When is it too cold too ride? I have been asked that several times. Unfortunately there is no concrete answer. You will have to base your answer to this question on your region’s winter and also on you and your horse’s condition. It also depends on whether or not you have an enclosed arena. So since I don’t have access to an enclosed arena, I’ll just tell you when I determine it is too cold for me to ride in the Oklahoma winter.
It’s too cold to ride when the ground is frozen hard and has been for several days with no thaw in the near future. Not only is the ground frozen but everything laying on top of the ground is also frozen solid. Any sign of moisture is transformed into an ice rink and the occasional horse droppings have become small boulders. Each have their own form of hazard if the horse steps on it.
It’s too cold for me to ride when the air temperature is below about 30°F or if the air is sparkling as any moisture is instantly frozen. Between the extra under layers, the extra pair of socks and winter boots, the heavier gloves, the ear muffs, I just can’t move freely. Just walking in this much garb makes me think of penguins. Forget about trying to raise my leg high enough to step in the stirrup. I just can’t enjoy riding if I’m wearing so much clothing to stay warm that I’ve added another 20 lbs.
It’s too cold to ride when the wind chill is 20°F or lower even if the air temperature is above freezing. Having the breath ripped out of my body by even the slightest of breeze is not my idea of fun. I imagine my horse is just as reluctant to work in these conditions.
It’s too cold to ride when . . . . . my eyelashes start to have the frosted look. My fingers and toes get numb just walking from the car to the barn. My cheeks turn bright red and then purple from the cold in just a few minutes. My nose runs from being so cold, but freezes before I can use a tissue. My steaming hot coffee becomes an iced drink in 10 minutes or less.
Riding is supposed to be fun, even if you are training seriously. If the winter weather is cold enough to be hazardous to you or your horse, why risk it?