Category Archives: News

5 minutes…saving our horses one letter at a time

Slaughter. A term used for the killing of animals for food consumption. Pigs, cows, chickens, goats, and yes, horses – not just in Europe but here in Canada. In fact, Canada is a world leader in the production of horse meat with approximately 67,979 horses having been slaughtered in Canada in 2015.

I’m sure many of you are shocked to hear that our beloved pets and riding companions, can end up from paddock to plate but this business, very sadly is growing. Horse meat exports brought in $85 million last year, as per Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada with more than 12 million kilograms of the product being shipped. The majority of horse meat is still being sold and shipped to Europe but what has become most alarming in the last year is the increase of LIVE transportation of horses to Japan for sushi.

In Japan, “premium consumption,” a philosophy in which consumers do not mind spending large amounts of money on trendy products or services, is on the rise. The Japanese are embracing “members-only” clubs and resorts upwards of ¥355 billion ($4,176,200,000 CDN), up 13 percent from 2015. Horsemeat is increasing in popularity in Japan due in part to a boom in these exclusive and often secretive dining clubs.

Canada is the ONLY country that ships LIVE horses for slaughter.

Every year, approximately 7000 horses are transported by air from Canada to Japan. These shipments are often conducted weekly, with up to three to four large draft type horses crammed together in wooden crates. There is little room to move around, let alone lie down. No food or water is provided during the often 30+ hour journey overseas. Canadian legislation permits horses to be transported without food and water for up to 36 hours and sometimes, due to flight delays, the 36-hour period is breached.

Canadian legislation prohibits horses over 14 hands high to share a crate with other horses; however, the majority of horses being shipped to Japan are draft or draft crosses who exceed the height restriction.

They must be shipped individually if over 14 hands. Their heads must not touch the ceiling of the crate. They must not be deprived of food and water for any longer than 36 hours.

The law says all of the above things.

But for reasons of profit (up to $20,000 per horse shipped to Japan), Canada ignores the law.

I follow an amazing woman on Facebook. Her name is Dr. Judith Samson-French and she is a veterinarian who is based out of Western Canada. She advocates for ALL animals, sharing well informed articles, posting petitions to be signed and making the “average” person aware of situations such as the live transportation of horses to Japan. Below, is her Facebook post from today with a letter, for her Facebook followers, to address to Dr Cornelius F. Kiley, of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

In sharing all of the information with you on this blog, my hope is that you will copy, sign and email the letter (or write in your own words) to Dr. Kiley and perhaps, we just might help make a difference:

“Can you spare 5 minutes?

Please read the letter below, if you agree copy, sign and send away (email address at the bottom).
Thank you so much!

Attention: Dr Cornelius F. Kiley, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

I am writing to comment on the following: Amendments to Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations, which pertain to the transport of animals, are now in the public comment phase in the Canada Gazette, Part I, Vol. 150, No. 49.

There are a number of concerns with the proposed regulations. Firstly no provisions have been made to prevent transport of animals in weather extremes. In Europe, transportation of animals is not allowed in weather extremes and trucks have to be temperature controlled. They are required to have on board ventilation systems. The proposed regulations do not deal with the issue of temperature extremes in Canada, and the kind of conditions (extreme Canadian cold and heat) that it is inhumane to transport animals in.

Secondly, the length of time of animal transports is still a concern. While there has been a proposed reduction in the times animals can be transported without food and water, it is still 28 hours in the case of horses and pigs. Considering the clock is re-set to zero when shipments of animals leave Canadian borders, slightly reduced Canadian travelling times will not make any difference to the actual travelling times between countries. For example , there will still be horse shipments to Japan from Alberta that are approximately 30 hours long from the time of loading at feedlots until arrival and unloading in Japan (longer if there are flight delays). Numerous studies have shown that horse health and welfare deteriorates significantly after 8 – 12 hours of travel without rest (for example the European Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare (SCAHAW) and Stevenson: ”Long Distance Animal Transport in Europe. A cruel and unnecessary trade”2008).

Another concern with the live draft horse shipments is that horses are not being segregated currently, and I believe under the new regulations there will no longer be any requirement to segregate horses over 14 hands high. According to veterinarians, this practice of loading multiple horses into crates, while obviously cost effective and financially beneficial to the exporter, is detrimental to horse welfare in airplanes. From FOIP documents it is apparent that horses in the live shipments frequently go down during takeoff and landing, and with multiple horses in crates there is greater potential for injury if they are not segregated or no divider is used.

Another regulation that should be kept, not eliminated, in the horse shipments is the regulation requiring sufficient head space for horses, especially considering the fact that they will be standing in one position in the same wooden crate for approximately 24 hours (from the time they are first loaded into the crates until they are unloaded in Japan). It would be inhumane to have the heads of taller horses bent in unnatural position the entire 24 hours.

I am unclear as to how things will be improved for animals with the new transport regulations, and in fact with proposed removal of some of the existing regulations (segregation and head clearance) designed to protect horses during live horse shipments to Japan, the situation could become even worse for these animals. If Canada is going to make changes to animal transport laws, please ensure that they make significant improvements to animal welfare instead of maximized profits for exporters and producers.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
YOUR name here, address & phone number
email to: animaltransportanimaux@inspection.gc.ca
and you can cc: lawrence.macaulay@parl.gc.ca
PM@pm.gc.ca ”

“Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

And it only takes 5 minutes,

Until next time,
Robyn

PS – you can also make a difference by emailing Atlas Air, the American company that provides the majority of the horse transportation from Canada to Japan:

Peter Beckett Senior Director Charter Sales and Marketing Email: peter.beckett@atlasair.com

And signing the petition at Change.org
https://www.change.org/p/richard-broekman-staff-vice-president-commercial-development-and-charter-sales-email-richard-broekm-peter-beckett-senior-director-charter-sales-and-marketing-email-peter-beckett-atlasair-com-jo-ask-atlas-air-to-end-the-shipment-of-live-horses-f?recruiter=309243881&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_res

Horses enroute from Canada to Japan

Horses enroute from Canada to Japan

That fantastic “Foxwood Feeling” of summer!

Here it is, the beginning of September and I haven’t posted all summer! I have every intention of keeping this blog up to date with news around the farm, interesting horse/rider articles, etc. but somehow, farm life gets too busy that the writing has to wait until I have some down time – and the only time that happens is when I can go away!

It was the busiest summer, EVER, at Foxwood Farm:

Our summer camp started the first week of July with our CIT program. Kelsey, Charlotte, Martina and Paige all helped out with getting the tack clean, the ponies schooled, the crafts set up and the games prepared. Once camp officially started the week of July 11, we were all set.

Over the course of 5 weeks, our campers experienced sessions that were filled with riding (of course;), stable management, horsemanship demonstrations, and several visits from special guests. I think one of the guest highlights was in week 3 and 5 when Wendy Eagle from Wellspring Equine, brought her miniature horse and her filly to Foxwood. The campers asked questions and then got to groom both minis as well as drive the older miniature horse. I know that we all would love to see them again next summer!

Despite the scorching heat of the summer, my staff kept their cool – thanks to fun water game, freezies and popsicles for everyone – and we had a great time. Many thanks to my camp staff for all of their hard work: Alex, Kaitlyn, Kaleene, Jessica, Jamie, Megan, Jacklyn, Emily, Grace, Charlotte, Kelsey, Paige, Martina and Kaela.

Along with camp this summer, weekly evening lessons were offered to adult riders, as well as novice-advanced riders. Many of these riders were on our show team and lessons were used for schooling our horses and working on our equitation skills. Many lucky Foxwood students had the opportunity to spend lesson time riding in our cross country course – doing interval training, as well as jumping our welcoming cross country jumps. We will be setting a date, shortly, to build some new cross country jumps this fall with the hopes of offering a mini event (dressage, cross country and stadium jumping) in the spring of 2017 to our intermediate and advanced riders.

With one horse show left for 2016, I am thrilled at how well both of our show teams performed this summer! Our Bronze series team, consisting of Jacklyn (Lily), Emily (Jane), Lindsey (India) and Elizabeth (Sera) participated in 5 shows in the Lord Simcoe series, which were held at the Essa Agriplex in Barrie. From the start of the season, I watched all riders form great partnerships with their horses. There was stiff competition with ‘A’ and Trillium circuit riders using this series for their own schooling purposes and our riders rode up to the challenge. Our final show of the season was at the Barrie Fair on August 25th and I was very proud of our day and placings. We will be celebrating the season at the Lord Simcoe series year end banquet in October.

Our Everett schooling series show team have proven to be strong and very competitive this year with at least 2 Champions and 2 Reserve Champions at every show! We have one Everett show left to compete at on September 18th and then our banquet with the Essa Equestrians Club will be in November. There are many new show riders in this group for the season, along with Foxwood riders who have moved up divisions or switched horses, and I am thrilled with our results.

Our team success would not be possible without the help from our grooms, Charlotte and Taylor, along with help on show days from parents, family members and Foxwood friends.

It’s been a incredible summer and now on to a busy fall at Foxwood…stay tuned for more postings on what exciting events we have coming up, starting with our Fall Session which kicks off this Saturday, September 10th!

Until next time,
Robyn

ps. – hope you enjoy our Fantastic “Foxwood Feeling” movie of summer!

Equine Canada Level 2 Coach, Ally Sillers, is now coaching at Foxwood!

With the change in seasons (even though it is still feeling like winter!), comes a change in the barn with the arrival of an amazing new instructor! As many of you know, I am currently working on obtaining my Equine Canada coaching certification and I met with Ally Sillers last year to discuss the steps I needed to take in order to accomplish this. At the time, I asked Ally if she would be available and interested in doing the EC Rider level evaluations for my students who were taking part in our monthly OEF horsemanship program. We have been keeping in touch over the winter to determine some testing times for both me and my students and I was elated to learn that she was available this spring to coach here. What an incredible opportunity, not only for me to learn from her, but also for all of my students – not just the ones who are testing for their Equine Canada Rider levels.

Ally Sillers is an Equine Canada certified Level 2 Coach, with over 40yrs teaching experience. While living in New Brunswick, Ally ran the Rothesay, Kennebecasis and Fredericton Pony Clubs from 1985 until 2000 before starting her own riding school, Callander Hall. She has taught beginner to advanced students, who have ranged in age from 4 to 70 years old. Ally has had students win provincial championships in dressage, hunter/jumper and eventing – and one of her students, Kara Grant from Prince Edward Island, took part in 2 Olympic Games, competing in pentathalon. In addition to great riding accomplishments, many of Ally’s students have gone on to become veterinarians, farriers and part-time coaches.

Ally is a National Evaluator for the Equine Canada Coaching program and also tests for the EC Learn to Ride program for Rider Levels 1-8. She is a facilitator for the Equestrian Theory Course and has prepared over 20 successful candidates for the Instructor of Beginner Coaching Evaluation. She has a love and interest to pass on her extensive knowledge and to promote the coaching program and was the coaching coordinator for the province of New Brunswick for 5 years.

In 2014, Ally moved back to Toronto for family reasons and currently coaches at the following barns in Ontario: York Equestrian, Waterstone Estates , Gimcrack and now Foxwood Farm:)

“I have been lucky enough to make a career out of my passion” –
and Foxwood is very lucky to have you, Ally! We’re looking forward to the great lessons and the learning opportunities!

Until next time,
Robyn

Check out the latest video of Ally teaching at Foxwood:

We are thrilled to have Ally and her incredible knowledge at Foxwood!

We are thrilled to have Ally and her incredible knowledge at Foxwood!

Melting snow and shedding ponies…it’s time for the Foxwood Spring 2016 Newsletter!

We’ve enjoyed an amazingly mild season and it’s been great having so many of our riders enjoying horse riding lessons this winter (and we haven’t even had to open up the “hot shot” box;)!

It’s going to be a busy spring at Foxwood: lessons, shows, our show team and our fundraiser, which will “kick off” March 5 with our Swap days. We will be doing some fundraising this year to purchase a very important piece of equipment for the barn – a defibrillator.

Our spring registration for lessons officially starts this week and we have made some changes to the scheduling to accommodate more classes.

Lesson Information
Our spring session starts the week of Monday, March 21. The
13 week session is $585 including HST. Payment options include cheque, MasterCard, Visa and American Express and payment may be made in 2 installments: the first payment due the week of March 21 and the balance due May 1, 2016.

Spring Schedule for lessons:
Mondays – Novice, Intermediate, Advanced
Tuesdays – Beginner (2 classes), Advanced
Wednesdays – Novice, Adult, Advanced
Thursdays – Beginner, Novice, Advanced
Fridays – Adult (am), *Show Team practice pm
Saturdays – Beginner, Novice/Int./Advanced

If you do not know what level your rider is, please email me: ridefoxwood@gmail.com

As there have been some issues surrounding our makeup policy, effective March 21, there will be 2 preset makeup dates for the spring session, which will be held the week of June 20th. Each rider is permitted to have 1 makeup/session. As it is very difficult to reschedule and make changes to existing classes, we appreciate your cooperation.

Foxwood Spring Horse Show
The tentative date for our spring horse show at Foxwood is Sunday, May 29th. This is open to all Foxwood riders with the beginner/novice classes in the morning and the intermediate/advanced classes in the afternoon. More information will be posted in the barn in April.

Foxwood Show Team 2016
It’s going to be a fantastic show year for our team with our participation at 2 different series: Bronze level and schooling. The mandatory show meeting is on Saturday, February 6th in the tack room at 1:45pm. Anyone interested in competing on the team this year must be in attendance.

Ontario Equestrian Rider Levels
For those students interested in continuing with their OEF rider levels, once again, we will be offering horsemanship classes with Wendy Eagle (who lectures at the University of Guelph), once per month on the following dates:

Saturday, Feb 6– 1:30 pm – 3:30pm
Saturday, March 26 – 1:30 – 3:30 pm

If your rider is working on Level 1/2 , classes are $20. Foxwood students will be given the opportunity to test for their levels in the late spring of 2016 and there will be more classes available for April and May.

All information on future class dates will be posted in the tack room and on our Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/Foxwood-Farms-Bradford-Ontario-106886766016951

Foxwood SWAP DAYS
Start cleaning out your clean barn clothing (no helmets) and bring to Foxwood to sell to other Foxwood riders. Swap starts Saturday, March 5 and will run to Saturday, April 2. 10% of your proceeds will go to our fundraiser. Items not picked up after April 6 will be donated.

Foxwood Swag
Show your barn spirit with a Foxwood jacket, cap or tee! Order forms for Foxwood swag are on the tack room bulletin board and we will be placing orders twice per month. *New this spring – Foxwood saddlepads!

Foxwood Summer Camp
Our summer camp registration forms are out and as in the past, our spaces fill up quickly! We have added an ADVANCED SHOW Camp week for riders age 9 and up, and have brought back the very popular theme weeks, Holiday Theme week and Horse Adventure week.

More information, along with the registration form can be found on our website at: http://foxwoodfarm.ca/files/4214/5375/9363/2016CampApplication.pdf

Important Foxwood Dates:
Saturday, Feb 6th – OEF Horsemanship class at Foxwood 1:30– 3:30pm
Saturday, Feb 6th – Foxwood Show Team meeting 1:45pm
Saturday, March 5th – Spring-cleaning…It’s SWAP time! Foxwood Fundraiser “Kick off”
Monday, March 14th – Foxwood goes shopping! Join us at Doonaree Tack shop to “get your gear”
Monday, March 21st – Foxwood Spring session begins
Saturday, March 26th – OEF Horsemanship class at Foxwood 1:30– 3:30pm
Sunday, May 29th – Foxwood Horse Show
June 20-24th – Foxwood makeup days
Mon. July 4th – Thurs. July 7th – C.I.T. /Counsellor Camp

With more exciting dates to follow, it’s always a fun time at Foxwood!

Until next time,
Robyn

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Celebrating 2015 and looking forward to another fantastic, Foxwood year for 2016!

We are now into the final weeks of our fall 2015 riding session and what a fantastic year we have had at Foxwood!! 2 fun schooling shows at Foxwood, an amazing season for our ShowTeam, a great float in the Bradford Santa Claus parade, and not to mention our OEF horsemanship classes, a visit from the Candlelighters and finally, our decorating day for the holidays this past weekend.

So, how are we going to top that off for 2016?!

Winter Riding Session

Our winter session starts the week of January 4th, 2016 and runs for 10 weeks. The cost is $375/session plus hst (payments can be made in 2 installments – payable the first week of January and then the 1st of February). As with last winter, if we need to cancel due to the weather, I will post no later than 2pm that day on my Foxwood Facebook page and send out an email. Makeups will be given in the case of cancellations due to bad weather.

As I have already started scheduling our winter classes, please let me know by December 18th, if you or your child/ren WILL be riding in the winter session. Please note that priority for our 2016 Show Team will be given to those riders who continue throughout the winter.

Foxwood Farm ShowTeam

Our first information meeting will be held on Saturday, January 9th at 1:30 pm. This meeting is for students/parents who would like more information on what is involved with showing on our team. The signup sheet for the 2016 Foxwood Farm ShowTeam will then be posted. There will be a few changes this year to our signup procedure, which will be explained at the meeting on January 9th. If you are unable to attend, but still would like some information, I will gladly email out the agenda and notes from the day if you let me know.

Christmas ideas

NEW! Foxwood polar fleece zip sweatshirts! Black with silver Foxwood logo. Only $50/including hst. Check out the latest Foxwood SWAG order sheet in the tack room for more items
The last order will be submitted on December 17th!

We also now have a local embroidery company who is able to do saddlepads! Order sheets are available in the tack room.

OEF Rider Level Classes
We will be continuing with our Ontario Equestrian Federation classes in 2016 in preparation for testing sometime in April (once date is confirmed, I will let everyone know). The cost for the winter classes is $30/level 3 riders and $20/level 1 and 2 riders. The classes will be held on the following Saturdays from 1:30pm – 3:30 pm. Please let me know if you/your rider will be attending:

Saturday, January 9th *LEVEL 3 ONLY
Saturday, February 6th – *LEVELS 1, 2 and 3
Saturday, March 26th – *LEVELS 1, 2 and 3

IMPORTANT 2016 Foxwood Dates

January 5th – Winter Session begins
February 23rd – Registration for Summer Camp and Spring Session
March 21st– Spring Session begins
June 12th – Foxwood Farm Schooling Show
Mon. June 27- Wed. June 29 – Foxwood C.I.T. Training Camp

Looking forward to another great year with my #FoxwoodFamily !

All the best to everyone for a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!

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Horsin’ around in 2015 at Foxwood!

Here we are, 22 days into the New Year and this is my first blog of 2015! Usually at this time of year, I would have extra time; however, this month has just flown by and we will be entering spring before we know it (and let’s hope it is an early one this year:).

For me, January is the month for planning. I have already received most of our horse show dates for the upcoming horse show season and weather permitting, it looks like our first Foxwood Farm Show Team outing will be in March at one of the Trillium horse shows at the RCRA riding complex. Hosted by Joker’s Hill farm, these winter schooling horse shows give riders the opportunity to “get back into the saddle” in a competitive environment before the full season starts in May. I know that some of my eager horse show riders would love to start going to these winter events in February, but given the unpredictable weather patterns these days, I am a bit hesitant to trailer my horses and ponies until we are through the most part of winter. Once spring arrives, we have many horse shows on our agenda: Trillium shows at Palgrave and several other farm locations in the central east zone; Essa Equestrian schooling shows out in Thornton; and of course, the Barrie Fair at the end of the summer – which we came home with 1 Champion and 2 Reserve Champions last summer:)

Summertime also brings Foxwood Camp and our flyer with all of the information and our registration forms will be posted and mailed out today. I am so excited that we have a returning counsellor from 2 summers ago who brings so much fun and enthusiasm every day to camp. Lindsay is currently a university student who has worked at Foxwood Farm for many years as both a counsellor and riding instructor. She has competed successfully in dressage, jumper, cross country events as well as on Pony Club national teams for PPG (Prince Philip Games). Some of my campers will remember, with fondness, her glory moments here at Foxwood riding our small pony, Feisty, around a couple of jumping courses…the two of them connected from the beginning and they have a very special pony/rider bond that is great for my campers/riders to see. Along with Lindsay, as head counsellor, we have a few junior counsellor who are current riding students at Foxwood and who have all be CIT’s (counsellors in training) for the past 2 summers. It is wonderful to have staff who are not only familiar with the barn rules/etc. but who also know our Foxwood horses, ponies and returning campers. With several fun and interesting theme weeks this year, I know that this is going to be the BEST year of summer camp that Foxwood has ever had!!

Now to the New Year’s resolutions…I have been studying to take my Ontario Equestrian Federation rider level/instructor certification for many years. My plan was to do my certification last year; however, when I lost my riding partner, Becks, in December 2013, my plans had to be put on hold as I no longer had a horse to do the testing on. But now, I have Salty. Even though I haven’t been riding much this winter due to the cold and my busy lesson schedule, I am hoping to form a partnership with Salty so that I can advance my riding and then obtain my OEF certification by the end of 2015. The process is a lengthy one as it involves not only a riding test, but also a written test on stable management, a practical test on horsemanship as well as a teaching test component. I have been taking lessons, with a Level 2 riding coach and will also be mentoring with another Level 2 coach to expand my knowledge. In my riding lessons that I teach, I incorporate the OEF rider level requirements and we will be offering testing at Foxwood for my students who wish to work towards achieving these rider levels.

So, it’s going to be a busy year and I am looking forward to each and every Foxwood milestone!

Happy New Year to all,
Until next time,
Robyn

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Me and Salty

Foxwood November 2014 Newsletter

It’s hard to believe that we are now into November and more than ½ way through our fall riding session. We just had our junior/intermediate horseshow and what an amazing job everyone did with their costumes! Check out the photos and write up in the Bradford Times:

http://www.bradfordtimes.ca/2014/10/30/a-horse-y-halloween-at-foxwood-farm

Winter Riding Session

Many of you have been inquiring about the winter session, which starts the week of January 5th, 2015. The winter session runs for 10 weeks and the cost is $350/session plus hst (payments can be made in 2 installments). As with last winter, if we need to cancel due to the weather, I will post no later than 2pm that day on my Foxwood Facebook page and send out an email. Makeups will be given in the case of cancellations due to bad weather.

Winter riding, if dressed correctly, can be fun. Check out my latest blog posting to see what I suggest for winter riding:

http://foxwoodfarm.ca/blog/fending-off-frosty-for-winter-riding-fun/

We will be hosting several clinics at the farm over the course of the winter: Natural Horsemanship, dressage and hunter/jumper with some wonderful horse people. More information and dates will be posted in December.

If you can let me know by December 1st, if you or your child/ren WILL be riding in the winter session, it would be appreciated so I can schedule class days/times.

Christmas ideas
We DO have gift certificates for those interested and don’t forget about our Foxwood Swag! The last order will be submitted the week of December 16
Here’s a reminder of some important dates coming up:

Saturday, November 8 – The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
42 riders/parents/friends of Foxwood will be venturing to the city to watch the Royal Winter Fair. It’s going to be an exciting night of Canadian showjumping, indoor eventing and the extremely fun Shetland pony races (I am sure that Feisty would be a great competitor!). For those of you with tickets, if you wish to join our group for dinner, reservations have been made for 5pm and I need to know by Wednesday, November 5, if you wish to join us.

Saturday, November 15 – Bradford Santa Claus Parade
We’ve got our theme, our parent committee, our participants and now it’s time to start decorating and getting our float ready. I will be sending out an email later this week to all Foxwood riders who have signed up to be in the parade with information on what to wear and what time/location to meet at on the 15th. Parents who signed up to help, we are now collecting items for the float (the list is posted in the barn) and we will plan to meet within the next week and early next week to get it done.

Friday, November 21 – Advanced/Adult Horse show at 5pm.
The signup sheet is posted and I am hoping that many of my Adult riders will be there to challenge the younger students to a fast, Handy Pony race;)

Sunday, December 7 – Foxwood Kids Christmas party 2-4pm
All Foxwood young riders are welcome to celebrate the season at the farm with a Secret Santa gift exchange and snacks. There is a signup sheet posted in the tack room.

As always, thank you for your support! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Fending off Frosty for winter riding fun!!

With snow in the forecast this Halloween evening, I guess it’s inevitable. Winter IS coming. It hardly seems fair especially when we really didn’t have much of a summer and to me, the fall has been cool and rainy (sadly, not the warm Indian summer weather I was hoping for).

At the barn, we know the season is changing because our horses and ponies have started to grow their winter coats. Many people ask me when/if I blanket them and it really depends on the animal. On a day like today, when it is cool and rainy, I like to keep them dry with a rain sheet but in general, until it gets colder, I try to keep blankets off to allow them to grow thick coats as blanketing too early deters hair growth. Once we get into colder temperatures, a waterproof winter turnout is added to their wardrobes and in most cases, one good blanket for the winter months is all they need. Sometimes, if we have a horse that doesn’t grow much of a coat, we’ll add a stable blanket underneath for extra warmth. In the case of the ponies that get ultra furry, if they are going to be ridden often and get too warm during riding lessons, we will sometimes body clip them. We will leave the hair on their legs but clip away the hair around their chest and part of the body where they sweat. By doing this, the pony cools out quicker but it is imperative then to put on a blanket afterwards to avoid chills.

So, this leads us to the winter rider. Many people will stop riding in the winter, in fear of being too cold; however, if dressed appropriately, winter riding can be fun – especially after a fresh snowfall out in the fields!

The first thing to keep in mind is to dress in layers so that you can maintain a comfortable body temperature. Layering allows you to add or remove clothing easily as your body temperature changes. On top, I usually suggest a turtleneck or high-necked shirt followed by a zipped sweatshirt or fleece top. For those riders who wear protective safety vests (which on their own add about 10 degrees to your body temperature), wear your vest on top on your turtleneck, followed by the zip top so that you have 1 less layer to remove as you warm up. For the final top layer, a down vest or winter jacket would be best. This piece will also keep you warm before and after you ride when you are grooming your horse or pony.

Since your head allows much of your body’s heat loss, fleece helmet covers will help maintain some of your body temperature, and can also keep your ears warm! Some riders will also add an ear band underneath a helmet and as long as it doesn’t interfere with the fit of the helmet, it’s another way to keep the ears warm.

For pants, I prefer to ride in “winter riding breeches” which are nylon on the outside and fleece on the inside. I don’t like to promote specific brands but will acknowledge ones that have been great for me over the years. After riding through many cold winters, the “Kerrits” winter riding breeches wash up the best, last the longest and are super comfy to wear. For added warmth, both on top and bottom, you can also add long underwear in cotton or silk. These natural fabrics add warmth and pull moisture away from your skin so that as you ride and get warm, you won’t get chilled when cooling down afterwards.

For me, what get cold the quickest are my hands and feet so it’s important to find the best gloves and winter footwear. For gloves, try to look for products that are rated for a minimum of -10 degrees. My favourite ones are SSG’s “10 below” winter gloves. They keep my hands warm and stay relatively dry. I also like the sheepskin lined deerskin gloves, but unless you are good at keeping track of your things, they can be a bit pricey.

Winter riding boots come in many different brands and styles. Some riders prefer winter paddock boots (short boots) while others like to ride in tall boots. Either way, the key is to wear good socks and to have lots of room to keep wiggling your toes. Both Mountain Horse and Ariat have many different styles so it’s a good idea to figure out if you want short or tall boots and then try on different brands. It WILL be difficult to get 1/2 chaps over most winter paddock boots so keep that in mind when selecting your style. Some of my students bring “Hot Shots” to lessons which keep their hands/feet warm and I know that many parents “buy in bulk” at Costco and keep a good supply in their rider’s “barn bag”.

All this being said, I admit that I AM a wimp when it comes to winter riding but when I dress properly, I warm up quickly. When I go out to teach, I am bundled up from head to toe from my Foxwood toque, down to my full-length parka and Sorel boots, and this year, I’m adding snow pants to my winter teaching wardrobe.
As much as I complain about the cold, I still love riding and want to be out in the barn with my horses and my students.

So, if I can handle the cold standing on the ground while teaching, so can all of you (on the backs of warm horses/ponies;).

Until next time,
Robyn

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