For complete details
on all trail riding see our
Trail Rides page
Winter Trail Riding Can Be Fun
If You're Prepared
Of course, you try to avoid the trail riding hazards that might get you and your horse into real trouble, such as blizzards and ice storms. But Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humor. A nice winter day can turn nasty in minutes. You might find yourself riding in snow far deeper than you'd anticipated or suddenly sliding downhill on an icy trail.
Here are the seven winter riding hazards:
Hazard #1: Deep snow – why it's hazardous:
Your horse may panic in a deep snow bank and flounder about, possibly pulling a muscle, or straining tendons and ligaments. Deep snow can also cover underlying trail hazards, such as holes and sharp objects.
What you should do: Find and stick to trails and roadways where the snow isn't as deep. Keep your horse well collected, with his weight back over his hindquarters. A collected horse usually has a "spare leg" to catch himself, because his weight is more evenly distributed in relationship to his center of gravity; he'll be more agile with less effort than if he carries his weight on his forehand.
At the same time, give him enough rein so that he can use his head and neck for balance. Keep in mind that moving through deep snow will tire your horse, especially if the snow is wet and heavy. (Fine, powdery, dry snow is much easier for him to step through.) Scale back your ride, especially if he isn't in top shape. Otherwise, he may become worn out and sore, and/or develop muscle cramps.
Avoid brushing against snow-covered trees and bushes. You can get chilled if a load of snow falls down your neck, and onto your bare hands and saddle seat. Your horse may also spook at the falling snow.
Hazard #2: Snowdrifts – why they're hazardous:
Blowing, drifting snow can fill ditches and gullies, leaving a smooth landscape. You won't know your horse is walking into a hole or deep gully until the ground drops out from under him, and he's floundering or falling down. What you should do: Stick to familiar trails; don't travel cross-country, where the terrain is rougher. Avoid riding through the drifted areas, if possible. You may not be able to gauge drift depth until your horse is up to his belly and struggling to wallow through.
Hazard #3: Frozen ground – why it's hazardous:
Frozen ground is second only to sheer ice in slickness. Even grass is slippery when frozen. Your horse's feet are designed to cut into the ground a little with each step, for traction. If he can't dig into the hard, frozen surface, his feet will slip at every step. And he may go down so quickly that you won't have time to pull your foot out of the stirrup and get out of harm's way.
What you should do: Take it slow. Travel at a walk, and avoid sudden turns or stops. Try to stay on flat terrain. Especially try to avoid going downhill; horses usually have better traction going up than down. Never go around the side of a hill; instead, ride straight up or straight down the hill. When you get to a more level area, you can continue in the direction you wish to go.
When going downhill, a surefooted horse that's going straight can slip and slide all the way to the bottom and still keep his feet underneath himself. Even if he slides down on his haunches, he won't fall. However, if he's traveling at an angle to the hill, his feet may slip out from under him, causing a bad fall. If your horse is reasonably surefooted, don't dismount, unless you can get well away from him as you lead him. It's safer to stay on him than to risk slipping and falling.
Once you go down, your horse may then inadvertently slide into or run over you. If the footing is that treacherous, you won't have any better traction than your horse, especially if you're wearing smooth-soled riding boots. He has four legs for balance; you have only two. If you do need to dismount, stay well out of your horse's way and off to the side, in case he slides or falls. Dismount off his right side, if it seems safer. Even if you're traveling on dry, safe terrain, beware of shaded areas and north-facing slopes that don't get much winter sun. These areas may still be frozen and treacherous.
Hazard #4: Ice – why it's hazardous:
All ice is treacherous, from frozen puddles and ice-covered streams to melted snow that's re-frozen. A heavy, wet snow that then freezes to the ice can provide a little traction, but a wet snow or rain that freezes over ice will just make it even more slippery. A fine, powdery snow on ice may also make it more slippery. On ice, your horse can easily lose his footing, scramble, and fall down, then have trouble getting up again. If your horse does the "splits," he may seriously injure himself, as well as put you at risk as he struggles and falls. What you should do: Avoid riding across patches of ice, if at all possible. Watch for ice hidden under fresh snow, which is especially treacherous. If you suspect there's ice under the snow in a certain spot, go around it. If you ride frequently in winter, consider shoeing your horse with traction in mind. Consult your farrier for options.
Hazard #5: Packed snow – why it's hazardous:
Packed snow can be just as slippery as ice. A polished trail or road, packed by hoof traffic or vehicles, is ice, and very slippery indeed. What you should do: Try to find a path through undisturbed snow, which is much less slippery than a packed track. Ride to the side of the trail if you need to. If you're traveling with a group, keep in mind that while the ride leader may be gaining traction in fresh, undisturbed snow, the horses who follow will be on slippery, packed snow. The ride leader should go slowly to allow for this hazard.
Hazard #6: Freezing rain/ice storm – why they're hazardous:
Your horse is at great risk for an injury-inducing fall. Unlike other hazards, which you might be able to go around, ice coats every surface. Preparing for a ride, or if you dismount, you're likely to slip and fall. What you should do: If all surfaces are coated with ice, choose a better day for a ride. If you're on a long ride and get caught in freezing rain or an ice storm, choose the safest route home possible. Keep to a walk, and avoid sloping ground, even if it means going a longer way around an area of risky footing.
Hazard #7: Slippery mud/deep mud – why they're hazardous:
Wet, slippery mud puts your horse at risk for a fall. Deep mud also increases your horse's risk of falling, as he may not be able to pull his feet up quickly enough to catch himself, especially if he hits mud unexpectedly. Also in deep mud, your horse may struggle and flounder, possibly pulling muscles, tendons, or ligaments, or damaging joints. As he struggles, he may kick off a shoe. The mud itself can pull off a shoe.
What you should do: In slippery mud, see the precautions for negotiating frozen ground (Hazard #3), especially on hills. If the trail is dry, still watch out for shaded areas, such as timbered slopes, where the ground may still be wet and muddy. Also watch for wet soil over frozen ground, especially as spring approaches. In deep mud, keep your horse calm, and go slow; it takes extra effort for him to pull his feet out at each step. If he moves faster than a walk (or tries to jump over or through a muddy area) and becomes mired, his momentum may throw him down head over heels, taking you with him. If you must dismount in mud, scrape the mud off the bottom of your boots before you remount. Muddy boots can slide out of the stirrups, impeding your balance. Use a rock, sagebrush - whatever is available - to remove the mud.
ACHC Horse Science Short Course
ACHC Horse Science Short Course will be held 6:30 – 9:00 PM on February 5, 12, 19, 26 and March 5, 2015. Classes scheduled to be held at the Alpena Community College.
Sessions will include:
February 5 – Latest Treatments For Equine Health with Dr. Tom Dombrowski
February 12 – Build Your Confidence And Relationship With Your Horse Safely with Kimberly Cardeccia
February 19 – Self Defense For Trail Riders with Michael Darrow
February 26 – Equine Nutrition with Dr. Ed Bonnette and Scott Davidson
March 5 – Michigan’s Equine Trails with Anna Sylvester and Paige Perry
For further information click here to see complete brochure.
The Alpena County Horsemen’s Club will be giving away two (2) free registrations to any youth 11 years and older. You must register for the drawing before Thursday, January 22. (It is not necessary to fill out a registration form)
JUST CALL !!!
You can register for this free scholarship by calling the MSU Extension office at 989-354-9870. The office hours are Tuesday through Thursday – 8:30am to 4:30pm.
If you call on other days, please leave your name and phone or cell number.
Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity!
Phoenix In The House
a rousing success!!
The Alpena County Horsemen's Club would like to take this opportunity to thank the sponsors for our Phoenix In The House evening.
Proudly sponsoring us were:
Besser Credit Union
Players Pub & Grub
Dr. Wolf, D.D.S.
H.P.C Credit Union
All our volunteers:
Brad & Christine Avery, Pari Greene, Bonnie Cornelius, Marge Webber,
Pat Konecke, Karen Kowalski,
Darlene Alexander, Jackie Konecke,
Lori Konecke and all the public who came and made it a wonderful night.
Thank you for your support!
Send them to Bonnie or Jackie
as an Email Attachment
Happy New Year! As the new year rolls in we all find that we'll be getting a year older. Our equine friends are also aging and like us will require some special attention.
5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Horse
Live a Long and Happy Life
Have you ever wondered if there’s something you can do to help increase your horse’s chances of living a long and happy life?
Well good news—there is!
You can’t change a horse’s pedigree–or his luck for that matter–but you do have control over how he lives.
Yet you might wonder whether there’s something in particular you can do to increase your horse’s chances of living a long and happy life. The answer is "Yes,"
1. Take Care of His Teeth
Dental problems can have far-reaching health implications: The inability to properly chew foods can result in malnutrition, weight loss and colic.
As a horse chews grains and grass, his teeth continually wear down. By the age of 20, he may have worn away 1 1/2 inches of his 2 1/2-inch-long teeth. This wear isn’t always even. Individual teeth can develop sharp points, and molars can become misaligned, making chewing painful or impossible for an older animal.
Poor mastication, in turn, puts a horse at greater risk of choke and colic as large pieces of food pass through an esophagus and gastrointestinal tract designed to process much smaller morsels.
Equine dental care need not be elaborate: Most horses require only annual checkups and floating to smooth uneven wear.
2. Be Vigilant About Parasite Control
A comprehensive parasite-control program, initiated when a horse is young, is critical to long-term health. Damage from parasites is cumulative. Over the years, scars develop where larvae attach to tissues, narrowing portions of the gastrointestinal tract.
But, the deworming products available today are so effective that a new parasite-related threat has developed: a sense of complacency among horse owners. Since parasites aren’t as huge of a problem as they were years ago, some horsepeople think regular deworming isn’t necessary.
The reality, of course, is that regular deworming is important for horses of any age but becomes increasingly critical as a horse grows older.
Which deworming products and schedule are best for your horse depend on many factors, including where you live, your horse’s exposure to other animals and your manure-management practices. Your veterinarian can help you devise a program that is suited to your horse’s situation.
3. Feed Them Well
The calories, vitamins and minerals supplied by your horse’s daily diet are his life-support system. Along with providing the energy and raw materials to sustain basic body functions, nutrients help support a healthy immune system that wards off disease. A horse fed well throughout his life and into his mature years will almost certainly be healthier and live longer than a chronically malnourished horse.
Your horse’s nutritional needs, regardless of his stage of life, depend largely on his lifestyle. Young, growing horses require greater amounts of vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients than do middle-aged animals, and active athletes need more "fuel" than recreational trail mounts. Fortunately, you need not spend hours with nutritional charts and a calculator to ensure that your horse’s diet suits him. Nowadays, you need only start with a good-quality hay and, if needed, add any one of the many commercially manufactured horse feeds
But take note: As your horse ages, his needs change. As the years pass, the equine digestive system has increasing trouble breaking down fiber–a function of dental wear and intestinal changes–and becomes less efficient in absorbing certain nutrients, such as phosphorus, and utilizing tissue-building protein.
A horse who has trouble taking in hay or grass may benefit from soaked beet pulp, which consists of 10 percent fiber and is easy to chew and digest. But an even easier alternative is one of the many "senior" feeds that have come onto the market over the last decade or so. Specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of older horses, these products typically are higher in protein, fiber and fat than standard feed products. Many also go through an extra processing step, called extrusion, that makes them easier to digest.
4. Maximize Turnout Time
The simple act of turning your horse out for as long as possible every day can improve his health in many ways.
Having room to roam contributes to long-term mobility by keeping muscles toned and joints moving freely. If your older horse doesn’t take advantage of turnout time by moving, try using a lead to walk your horse around the paddock once or twice a day.
Turnout is important for other body systems as well. An older horse’s respiratory health will be protected and improved with time outdoors, as regular confinement in even "clean" barns has been proven to contribute to the development of heaves.
Turnout can even reduce an older horse’s chance of colic by increasing gut motility and encouraging natural grazing patterns.
An older horse’s turnout needs aren’t any different from those of a younger animal–just provide shelter from the elements as well as water, a mineralized salt block and whatever forage is necessary to maintain his weight
5. Schedule Regular Veterinary Visits
If your horse receives veterinary attention only when something is wrong, you could be putting his long-term health at risk. You should have annual exams for all horses, including recording of vital signs, a lameness test, dental checkup and fecal egg count. In addition, your older horse may benefit from an exam which includes a complete blood screening to look for elevated enzyme levels that can indicate kidney or liver dysfunction. At-risk horses are also given a test for Cushing’s syndrome and X-rays are taken of their front hooves to look for laminitic changes.
Regular exams also help foster a relationship between clients and veterinarians, which can lead to better care for the horse.
Overall, the routine management needs of older horses are pretty similar to those of younger animals. The one key difference, perhaps, is that consistency in care becomes increasingly important as the years pass–the older a horse becomes, the less able he will be to recover from illness, injury or parasite infestation. Your best insurance policy, then, is vigilance in seeing to your horse’s basic needs even when all seems to be going well. The benefits of this approach might not be immediately obvious, but they will become evident with every passing year your horse enjoys. You’ll certainly be glad that you took the time and made the effort.
Have an idea for Group Camping?
Contact Jackie Konecke at 989-356-0071
Want to plan a Day Ride? Contact...
Indian Reserve Road, Chippewa Hills or Graham Road
Contact Darlene Alexander 989-727-3137