherpa lined coat
Thermal underlayer pants
Cotton Silvertab jeans
Northface insulated winter boots
Balaclava under my helmet (with face protection)
SSG 10 Below Waterproof Gloves
I do not recommend wearing what I wore if you tend toward cold. J yelled at me for wearing so much cotton, although she couldn't fault the Carhartt. My biggest area of heat loss was my legs. They were cold. And so were my toes. After we got home and ate lunch, we went back out to Murdocks to shop their sale. I got a pair of Berne insulated bib coveralls, in black, for half the price of the Carhartt bibs. I wanted bibs because there is no gap between the pants and the jacket for air to come in or heat to radiate out from and no waistband to bind up while I am riding. I really wanted the Carhartts but couldn't justify the extra expense, especially when I can layer under the ones I picked out. I can also wear them to the Bronco's games in late November and December of this year. I can replace the cotton socks with ski socks and add toe warmers. I would like to add another layer over my ears, but the helmet cover I purchased last year does not fit on my helmet and there isn't enough room under it for more than one hat. My core was toasty warm. I might exchange fleece for the sweatshirt, but that is a minor change. I wish I could wear wool, but I'm allergic. My fingers got chilled but not cold.
J wore four layers on her top and three on her legs. She wore bike shoes. Her feet were cold, so next time she will probably add toe warmers, since adding another layer to her feet won't work. Her shoes are too tight. She also wants to try a different configuration for her legs. She wore two pairs of bike pants, but there was no loft to that. She is thinking of fleece pants between her waterproof/windproof pant covers and the bike pants she wore underneath. Her thumbs got cold, but not enough to hinder our ride. She wants to add a turtle neck gaiter to help keep her chin warm.
All in all, we had a great time. There was no frostbite and Ashke was so happy with the ride. It was magical to ride in the snow again.